23rd June 1991

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

  1. Gryson

    Gryson

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    This is what Al Nilsen just said on Twitter:

    "That's why we airfreighted all of the Sonic 2 cartridges directly to over 13.000 retail stores so that they would arrive the day before Sonic 2sday. This was unprecedented, but it was only way to enforce a street date. To learn more check out Ch 39 of Console Wars."

    He didn't respond to anything with any thoughts about where the June 23 date came from. Maybe he doesn't know or remember.

    Ch 18 of Console Wars says:

    "Unlike movies, books, and music albums, in 1991 there was no official release date for videogames. When a game hit stores was a matter of logistics, not premeditation. There were just too many variables and too many unaffiliated retailers; besides, mostly the product came in from Japan in dribs and drabs. As a result, there was no game-changing D-day for Sonic The Hedgehog but rather a period of several weeks in late June and early July when the blue blur started showing up in stores."

    But yeah, as the book has a lot of questionable or downright wrong info in it and no quotes or citations, it's not clear if that's just coming out of Harris's own thoughts or from one of his sources. I think he's just setting up the Sonic 2 release with that.
     
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  2. LockOnTommy11

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    I think questioning why we’re discussing this is a bit silly, especially when the investigation is ongoing. Why do we question or do anything here at Sonic Retro, then? It’s a bit of a defeatist attitude to assume we have all the evidence or knowledge we’re going to get.

    Back on the main topic, perhaps 23rd was the date by which SEGA wanted all regions to have Sonic released by, or it was determined after the fact that this would be a safe day to say that Sonic was commercially available everywhere? It seems possible that the only way we are going to know for sure is to speak to someone who worked there, as I can’t imagine any documents would have been kept.
     
  3. kitsunebi

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    So it's probably been a while since most of you saw it, but I just watched the Console Wars documentary, and seeing the following comments about Sonic 2's launch, it seems pretty obvious that there was no concentrated effort to have Sonic 1 come out on the same day nationwide.

    Ellen Beth Van Buskirk (Marketing Services Manager, SoA): Part and parcel with making (Sonic 2) successful was, how are we gonna launch it? How are we going to support it? Ha! Let's do something like the movies. Let's do a world distribution date. Sonic Two-sday was so big. It was a bodacious idea.

    Al Nilsen (Director of Global Marketing, SoA): We started looking at what else we could go and do. We'll do it on a Tuesday...Sonic Two-sday. We launched in Japan, Australia, Europe, all over the world. Never, ever been done before.

    Tom Kalinske (CEO, SoA): We were going to make the game available at every retail outlet on the same day. I know this sounds silly today, but it was hard to do.


    I mean, it sure sounds to me like they hadn't already done the same thing for Sonic 1. And these are the people who would know.
     
  4. Sui Eel

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    Man, I love reading through time capsules like this.
     
  5. Overlord

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    Sonic Twosday isn't in doubt, read upthread. This is focusing on Sonic 1's date.
     
  6. Black Squirrel

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    My current working theory is that "23rd June" is a wonky interpretation of "the last week in June". There are 30 days in June: minus 7 = 23.

    i.e. "it was available the week beginning the 23rd" (if you start your week on a Sunday) as opposed to "on the 23rd". And by "available" I mean, "nationwide, you could confidently buy Sonic this week". You might have been able to buy Sonic the previous week (or the week before!), but Sega couldn't guarantee retailers had copies. In practise though, I think they were sorted well before the 23rd - we may never have confirmation of nationwide availability, but people could and clearly did buy the game before that date, and there's still no contemporary sources claiming the 23rd.

    That's for the US.

    In the UK, I suspect the 23rd is much closer to the actual street date, which given the charts, was probably the week before Sega's estimate. However given Sonic Jam doesn't specifically state a European release on the 23rd, I suspect this assumption of a US/EU simultaneous release came later and holds even less water. In brief, I would suggest Sonic was available by "the end of the second week June" in both regions, rather than the third, as Sega seems to imply.


    Oh yeah also there's other countries in Europe. And here's the thing: it's a lot more up in the air for the continent:

    It's generally hard to tell with France because they used to combine their July and August editions of magazines. Joystick, Mega Force and Player One had their hands on Sonic by the time these issues went to print, but the game isn't being advertised by retailers. It's definitely out by the time of the September 1991 issues - I don't know when any of this stuff went to press, but it's a good guess that "late June" also applies here. At least, that's when the game was being reviewed.

    Germany seems to be suggesting August 1991. German mags were generally a bit behind the news cycle for some reason so it can be difficult to tell, but it's not out of the ordinary for releases to be staggered, just ask the Mega-CD.

    Spain also seems to be later than June, but like Germany the gaming press is behind the curve, and there weren't dedicated console mags until after Sonic was launched. This is similar for Italy, though with the added dimension that early 90s magazine content was often just translated from British mags, so may not necessarily reflect the Italian market.

