Are Gaming Mascots Really Necessary?
For ages console mascots have always been what made systems recognizable and what made them stand out among others. Sonic and Mario have been behind Sega and Nintendo ever since day one. Sonic arrived on the Master System, and Mario arrived on Nintendo. Both were the most recognized videogame mascots that supported their respective console, Sonic was a hedgehog (not porcupine, mind you) who can run at blistering speeds, attacks enemies with his razor sharp back and despises the Evil DR. Robotnik. Mario is a plumber from Brooklyn, NY who kills his enemies by either jumping on them, shooting koopa shells or throwing fireballs with the help of a power up, he despises Bowser and has his heart set on Princess Toadstool. Now Nintendo and Sega have always been neck and neck until Sega's tragic accident with all of the new add-ons for the Genesis, Sega slipped and fell, giving Nintendo a huge lead in the gaming industry. But out of nowhere came Sony, who got so far ahead of Nintendo and Sega combined that it was almost no laughing matter to either of the two beaten companies. Sony in a way was an immigrant to the gaming world, but possessed a gaming machine capable of creating realistic 3D images, remarkable arcade visuals and state of the art sound quality all on a 32-BIT machine that runs 650 MB CDs. With Sony's new fame in the gaming market came the riches, more and more developer and publishers were leaving Mario and Sonic, for... wait a minute Sony has no official mascot, at one point we thought that Crash Bandicoot was, but he'll be making appearances on X-Box and GameCube, of course along with PS2, but now that just means that he is a videogame character franchise and NOT a console mascot. Although are gaming mascots a necessity for consoles, after all look at Sony, even without a Crash Bandicoot adventure game anywhere on the horizon for the PS2, or even the Playstation, pre-order figures and PS sales are still going strong no matter what, but why?
This question is one that can easily be answered. Mascots are portrayed characters that are deliberately aimed at children with parents who are cautious of what their son or daughter plays. Take a look at Mario, he is a cheerful looking psuedo like character that wears blue and red clothing. His environments are fruity looking (and I'm not using fruity as a pun) environments that have clouds with smiley faces on them, and everything looks so cute and fuzzy. Tell me something, what 15 year old, or 16 year old would want to play a game with an over weight plumber jumping up and down, trying to rescue a princess? Not me, and that's for sure! Then we have Sonic, he is a bit more on the fierce side, his environments are also a bit cheery but thankfully not as cheery as Mario's. Sonic has an incredibly sharp back and when he would turn himself into a ball like figure he could easily penetrate through brick walls and kill enemies with a snap. Sonic is probably more geared towards gamers who are just hitting their teens, unlike Mario who is pretty much aimed at ten-twelve year olds. Everybody knows my story about my past love for Nintendo, I used to love playing Mario back in the days when I was eleven, but right when I hit twelve I began to slowly lose appreciation for it, I was leaning more towards Sonic, because of his edgy action and cool finger wave at the intro of every game, although it was Knuckles that really made me love Sonic even more. I though that Knuckles was without a doubt the coolest thing on the planet, (keep in mind that I was twelve at the time), I loved the red design, his kick ass sharp knuckles and the fact that he was the first character in a Sonic game to actually glide, this is why Sonic is aimed towards more mature gamers. The one thing I found wrong with Sonic was Tails, I thought that he was a very girly like character, even though he was a male, and that the orange fluffy fox design just made him scream 'children adore me'. Oh boy, I think I'm side tracking a bit here. Basically Mario didn't cut it for me as much and as long as Sonic did, even to this day I still find Sonic games incredibly fun, but Mario games just feel like child's play to me.
When Crash Bandicoot first arrived on Sony and all the buzz about him being Sony's mascot was around, I thought to myself "hey, a new mascot, why not let me give him a spin". This Australian marsupial was a very hyper-active creature that jumps and spins across 3 dimensional and 2 dimensional areas, and the best part is that he was no where near as corny as Mario but not too edgy like Sonic, he was smack in the middle. Crash's adventures were always different, between the three games, the final bosses and the objectives have always been different. I'm not trying to say that Sega has the best mascot or anything, I'm trying to get the point "are videogaming mascots prime for consoles in anyway"? Let's look at the cold hard facts, Nintendo's Mario is almost restricted to gamers older than 13, Sonic can only be appreciated by the older crowd and Crash Bandicoot is much like Sonic. You see mascots are merely attempts to sell games to younger gamers something that Nintendo is full off, Sega fans are more casual although they are still made up of some young gamers. Sony is a console that is definitely influenced towards more mature and hardcore gamers, who enjoy any game they get, whether it is something like Devil Dice, Crash Bandicoot, Final Fantasy, or even Gran Turismo. Yes I know, Crash Bandicoot has sold over 20 million games, and that may have sold about around 10 million Playstations, but the Final Fantasy series, Metal Gear Solid, Twisted Metal and Gran Turismo series have sold roughly three times that amount of 20 million Crash games combined. So even though Crash Bandicoot will arrive on other console as well as PS2, even with out him on the PS2, games like Final Fantasy X, XI, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Twisted Metal: Black, The Bouncer and Gran Turismo 3, will sell PS2s as if they were cold lemonade on a day when even the rain boils as it drops.