Crazy SEGA Marketing: Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games

In our first installment of our “Crazy SEGA Marketing” series, we looked at the fake Seaman website SEGA created. Today, we’re going to look at a pretty weird way SEGA chose to market Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games.

In 2007, SEGA and Nintendo shocked the world when they announced they were teaming up to make the first video game starring both Sonic and Mario. The two classic rivals would finally join forces and would certainly change gaming forever.

However, many months before the game’s eventual release, March 26, 2007 to be exact, the above video was published on YouTube, showing a supposed kidnapped SEGA developer, who was being tortured in various ways, like having geishas pull out his leg hair, a man in a monkey suit clipping the ears off his bunny mask and finally and most terribly, making him listen to James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful.”

All of this torture was apparently to try to get this developer to give more information about a secret game SEGA had in development. There was a piece of static text on the bottom of the video that read, “Mystery still surrounds April release.”

We broke the story when the video was first published, and Graham attempted to look for clues throughout the video that might shed some light on the game SEGA had up its sleeve. Here are the clues he originally came up with when viewing the video:

    • Number one – you have an English ‘member’ (could just be an actor) of the Sega staff being held hostage.
    • The overall theme of the video is quite Asian – the sheets, the style of art, in the backdrop and, of course, the Geisha girls.
    • Animals set a big part to the video. The hostage wearing what appears to be a bunny mask and the male torturer wearing a monkey mask.
    • The clues that really start to give it away are the Logo in the backdrop – A simple cartoon face.
    • The name of the broadcasting station: “SJS”
    • And of course, James Blunt … actually no. James Blunt isn’t a clue, (at least not what I can tell), it’s just God awful.

With those clues, we found the letters SJS and the logo belonged to an English video production company called Small Japanese Soldiers, which had previously worked on videos for Fur Fighters. This helps explain why the actors were wearing animal masks. Graham then speculated the game could have been for a Fur Fighters sequel, which actually made a lot of sense at the time.

However, April came and went, and SEGA never announced what game the video was for. In May, we thought the video might have been a fake all along, and after we contacted both SEGA of America and SEGA of Europe to get a comment, they essentially said they had no idea who made the video.

We weren’t satisfied with that, so we went straight to the source and contacted Small Japanese Soldiers directly.

“The announcement that was actually made in April was to (do) with the release of the Mario vs. [sic] Sonic at the Olympic Games which due for release at Xmas,” said Andy, from Small Japanese Soldier. “As to the origin of the video, I couldn’t possibly comment.”

Upon pressing a bit further, Andy gave me some more details.

“Of course we did it mate. I was being all elusive,” he added.

In the end, Mario & Sonic ended up releasing in late November 2007, and this video marks one of the strangest marketing strategies in SEGA’s history as the video didn’t seem to have any connection with either Mario or Sonic universes and SEGA didn’t even bother announcing the game when it said it would. Either way, we had a lot of fun searching for clues and finally finding out the mystery game, so I suppose it was effective in some small way.

We hope you enjoyed this installment of “Crazy SEGA Marketing.” Next, we’re going to look at a really crazy way SEGA marketed ESPN NFL 2K5!

Chris Powell

Chris is the editor-in-chief at SEGA Nerds and Mega Visions Magazine. Over the years, he's written for publications like Joystiq, PSP Fanboy, RETRO magazine, among others. Oh yeah, he's also been a diehard SEGA Nerd his entire life.

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