    None of this is really outside the margin of error, but worth noting.
     
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  7. nineko

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    Well, Italian magazines often included full pages of ads by game shops, with full lists of available games from every single shop, but with that said, I'm afraid I didn't start buying any of those magazines until 1992, right in time for the review of Sonic 2.

    And by the way, "Game Power" wasn't translated, they had a full staff of writers, so you might probably be able to extrapolate some useful data from 1991 issues of "Game Power" either way.
     
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  8. Pirate Dragon

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    I scanned this German trade price list from distributor Virgin just before they became Sega Europe. Prices dated as of 91.07.01. Sonic is listed as being available from Calendar Week 28, or 2nd week of July.
     
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  9. Gryson

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    I did a historical newspaper search of Japanese newspapers and couldn't find anything matching June 23 and Sonic before the release of Sonic Adventure 2, so it doesn't seem to have been a date floating around Japan.

    I also wonder how many people working at SOA in 1997 had been there in 1991 and knew anything about the release of Sonic - I wouldn't be surprised if that number was zero. If the Sonic Jam team asked SOA for release dates, what are the odds they would have gotten any accurate info?

    Based on available info, I think we can narrow down the origins of the June 23 date as one of the following:

    1) Something used internally at Sega for whatever purpose
    2) An extrapolation ("last week of June" or "one month before the Japanese release")
    3) A best guess (stemming from desire to put a date on the release even though one wasn't available)

    There's no evidence that June 23 had any significance.
     
  10. Black Squirrel

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    Game Power's too late unfortunately - the first issue came out in December 1991.

    It's why it's difficult to tell what's going on - consoles were an afterthought in Europe for much of 1991, and only start being a focus after Sonic.
     
  11. kitsunebi

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    I agree there is a big enough mountain of circumstantial evidence to be confident that the June 23 date was something created years after the fact and there is no official release date.

    So the question is whether "June 23" was created in 1997 using one of the methods listed above for the simple purpose of attributing a reasonably accurate launch date to the game, or if its creation served another purpose. For example, Sega has since latched on to that date and used it repeatedly for promotional purposes as "Sonic's Birthday." Various events and game releases have been scheduled for that day throughout the years - something that wouldn't be possible if Sonic didn't have a "Birthday" but rather a "Birth-week give or take a week or two."

    So having a single date to point to has been something Sega has clearly used to their advantage and may well be the reason they invented "June 23" in the first place. I'd be curious to see what are the earliest times (outside of Sonic Jam) that this date was used by Sega in a promotional manner.
     
  12. Gryson

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    I didn't say that, though. The date may have some significance that's been lost to time. If the Sonic Jam developers asked SOA for a date, they might have gotten June 23 from an internal source. We might never know, but it's good to keep the possibilities open. Regardless, I don't think that would meet the criteria for 'release date'.

    I also see no evidence that Sega intentionally created the date because they wanted to have a set date for promotional stuff. The most obvious path there is that nobody realized the date was inaccurate in the first place.
     
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  13. I read Babbage's and now feel about 10 years older than I actually am.
     
  14. Black Squirrel

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    I've stripped both Sonic and Sega Retro of "Sonic 1 was released on the 23rd June" quotes. If there are other curious dates (which there almost certainly will be), do feel free to work what they should be, before I get to them myself.

    A few things this exercise highlights:

    - We really need publication dates for US magazines of this period. As far as I know there aren't any sources online (or we'd have the dates already), but even if we can work out whether something was printed in May, June or July, that would be a step forward. There must be clues somewhere.

    - We need to keep a record of when retailers started advertising specific games. This is a massive task (and a lot less useful without the above), but the infrastructure is there, which has so far been used on precisely one game. It was designed with unreleased games in mind but obviously caters for finished ones too.

    - We have (some) TV adverts but they lack context. One day we might find exactly when campaigns started and ended, but after a trip to YouTube, I was able to get a rough idea of when those HAG ads aired (and indeed what channel... and maybe even time)*. We ought to write similar things down for as many games as possible.



    *unless someone wants to live the true dream, which is "preserve all of television". Get your VHS tapes together, put in a date, time and channel, and be able to watch TV, as it was, in real time.

    I bet the BBC could do this if they wanted to, assuming they haven't dared throw out archives after the issues with old Doctor Who. Let me watch BBC 1 exactly as it was 30 years ago... or I guess don't because the Sonic ads would be on ITV or Channel 4. idk.
     
  15. Wazzok1

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    Hey, I'm the person who stumbled across those Usenet posts last week and made that Wiki edit initially.

