June 23: Sonic the Hedgehog turns 30
June 23, 2021 - Video games giant Sega is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its plucky little mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog, originally conceived as a high-speed rival to Nintendo’s Mario.
Beginning life as a platform game designed to make Mario look slow and unfashionable, the first Sonic the Hedgehog game – released for Sega's floundering Mega Drive 16-bit games console (renamed Genesis in U.S.) – went on to sell a mighty 22.2 million copies worldwide, briefly propelling the Mega Drive into first place ahead of Nintendo's all-powerful Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES).
SEGA was quick to capitalise on its success with four more sequels on the Mega Drive, as well as adopting the spiny mammal as its official mascot – leading to a plethora of merchandising, comic books and an animated television series.
With the failure of its Dreamcast console in 2001, Sega was forced to exit the console business or face financial ruin. Instead it turned its sights on other consoles and PCs, making a multitude of Sonic games for every device imaginable.
In the past 30 years, Sega has sold a staggering 1.14 billion Sonic-related games, and as a testament to lead programmer Yuji Naka's ingenuity, the original Mega Drive classic is still very much playable and available to buy today, albeit on your smartphone.
Last year's Sonic the Hedgehog movie, starring Jim Carrey, earned a very respectable $320 million at the global box office – not bad going when you factor in a global pandemic closing cinemas everywhere. A sequel is due out in 2022, along with new games, compilations and a LEGO set!
Sonic the Hedgehog is 30 years old on June 23, 2021.