Game companies, like many other businesses, don't like it when people try to lay claim to their ideas and products. They don't see value in allowing other people to offer their products for free through emulation, they aren't the biggest fans of cheap knockoff versions of their intellectual property, and they certainly have no desire to be one-upped by their own fans. As you've heard before in cynical comment sections and YouTube videos alike, these corporations are not your friends. You have no connection with these people and they are only after your money. If you make a fan project, and they don't want it to exist, there's nothing stopping them from shutting that shit down. It's their IP to create and use. Not yours. This is the approach Nintendo has taken when it comes to anything that fans have created around their IP.
But this isn't the only way, as Sega has proven by doing things differently. When fan projects popped up around the Sonic franchise, rather than shutting those people down, Sega chose to engage and hire those people, specifically on-boarding them for their talent and passion for the franchise. With Sonic Mania, Sega hired a small army of passionate fans, and those very fans' efforts created the most widely acclaimed Sonic game in nearly a decade. No threats, no cease and desist letters, just results and progress. So why does Sega do what Nintendon't when it comes to fan support?
It all comes down to a changing world of business. In the past, an advertisement was an act of persuasion. "You like our product? Here it is. It does stuff. Buy it." This was the sentiment of any business of the past. Now, it's an entirely different ball game with the advent of social media. Nowadays, it's far more important to support and interact with your audience and cultivate your fanbase. Today, you can see the most successful businesses saying things like: "You like us? We can help you with our products, and we love memes! We're dank folks, kids! Tell your friends!"
While Nintendo is printing money with the success of Amiibo, the Nintendo Switch, and the Nintendo 3DS, just imagine what would happen if they interacted with their customer base. They'd absolutely kill the competition if they were not only just master persuaders, but also directly reached out to their fans and pretended to give a damn about their audience. Here stands the problem: they don't need to burst their own bubble and talk to us. Their old practices continue today because they have proven historically successful, and they have the money to do whatever they want for decades without recourse before they go out of business.
Some would say that Nintendo's old-fashioned resolve is what leads to their success these days. Others have often argued that Nintendo is stuck in a bubble, doomed to continue down the same old beaten path. This mentality of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" is likely due to their track record of success, but it leaves very little room for novel, creative outreach and insight. It's possible that Nintendo might just be a room of reclusive geniuses that know better than us how to keep Nintendo going, but in most cases, not looking and listening outside yourself can lead to setbacks and even disaster.
For example, Sony and Microsoft perfected voice chat a decade ago in a very simple way: you have a headset, plug it in. Instead of looking to the industry and listening to their fans, Nintendo opted to go their own route for voice chat. In Splatoon 2, you can finally talk to your fellow squids, but it's unfortunately at the expense of losing access to your cell phone and you need several cords to even get the thing to work. It's unnecessarily complex and, frankly, complete lunacy. Nintendo could have very well made it an easier process, and you can tell it was a lazy afterthought, despite being the most demanded feature for the game. Regardless of this, they know you'll buy Splatoon 2. I know I did, and I love the game. But if they truly wanted you to have the best possible gaming experience, they'd adapt to the industry in favor of their fans. They just don't have to.
Sega, on the other hand, isn't exactly in the position to brag about profits. They nearly went bankrupt last year. It did not look good for them, and you could even say they've been in a downward spiral since they've stopped making consoles. Their classic IP's aren't around anymore, and the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise has tanked both commercially and critically, with only a small handful of games that stand as exceptions. The main question is, do they have it in them to bounce back?
Sega's support for their fans has been ongoing for many years. For the last two years, the Sonic the Hedgehog Twitter account has been off the chain. Providing sass and memes to the masses, and showing love and appreciation for their fans day in and day out, it's certainly helped the public perception of Sonic the Hedgehog in 2017. Sega stands out from other companies because, as of late, it has never made an anti-consumer move; its only offense to consumers has been with its release of terrible games. Makes you wonder what would happen if Sega came back to its former glory with the attitude they have now, or even if Nintendo treated their fans like Sega does. They'd be unstoppable. Who knows what would happen if they learned from each other? Maybe we'll get to see a new Jet Set Radio or something in a few years.
All in all, Nintendo has a much better track record than Sega when it comes to quality video games, but the success of Sonic Mania and the outlook on Sonic Forces could very well be a massive turning point for the company that was once Nintendo's biggest competitor. The way that Sega treats their fans with respect is admirable. They turned situations Nintendo would see as a sue-able offense to a sign of affection, and they've certainly used it to their advantage. From making their fans into their employees, we can only hope that they learned a lot about what made their games great, and it looks like their recent smart business decisions could lead them to flourish once again. The Dreamcast 2 is still a dream to me, and I'd very well like to see it become a reality.
Banner Image Credit: Nibroc-Rock on Deviant Art