    I'm not all that involved with the Sonic Retro community so I didn't realise there was a forum section of the site until I was directed here after trying to do the same on Wikipedia. Looks like you guys beat me to it and far surpassed what I've found so far. I think removing the 23 June date in reference to Sonic site-wide is a wise choice. I couldn't find any evidence on my own, and nor could anyone in this thread, that the game released anywhere on that date. It's nothing more than a useful myth for future release calendars.

    Massive credit to you, Black Squirrel, for starting this discussion and of course Pirate Dragon for uploading the source materials in the first place.

    From what I can tell 24 June was the UK release date only, as per Games-X. Anywhere that claims a 'PAL'/European release date for any game prior to the late-1990s without a source is either using the UK date for shorthand or outright lying. Just because a game released in the UK on a certain day doesn't mean German consumers were able to buy it too. European release dates were a very rare thing in 1991, especially as it was prior to the opening of the EU single market.

    Contrary to claims elsewhere, the first Gallup chart Sonic appeared in was for 23–29 June. All such charts spanned Sunday to Saturday (Games-X Preview Issue, March 1991). According to the Daily Mirror (5 July 1991, p.29), 'This week's best-selling games for the Sega Megadrive, says Leisuresoft, are: 1. Sonic the Hedgehog . . .'

    The Usenet posts also represent the earliest recorded US release date. It's also entirely possible that Electronics Boutique was stocking the game on Monday, 10th.
    Nevertheless, it is absolutely certain that the US got the game at least a week before the UK did; I've seen adverts prior to UK release in Games-X and elsewhere advertising US imports of the game. I don't know how long it would have taken for stocks to arrive, be ordered and then exported to the UK, arrive in stock there and then for an advert to be sent for print. But surely it couldn't have been done within a week?

    As for your record of advertisements, I can help you first of all. Games-X fortunately has specific dates for a few Mega Drive releases throughout its print run.
    Secondly, the Daily Mirror, although hidden behind a British Newspaper Archive/Findmypast paywall, is an absolute goldmine for Dixons and Currys adverts. It's where the 29 June 1991 UK Game Gear release date comes from, and where I've found the first print advert in the UK for the Nintendo Game Boy. It's absolutely worth paying a subscription for based on that alone, I'd say. Other tabloid archives such as the Daily Mail and the Sun also have similar potential but unfortunately they require institutional subscriptions and I'm in-between universities at the moment.

    I've tried to edit the UK release date for Sonic CD, which was the same as the US—Sonic '3-in-1' Day, Tuesday, 23 November 1993 (Full-page Dixons spread(!!), Sunday Mirror, 21/11/93, p.14).
    'Tried' because I've uploaded that advert to Sonic Retro but it's almost certainly in violation of copyright, so I think it would be best if someone kindly marked it for deletion.

    This thread is incredibly informative, though. Great job, everyone.
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2022
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  16. Pirate Dragon

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    I have to go to work, so I'll just address this for now. I try to document the ELSPA Gallup charts here. Games-X only gave chart date in the preview issue. New Computer Express Gallup charts had dates and number of weeks in charts. They dropped dates in early 1991, but continued number of weeks in charts for a little bit longer. From when they dropped "number of weeks" there is a continuous run of charts (established through "last week's positions" which overlaps Games-X and from which it's possible to correlate the Games-X charts. From this I'm reasonably confident that Sonic debuted in the week ending June 22. Incidentally, I have more charts from first half of 1991 which I haven't got around to adding yet, and these also fit with the dates I've extrapolated for the charts in Games-X..
     
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  17. The KKM

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    Man, so much of what was taken for granted within the fandom's collective history is really not a thing when thinking on it, huh.

    Reading all this, it feels the most logic guess is that 23rd was meant not as a hard release date but as a "we aim to have everything out by this" date- with the understanding some places would be releasing it earlier or later, but all focused around the 23rd. I feel the notion of it being a date made up for Jam falls a bit flat considering other games showcase only the month.

    I feel the ideal way to get to this would be to check who developed Jam (as in people, I know it was Sonic Team) and how that timeline was made- since that's the earliest indication we have of the date being used. Of course, it's exactly the sort of specific historical question that's extremely hard to get out of developers, especially Japanese ones. Ooer.
     
  18. Wazzok1

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    Thanks for the reply. I would date that chart as week-ending 29th June nonetheless.

    First of all, we have corroboration that Gallup charts ran from Sunday to Saturday from the Games-X preview issue and this interview with Chart Track's director Dorian Bloch confirms that as late as 2007, they were still using this formula because they published each chart on the Monday.

    It makes sense that the information would refer to the most recent chart, which for a magazine published on 4 July would have to be that published on 1 July for the week ending 29 June.

    However, as you make clear, New Computer Express complicates the issue. Sonic appears to have charted for two weeks by 4 July. But the chart in Issue 138 published on 27 June does not contain Sonic or corroborate with the Games-X Issue 9, 10 or 11 charts. Lombard RAC Rally features on the NCE-138 Chart but not the GX-10 Chart published the same day. Lemmings is 6. down from 4. on the former; it's 3. up from 4. on the latter.

