23rd June 1991

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Black Squirrel, Apr 22, 2022.

  1. JaxTH

    JaxTH

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    Jack shit.
    It's more of a "If no specific release date was set, and there seems to be no shipping date either, where did Sega get this specific date from if evidence points to the game being available up to two weeks before this proposed date?"

    Apparently the first time this comes up for this 1991 game is in 1997 with Sonic Jam, which is too far removed from the first game, especially if no advertisements from around the time specify any concrete date.
     
  2. YuTwo

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    Thanks for providing the actual source and the many other Usenet posts. Here is the actual source of the first post for anyone else as I had to scroll down some more from that page to actually find it:
    https://groups.google.com/g/rec.games.video/c/iy9Mj-BmcLE/m/hgbtWxf8FQwJ
    I remember Stealth mentioned in a stream that one of the Usenet groups for Sonic at the time that he was a part of was alt.fan.sonic-hedgehog
    I never played Astal so this is new to me. I was aware of the game's existence from the animations and gorgeous sprite art.
     
  3. The Joebro64

    The Joebro64

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    I think it's worth noting that Sonic Jam isn't terribly reliable for release dates in general. For instance, its profile on Knuckles' Chaotix says the game came out in North America in March and in Europe in May, when all contemporary magazines indicate that it actually came out a month later in both cases. Likewise, Jam's profile of SegaSonic the Hedgehog states that it got proper Western releases when all evidence suggests it didn't.

    Why is it so unreliable? Fuckin' beats me. Maybe they asked some intern to walk around the office to ask people if they remembered when stuff came out. Who knows.
     
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  4. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Oooh I hadn't clocked that one - that's way off the mark.

    [​IMG]
    I noticed a few European Master System covers being mislabled as "Latin America", but this Sonic Spinball one is weirdly precise too. 25th January 1995 - that would have been a Wednesday.

    EDIT: And Mean Bean Machine - 26th July 1994. I mean it could be, but... hmm...
     
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  5. Brainulator

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    Probably should be noted: those VHS tapes probably aren't that rare.
     
  6. Fadaway

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    I have noticed in the past that some Mega Drive/Genesis and SNES games are next to impossible to find an exact release date for online. I even remember once noticing that Wikipedia and SEGA Retro had different release dates listed for the same game but I fail to remember which game it was. Many games do indeed just have the month and year.
     
  7. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Without access to trade publications or official notes to retailers, we have to go by what the magazines say, and the magazines... say lots of things. There weren't usually fixed deadlines (hence why this Sonic one is curious) - games would be getting pushed back right at the last minute (and not necessarily because of development issues - it's the logistics of manufacturing cartridges and physically getting them to retail).

    And the whole culture about being there on launch day... it just didn't exist back then - it was still very much viewed as a thing for kids, and kids don't have disposable income. As long as it's available for little Timmy's birthday, that's fine.


    That being said, Sega Retro's dates are better. And not just because I put a lot of them there - we're using magazines (that we also host on site) as references - you can see we're not making things up (unless there are no references, in which case we might be - watch out). Wikipedia also wants references but the fact it's massive (and that anyone can edit it) means that in practise their dates are often very rough, if not completely made up. We had this with the Mega Drive "European" release a few years ago, when we discovered not only that the date was wrong, such a concept did not exist, as each country in Europe received the machine on different dates, sometimes weeks and months apart.

    In fact I would probably go one step further and say every video game release date before 2000 is worth challenging, and even games released after then... might not be reliable. It's at the point where the internet becomes the main source of video game news that things begin to change - if IGN gets their dates wrong, they can instantly change it, while a magazine that's gone to print will always mislead.
     
  8. Pirate Dragon

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    The dates on Sega Retro are a work in progress. Currently US & UK Dreamcast dates are pretty accurate. Saturn should be next.

    Chaotix should have released at the end of March in the US;
    https://groups.google.com/g/rec.games.video.sega/c/iVqjG7a6FEc/m/Tj8RQIwsdU0J

    GG Sonic Spinball UK date should be 94.09.09 going by the ELSPA charts. As Sega Europe was based in the UK then I'd consider that the European date. SMS Spinball probably didn't make January, but I don't know the exact date.
     
