SEGA exec on bringing classic characters to iOS devices

Jul 8, 2011
Games

Many of us who grew up playing SEGA console games are thankful that the company keeps on releasing great new and classic titles on iOS devices. SEGA’s most recent iOS entry is the classic kart game Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing. As video reviewer Andrew Koziara describes it, the $5 universal game offers tracks that […]

Many of us who grew up playing SEGA console games are thankful that the company keeps on releasing great new and classic titles on iOS devices.

SEGA’s most recent iOS entry is the classic kart game Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing. As video reviewer Andrew Koziara describes it, the $5 universal game offers tracks that are “all plucked out of the various franchises themselves, with their own theme songs and sound effects, and they are all very well done and a lot of fun. This is definitely the best kart racer available for mobile devices.”

In this edition of Game Theory, we check in with SEGA Brand Manager Ben Harborne to discuss how All-Star racing configures to touchscreen gameplay, the challenges of rendering the game onto the universe of iOS devices, and why it might take more than chili dogs to get players to download the game over time.

Appolicious: How has the launch of Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing on iOS devices compared to previous introductions of the game on other platforms and devices?

Ben Harborne: Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing has generated strong sales off the starting line, which is right in step with versions of this game on other platforms. What makes us really excited is that the iOS market is experiencing really rapid growth, which is fueling incremental downloads for this game.

APPO: What has been the biggest surprise since launching on iOS last month?

BH: Throughout development of Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing, we knew that we had a great game on our hands, but the biggest surprise is the critical acclaim we received for Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing. It is very rewarding to see such great praise from our peers in the gaming media. I can’t believe the number of perfect scores we received! We’ve also seen a huge proportion of our players playing online multiplayer… and they are playing it often. This is fantastic to see!

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APPO: Describe the biggest differences between iOS and other versions of the game. What are the biggest capabilities of the iPhone and iPad that can’t be found elsewhere?

BH: The biggest difference for the iOS version of Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing is, of course, the user interface. A big focus of ours was to really dial in the tilt-control aspect of the game. It took a lot of work, but in the end we were able to get to a place where everyone who picked up Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing was happy with it. It’s really great to read so many reviews that compliment this aspect of the game, as it was one of our most important goals. The iPhone and iPad are amazing devices in terms of their graphical and processing horsepower, but it’s really the user interface that sets them apart.

APPO: Conversely, what were the biggest development challenges?

BH: One of the biggest challenges with Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing stemmed from our goal to give ALL users the best experience possible. That meant catering to a broad range of iDevices, from the iPhone 3G and second generation iPod Touches to the blazing fast iPad 2 and iPhone 4. We ended up rendering customized art detail for each device, so that we could truly maximize the visuals and maintain the blistering framerate that a game of this nature requires. In addition, since this game features a multiplayer mode we had to balance the timing and communication between iDevices of different specs to create a seamless experience. This was a very difficult task, but one that Sumo Digital tackled well.

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APPO: Once you get through the initial publicity and Apple love, how do you plan on driving downloads over time?

BH: Well, we’ve heard that Sonic is particularly fond of chili dogs. If those don’t work, we’ll support this title with future updates.

APPO: What can players expect from future updates from the game?

BH: We can’t go into specifics for the time being, but we’ve seen the consumer feedback and are strongly considering adding new characters and tracks.

APPO: Any plans to develop and Android version of the game?

BH: SEGA is currently looking into developing versions of Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing for other platforms, so stay tuned!

APPO: What are the three biggest aspects of the mobile media space that keep you up at night and why?

BH: I’m usually a sound sleeper, but I’m very excited by the new hardware being released all of the time by Apple and other handset makers. It’s fantastic to see what new gizmos they cram into each device, and one of our fun challenges is thinking up creative ways to turn these gizmos into fun gameplay mechanics. I’m also interested by the new business models which are really making headway in this arena. Just a few short years ago Apps were $10 each, and now we’re seeing free apps and microtransactions really paving the way for the mobile space. The mobile media space is such a dynamic arena, it really feels like there is a game-changing event every few days – which is cool!

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Brad Spirrison

Brad Spirrison is the managing editor of appoLearning and Appolicious Inc. In this capacity, he has sampled and evaluated thousands of iOS and Android applications. He also holds an M.A. in Education and Media Ecology from New York University.

Spirrison worked in concert with appoLearning Expert and Instructional Technology Specialist Leslie Morris while curating and evaluating educational applications.

A longtime media and technology commentator and executive, Spirrison is also a regular contributor to ABC News, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Bloomberg West and The Christopher Gabriel Program.

Spirrison is married and lives with his wife and young son in Chicago. As his son was born just weeks before the debut of the iPad, Spirrison takes his work home with him and regularly samples and enjoys a variety of educational applications for young children.

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