Sonic The Hedgehog Wasn’t Sega’s First Stab At A Mascot

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A profile by Sam Pettis of Red Bull Gaming in 2016 documented the complete process of how Sega attempted to devise its own mascot to compete with the rival Nintendo’s Mario on a global scale. By 1990, the two companies were embroiled in what could only be described as a marketing war as the two Japanese companies looked to extend the two’s massive influence on the industry to the Western world. In turn, the process of devising an instantly recognizable character that would be the antithesis of how Mario began. One of the earliest candidates for Sega’s global marketing ambitions was ToeJam and Earl, a duo of characters pitched by American programmer Mark Voorsanger.

Depicted as aliens with an odd affinity for hip-hop, Sega saw ToeJam and Earl as potentially appealing to Western audiences. Sega president Hayao Nakayama liked the concept, but ultimately decided against it out of fear of the characters being “too American” to be the visual doppelgangers of the Japanese company. Despite not quite making the cut as Sega’s primary source of branding, Sega did greenlight a game based on the duo, “ToeJam and Earl,” for the Sega Genesis in 1991. The product was well received and has retroactively been viewed as an early precursor to the modern roguelike genre.

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