  9. Frostav

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    I remember reading that for Sonic 2 SEGA of America was very very insistent on releasing it on a Tuesday with a huge amount of promotion around that date, and the incredible success of that marked when game releases became much more organized. Is there any truth to this?
     
  10. Ashura96

    Ashura96

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    Great finds. I had never seen those pre-Sonic HAG commercials showing off other games. Also that 2nd video has a LOT of ads for chocolate candy ice cream bars :thumbsup:
     
  11. Gryson

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    Not to get too sidetracked by the Sunday ad insert thing (because I'm not convinced we'll find anything there), but... Are you sure they were only occasional? I've also tried to find the scanned black and whites on newspapers.com, but there's just too little info to go on. How often were they printed? My memory from then really wants to say they were frequent (I remember looking forward to them every Sunday), but that's probably not reliable. Maybe there was a lot of regional variation, with some cities printing them more frequently? I've seen quite a few of these from 1991 for sale on eBay and such over the years.

    Here's one dated March 18, 1991 that features Genesis games:

    https://anyflip.com/iejw/vxzp/basic

    A good database of these would be a gold mine, especially for pricing information. And even if we find an insert from June 23 and it doesn't include Sonic, that doesn't mean Sega didn't give retailers that date as the target 'for sale' date--it just means retailers decided not to print the game in the ad. Regardless: I agree it's a stretch to think newspaper ads are at the heart of this. I just wanted to point out that June 23 being a Sunday doesn't act as evidence against the date being legitimate.

    Putting the ads aside, one of the main questions here is: Where did June 23, 1991 come from? We can agree some of the dates in Sonic Jam are not accurate, but it's weird: Some only list month/year, others list exact dates. I can only imagine that the developers were referencing something specific (and presumably did not just pull numbers out of thin air--otherwise they would have done that for all dates), but there's no way of knowing what they were referencing. That uncertainty is at the heart of my doubts about saying the date is just wrong. It could be relevant in some way we aren't seeing yet.

    And again: I think it's probably a mistake to draw too many conclusions from other game releases of the time. Sonic had the biggest marketing push behind it that the Genesis had seen, and SOA had presumably ordered up a ton of copies of the game. They might have been doing things differently than usual in regards to how they were coordinating with retailers and with TV stations.

    It provides a lot of insight into how Sega worked with retailers and advertisers at the time. This isn't about deciding what goes on the wiki. It's about trying to document one of the bigger moments in North American video game history. The relationship between publishers and retailers in the NA market was huge at the time, but we still know so little about how things actually worked.
     
  12. kitsunebi

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    So far there is sufficient evidence to know for a fact that the game went on sale on different dates in different locations. So Sega either had no control over when the game hit shelves because they left it up to the retailers, or else Sega had no control over when the game hit shelves because the retailers did what they pleased regardless. Either way, it's a fact that Sega was not in control. So to me this entire thread boils down to whether or not the retailers acted against Sega's wishes or not. Since there is (so far) no contemporary evidence that it was supposed to launch nationwide specifically on June 23, I'll treat the retailers as innocent until proven guilty and say that they were allowed to put the game on sale at their discretion after receiving their shipments from Sega.

    But short of the sudden appearance of internal company documents coming to light from Sega to the retailers asking them to refrain from putting the game on sale until June 23, I don't see how a nationwide "release date" can be proven as something that was intended. Retailer advertisements are not the answer. An ad from June 23 featuring Sonic at best proves that the retailer believed that they would have the game on sale at that time when they submitted the ad, but it doesn't prove exactly when they put it on shelves, nor does it prove if they had been told to put it on sale on a specific date. If there were a nationwide TV commercial espousing June 23 as the release date, that would be evidence of an intended date, but so far no such ads have surfaced to my knowledge.
     
  13. Gryson

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    That's not a fact at all.

    This is a fact: Some retailers released the game before June 23. How many? We don't know. We have evidence of a tiny handful of cases of people buying it before then (highly susceptible to selection bias).

    For all we know, Sega was able to control 99.9% of retailers.

    This is called making an assumption. It's best left out of discussions attempting to document historical fact.

    :oldbie:
     
  14. kitsunebi

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    Would you agree that even speculating that Sonic was supposed to be released on June 23 is nothing more than an assumption not based on any facts? Or are we considering the release date first appearing in Sonic Jam to be a fact (despite other dates listed there being inaccurate)?
     
