Clocked

Remembering the time when Sonic’s 25th birthday party was ruined

SEGA has a 30th birthday celebration lined up for Sonic the Hedgehog. But we’re still recovering from the last one.

Once again we reach another landmark anniversary in gaming: Sonic the Hedgehog is turning 30. And even though it’s a historic moment, we’re not sure if we’re ready for the party.

Sonic has slowly undergone one of the weirdest shifts in trajectory for a gaming icon — whether it be due to the wackjob decisions from studio executives, or the slow decline in quality of the main title games — it’s been a rocky ride the spiky one in the last few years.

The issue doesn’t lie with Sonic. The Big Blue has proven that he still has the potential of featuring in some great games, a stance that was solidified when Sega properly licensed Sonic Mania, the fan-made speed-platformer in the spirit of the original trilogy.

But we have almost exclusively received ball-drop after ball-drop since this launch. And to be honest, we should’ve seen it coming, because the party that Sonic Mania got showcased at was a pretty big red flag that SEGA had officially lost the plot.

Sonic’s 25th-anniversary party was hosted at San Diego’s House of Blues as a Comic-Con-adjacent event to celebrate the birthday. Flyers advertised “a first look at the future of Sonic”, “exclusive giveaways” and an open bar for attendees — a booze-fuelled supercharged magnet to draw sonic fans to the venue that could’ve been a decent time for the local attendees.

Free grog, a chance to try out some new games, a couple of merch and upcoming launch announcements, and a free concert from Crush40, (the maestros behind some of the most iconic Sonic songs). What’s not to love?

Anyone who was partying along with the livestream though was met with one of the most mind-bendingly confusing live events ever produced, and one of the ultimate clusterfucks of coincidence that just couldn’t seem to get off the ground. Upon setting up the stage, the sound tech slowly realised that his streaming rig was marginally operational at best, and met the first cock-up of the night when technical errors forced the crew to delay the start of the stream by 30 minutes.

30,000 fans tuning in at home were left waiting, and even when the stream did finally come to life, a busted mixer made for continuous audio-cut outs and a notorious whirring noise drilling away at fans’ eardrums. Rewatching the stream makes for some incredibly comical viewing, with audio cutting out at some hilarious points that you just couldn’t script.

It was a tone-deaf, confusing event, that reads like a ‘how-to-not‘ guide for promoting your franchise. SEGA is a company that is accustomed to advertising Sonic towards a younger demographic, but they didn’t rejig their approach at all for the audience of at least 21-year-olds that they were supplying alcohol to.

It makes you wonder who this was all meant to be for — on the one hand, you have drunk crowd members heckling anyone that is brought on stage, including a plush costumed Hello Kitty. On the other, you have the audience at home receiving the live stream equivalent of a CRT TV with a busted antenna.

But in a turn of fate, a silver lining presented itself in the form of a first-hand taste test of the brand new Stuffed Nachos from Totino’s. For a blissful two minutes, the stars aligned on this accursed birthday to provide us with a perfect segment of content – two minutes of one of SEGA’s execs giving his thoughts on the new Totinos stuffed nachos, with an intensity that is only matched by the lighting rig. Wow.

With tasting notes like “shredded chicken” and “beef”, this incredibly forced commercial is one of the most insane and confusing moments in live stream history. And as if that wasn’t enough, there was still over two hours of Sonic-related content to follow.

And so as the Blue Hedgehog’s 30th birthday approaches and SEGA teases of upcoming celebrations to go alongside it, we’re crossing fingers that they don’t try too hard this year.