    The fundamental problem is that NCE-139 states that Sonic appeared on last week's chart, but it did not appear in 'this week's chart' in last week's issue. We can't deduce a date from NCE.

    To add to this, what evidence is there that the NCE chart is the All-Formats chart? It's titled 'Top 10 16-bit Games'.

    I don't think you can compare the two charts in this case, although they are both from Gallup. Clearly other software chart companies like Leisuresoft and Columbus Distribution conducted their surveys on different dates and with different stores, while magazines interpreted them differently to one another.

    This is besides the point. I commend you for your compilation, I've been looking for something like your site for years. What you've done here is amazing. :thatsrad:

    I would just counter that from where I'm standing, it seems to be a week out of sync with the real chart in this context, at least for the short period we're discussing.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Just thought I'd put my previously discussed evidence in here.

    Daily Mirror extract (Last section above the by-line)
    Games-X, 9, 21–26 June 1991, p.26. Advert 'UK/US' Sonic
    As above, p.32. Advertising US import now in stock.

    Throughout this issue—the very same week that you date the first Sonic Gallup chart—Sonic is described as not out yet. For example, 'Eagerly awaited' (p.36)).
    In answer to Melanie Taylor's request for more info on the game, the writing staff say:

    'Sonic will be out on the Mega Drive at the end of June – Watch out for a serious review of it in GX' (p.46.)
     
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  19. Wazzok1

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  20. Pirate Dragon

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    Yes, it's well known that UK charts run Sunday - Saturday, this doesn't really make any difference as my contention is that it debuted in the chart ending Saturday June 22nd.

    No way, the charts took much longer than that to compile and publish, there's no chance that the charts for week ending June 29th would have been in a magazine published July 4th, printed July 3rd (or earlier), and written July 2nd at the latest (in reality almost certainly earlier). The charts published in the main trade paper, "Computer Trade Weekly" were 9 days behind in 1992. In early 1990 they took several weeks to get published. By 1993 the gap had been reduced to 4 days ... for the chart published digitally on teletext.

    A quick primer on the ELSPA Gallup charts. Gallup used to compile the official (as in they were backed by the music industry trade body) UK Music charts. They tracked sales at various retailers each week and compiled a chart. In late 1984 a trade magazine contracted them to compile a games chart, within a year this had become widely accepted as the de-facto UK chart, there were no other companies tracking retail sales of game software. When ELSPA formed in 1989 Gallup was threatening to stop compiling the charts due to the high cost. This resulted in ELSPA contracting Gallup to continue compiling the chart. The result was that publishers were funding the chart via ELSPA. This meant they wanted something in return in terms of PR. Release a game only on 16-bit consoles? It has no chance of hitting #1 ... solution; get Gallup to create a 16-bit chart. You can now advertise your game as a #1 seller. But what about those budget games which sell for £1.99 taking up all of the positions stopping your full priced game charting high? So now you have "All Price", "Full Price", and "Budget Price" charts. Do that for "All Formats", "16-bit", and "8-bit" charts and you have 9 charts, when you include all of the single format charts and any other charts that weren't publicly published they were compiling 24 charts each week. Technically some of this happened before ELSPA took over, but publishers were widely putting pressure on Gallup by complaining in the press (often reported in Popular Computing Weekly) for many years. Thus lots of charts!

    So yeah, Sonic should appear (if it sold enough) in All Formats ("All Price" and "Full Price") and 16-bit (All Price and Full Price) charts. All 24 charts were based on exactly the same sales data, the only difference are which games are included, and which games aren't. For week ending 91.06.15 the Games-X charts are Full Price and Budget Price, where as NCE chart was All Price 16-bit. Lombard shows up in Games-X that week low down in the budget chart which was dominated by 8-bit titles. Lemmings was a 16-bit only title at the time, hence it's chart position is heavily influenced by whether 8-bit titles are included or not.

    Leisuresoft was not a software chart company, they were a distributor. They would buy games from publishers such as Sega (but not Nintendo as they tightly controlled who could sell Nintendo games) and then sell them onto independent retailers who could not sell enough to meet the minimum order requirements of publishers. Their charts are useful to an extent (for example we can see that Thunder Force III was distributed in the UK), but they are just charts of sales to retailers after they've gone through a middle man. We don't know whether they are advanced purchases before the game shipped, or what date the chart covers. As they are also not retail sales, we can't really infer anything about retail street dates.

    Thanks, I first started that over 10 years ago and have spent thousands of hours over the last decade researching and updating for the site. I'm open to corrections, but I'm not seeing anything convincing here in order for me to change the dates.
     
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