  15. Gryson

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    As far as I know, nobody in this thread has claimed "Sonic was supposed to be released on June 23" or "the release date first appearing in Sonic Jam to be a fact".

    What we have is a puzzle: A semi-official date of unknown origin, and evidence of that date not being accurate. In this thread, we are attempting to figure out the truth to the matter. Speculation is an important tool for determining potential leads to research further. Assumption is useless.

    If you aren't interested in the puzzle, feel free to ignore this thread.
     
  16. kitsunebi

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    I think the puzzle has merit, but it seems odd to me that most of the effort is going into looking for evidence that the June 23 date is accurate, as opposed to looking for evidence that it isn't, despite the fact that the initial source of that date should be considered unreliable due to other fallacies therein.

    Again, though, outside of official intercompany documents coming to light, what evidence could possibly be found that could be considered definitive evidence?

    I will say, however, that if Sonic 1 DID have a simultaneous nationwide release, Sega marketing really screwed the pooch, since no one seems to have been aware of it or remembers it. So either Sonic 2sday was indeed the first time they attempted it, or else they learned from their mistakes with Sonic 1 and realized the benefits of actually advertising such a novel (at the time) marketing strategy.
     
  17. Fadaway

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    I've heard this before, too. That Sonic 2's Sonic “2sday” precipitated Tuesday videogame release dates or something. Not quite sure about the claim's veracity. Maybe? I dunno. But, I have heard that mentioned somewhere in the past.
     
  18. Gryson

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    The default assumption that this thread is arguing against is: Sonic the Hedgehog was released on June 23, 1991. The primary way of disproving (or attempting to disprove) that is to eliminate all possibilities of it being true. Exceptions ("I bought Sonic on June 11") provide reason to doubt but can't be used to disprove it. Questioning the source ("Sonic Jam is inaccurate") also provide reason to doubt but can't be used to disprove it. Generalizations ("Sega only controlled the shipping date; retailers controlled when they released it") also provide reason to doubt but can't be used to disprove it. Together, there are a lot of reasons to be doubtful, but that can lead to assumptions that end up missing something important.

    The closest we will get to "definitive evidence" will be something from someone who worked at Sega. I've already asked Al Nilsen on Twitter and will update the thread if he replies.

    Other factors that we can research to eliminate possibilities: Did retailers begin advertising the game on that date? Did Sega begin airing TV commercials on that date? Is there any other connection between that date and the game that can be found in the historical record? Those things are being looked into in this thread.

    There's also a possibility that Sega used that date internally as a guide for when they wanted the game to be available at all retailers. Country-wide distribution in 1991 was slow, but Sega would ideally be trying to keep track of the game's availability to better coordinate its massive advertising campaign. Does that count as a 'release date'? Probably not. But it's another possibility to consider, no matter how hard it is to disprove.
     
  19. kitsunebi

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    It seems to me that this would be the only definitive evidence to be found or worth considering (though even the word of Al Nilsen would carry a lot more weight with some internal memos or historical documents to back up any recollections he might have.)

    I'm not sure how any of this would eliminate or confirm anything. There's nothing that says that the day an ad hits the paper or the day a commercial airs is the first day the game was available.

    I think you've taken the right steps by contacting someone at Sega. Hopefully you get a response, since all other "research" seems like it will only lead to more speculation.

    I don't think it would be very difficult for Sega to orchestrate a nationwide rollout that centered AROUND a specific date. They controlled when they shipped the game, after all, so all they needed to do was make sure the game was shipped in such a way that it arrived at its many destinations at around the same date. Retailers aren't in the habit of leaving new stock languishing in the back room - they're going to want it on shelves and turning profits ASAP. Since none of the known marketing for Sonic 1 mentioned a specific release date, there would be no harm done to Sega's marketing campaign if one part of the country happened to get their copies and put them on sale slightly before or after another.
     
  20. Linkabel

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    Since Al Nielsen was brought up, doesn't Console Wars deals with this in passing? I vaguely remember a section about it but don't have the book near me.

    I know the book is controversial around here, but it could offer a venue to research more if it touches on the subject.