As you know by now, I spent a portion of E3 chatting with Sonic the Hedgehog 4 brand manager Ken Balough. I wanted to know exactly why Sonic 4 is episodic, and I was informed that the reasons were twofold.
“The thing is we need the consumer to be able to absorb it,” he stated. “If we went out with the grand story that is Sonic 4 it would be a very large and costly download experience. The consumer has gotten used to paying a certain amount of money for a certain packet of content so we need to make sure we abide by that because we definitely don’t want to turn off the consumer. We want them to pay the right price for the right content.
“Not only does it allow the consumer to absorb it, it allows the consumer to give feedback every step of the way, and that’s something that a lot of games don’t do. With Episode One you’ll be able to give feedback that will apply to Episode Two and so on. Basically, we’re going to let the community be very involved with Sonic 4 and that’s the way it should be.”
I hope by “grand story”, Ken just means the size of the game as opposed to the sweeping grandeur of another Sonic narrative that nobody will like. Regardless, I like the second reason for the episodic decision. Fan feedback that can alter the course of future episodes is a promising concept, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that Sega is serious about listening to consumers.