March 29, 2007 - Yesterday, gaming history was made when SEGA announced it was bringing Mario and Sonic together for the first time in a videogame. That game in question is Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, a light-hearted take on the Beijing Olympics 2008, which is set for release on both Wii and DS this Christmas.
Starring a host of recognisable faces from the world of Mario and Sonic, including the likes of Luigi and Tails, the game features numerous sporting events and real-life locations based on Beijing Olympics. Development is underway at SEGA Japan and Mario-creator Shigeru Miyamoto is overseeing the project - presumably ensuring SEGA gets Mario's moustache just right.
We had the chance to interview both Mike Hayes, president and COO of SEGA Europe, and Laurent Fischer, marketing director of Nintendo Europe about the historic announcement. And, of course, if we can expect to see Sonic in that Wii fighting game.
IGN: Can you tell us how the collaboration came about?
Mike Hayes: SEGA was awarded the license to produce an official game based on the 2008 Beijing Olympics. When speaking to the International Olympic Committee they made clear that they wanted to reach out to a wider audience - particularly children. So then we looked at the characters we had at SEGA, we decided it would be best to do something with Sonic. After that we started thinking how great it would be to have Mario involved in the game as well, so we approached Nintendo and they thought it was a really good idea too. And that's pretty much how it happened.
Now that SEGA is a publisher, rather than a console maker, it makes it much easier for us to make a historic move such as this. Also under the banner of the Olympics we wanted to emphasise the ethics of co-operation, which are so important to the event, and we thought bringing together past rivals Mario and Sonic was a perfect way to highlight the importance of co-operation. We really want to recreate the spirit of the Olympics in a videogame.
IGN: Would you agree that this is a fairly historic moment in video games?
Mike Hayes: Absolutely. It's an extremely historic announcement. I actually worked at Nintendo from 1989 to 1994. I was there during the Super NES and Game Boy years and during that time it was always made clear that SEGA was the enemy.
That was mainly because at the time there were really only two main consoles - the SEGA Mega Drive and the Super NES. And the media really played up the rivalry between the two firms. Nintendo was a bit like The Beatles whereas SEGA was the Rolling Stones. So in that sense this is certainly a very big announcement. It's almost like Pepsi and Coca Cola suddenly announcing they had joined forces. It's really quite remarkable.
However, I don't think the collaboration would be possible in any other game, other than something based on the Olympics. The event brings people from across the world together and this game will bring Nintendo and SEGA together.
IGN: Does this pave the way for Sonic and Mario starring together in other games?
Laurent Fischer: We've spent a long time finalising this one and we're not thinking about the next game, just yet. The Olympics just seemed like the right way to bring them together.
IGN: So we won't see Sonic appearing in Super Smash Bros. Brawl?
Laurent Fischer: That's not on the cards at the moment.
Mike Hayes: Really, we felt that the Olympics provided a neutral ground for the two stars.
Laurent Fischer: Yes, the Olympics are something very special. If you have ever been to the Olympics it's amazing to see the spirit of the people watching the events - people share in a very special moment. That is something we want to recreate with Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games.
IGN: Can you explain some of the gameplay elements on Wii and DS?
Mike Hayes: To be honest we don't think you could pick a better game to appear on Wii. It's a perfect match as far as we're concerned. We'll also make sure it uses the DS capabilities extremely well too. We'll max out the capabilities of both consoles.
However at the moment it's hard to say exactly how the game will play. But we can say that it won't just be a simple game - we will try to recreate as many ways to play as possible. Speaking from experience, I know that developers absolutely love working on Wii because it allows them to do something a bit different.
IGN: Are the real-life locations in the game going to be as realistic as possible or will you Mario-ise each one?
Mike Hayes: Yes, all the stadiums or tracks will be based on locations from the Beijing Olympics. However, to use your words, they will be Mario-ised or Sonic-ised to make sure they fit in with the worlds of those two characters.
IGN: Are you planning on including all of the Olympic events?
Mike Hayes: The game is in the early stages of development and at the moment I don't know how many sports we'll be featuring. However we'll be sure to include a large enough number of events to fully represent the Olympics. So there won't just be track and field events, like running. We'll also have table tennis, swimming and even judo.
IGN: Given that Mario has starred in many of his own sports titles, are you worried about treading on his toes by including football or tennis events?
Laurent Fischer: At the moment it's still too early to say what events we'll feature.
IGN: Previous Mario sports games a known for the inclusion of special moves and gameplay elements from the Mario universe. Is that something you're looking at here?
Mike Hayes: That's still under wraps at the moment. We'll have more gameplay details early this summer.
IGN: We know that Shigeru Miyamoto is overseeing the project. How involved is he in the game's development?
Laurent Fischer: Shigeru Miyamoto is always there when Mario is involved in a game. His role in this game will be to give advice to the team currently making the game. It's really part of the co-operation between SEGA and Nintendo. The studio at SEGA is very excited.
Mike Hayes: The lads in Tokyo are thrilled to working with the 'big man of games'.
IGN: As well as having Nintendo and SEGA playable characters, are you planning on using the anime-style official Olympic mascots?
Mike Hayes: Once again, it's too early to say but we do have the rights to use all of the official Olympics branding.
IGN: Is Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games going to be the only official Olympics game?
Mike Hayes: This year it's the official game of the Olympics. But there's another game that's going to be more of a realistic simulation released late next year.
IGN: SEGA has previously worked with Nintendo on the F-Zero franchise. Is this a relationship that you think will continue to develop?
Mike Hayes: When SEGA re-organised itself as a software publisher, we wanted to make sure we worked well with all the publishers. Obviously our relationship with Nintendo goes back a long way because we have both been involved with the games industry for so long and that relationship is just getting better and better.
IGN: Without sounding disrespectful, it's fair to say that Sonic hasn't had an easy ride of late - particularly with games like Sonic the Hedgehog on 360. Are you hoping, to some extent, that the incredible popularity of Mario will rub-off on Sonic?
Mike Hayes: It's not disrespectful to say that. Sonic is still very popular. The 360 version of Sonic the Hedgehog sold extremely well and Sonic Rush is still one of the most successful third-party games on DS.
Sonic isn't a tarnished icon but we do get it wrong sometimes. We use different studios to create the Sonic titles, which could be part of the reason. However Sonic on PSP, which was an American developed title, has done extremely well. We will benefit from working with Mario but I think the relationship will work both ways because there are still a lot of Sonic fans out there. The whole is greater than the individual parts.
I think one of the problems is that SEGA has previously been used to developing on its own platforms. Whereas the likes of Ubisoft, Activision and EA have been multi-platform for many years. We are relative newcomers really and it does take time some to get used to making multi-platform titles. However, we'll continue to be successful on multi-platforms with Sonic.
Thanks to IGN.com for sharing the news with us!