Things are very quiet on the Team Sonic Racing front. The last time I checked Wikipedia, there was still no solid release date for the upcoming kart game from UK-based Sumo Digital. This surprises me, given that the game is currently slated to arrive sometime in Q4 2018, which is anytime after October 1st.
So when I ask, “should we be worried about Team Sonic Racing?” then I think I can confidently say, “yes, a wee bit – but don’t lose sleep over it.” Obviously, if the developer and publisher felt as if they were just adding the final polish to this gem, they presumably would have their calendars circled and would be tearing towards their designated launch date at supersonic speed. The fact that this isn’t happening is unnerving; a bit like when you’re at the train station and you know your ride is due in about two minutes, yet they still haven’t announced a platform.
Okay, so what could the hold-up be? I guess it’s possible that Sumo has hit a number of game-breaking bugs that it’s struggling to overcome; it can happen to any developer working on any title. If I were a betting man, though, I’d be looking more towards the content and the mooted timing of the game’s release.
For starters, Team Sonic Racing is currently scheduled to be up against the likes of Super Mario Party and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in the manic Christmas rush, and that’s before you even consider the triple A juggernauts such as Red Dead Redemption 2 that are going to be putting a strain on people’s wallets. Moreover, it faces the inevitable comparisons with the hugely successful Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch and – for some people – if this game is not as good as Mario, or indeed better, then it faces some shunning. Internally, this could lead to a lot of businessy people looking at audience segments and graphs and pie charts and getting slightly cold feet about the game’s development. I can imagine some marketing person going, “Ah! We need such-and-such in the game to appeal to X type of player – that’ll set us apart from the crowd!” The creative team would then look at the game and realise they’d need, say, another year to implement said feature, but they’re tied to the all-important Christmas window. A problem!
This is pure speculation, by the way… I don’t “know” anything. I mentioned previously that I’d socialised with some of Team Sumo in the past, but in all honesty none of them would recognise me if they passed me on the street.
The reason I’m leaning in this direction is because of the general mood that’s been emerging from some of the people who’ve played the game. A journalist from Kotaku, for example, had this to say in his write-up:
The course I got to play at E3 was a nondescript track circling a giant tree. No real environment hazards, crazy loops, or interesting obstacles… Team Sonic Racing is more narrow in its ambitions, focusing just on Sonic’s friends and frenemies while improving the game’s underlying mechanics. Based on my time with the demo, developer Sumo Digital has made something whose fundamentals so closely approximate Mario Kart’s it’s hard to even consider them competitors.
The problem we have is that Mario Kart captures the genre so darn well; in many ways it’s the definitive karting game, and as such it’s hard to improve upon. Moreover, Sonic and Mario attract similar audiences, and I think this title would need a serious twist to set it apart from its plumbing rival. But what to do? I suppose you could pin the game down to a specific theme, with circuits that were all set in deep space, but that would be a little niche. Or you could go for gritty realism and shoot for something in the Grand Theft Auto / Gran Turismo vein, and scare off the kiddies and alienate the core fan base.
Hmm. I really don’t know.
Of course, I could be completely wrong. Maybe Sega is quite happy and is approaching its pre-Christmas launch with confidence and fervour. I mean, I doubt it, but then I doubted that HD televisions would ever catch on, so you should take my prophecies with a pinch of salt.
That being said, I’d be curious to know your views on Team Sonic Racing. Tell me what you think in the comments below.
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