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How the Olympic spirit brought Nintendo and Sega together

"I still have trouble with this concept of this company that was our enemy that we fought tooth and nail against, and now they're buddies," former Sega exec Tom Kalinske notes in a new GI feature.

Alex Wawro, Contributor

September 28, 2016

2 Min Read

"I about fell over to tell you the truth. I still have trouble with this concept of this company that was our enemy that we fought tooth and nail against, and now they're buddies!"

- former Sega of America chief Tom Kalinske reflects on recent cooperation between Sega and Nintendo.

Once upon a time, Nintendo and Sega were fierce rivals. Now, Sega releases some games exclusively on Nintendo platforms, and the company's flagship characters appear to be best buds in games like Super Smash Bros. 

How did that significant shift in the game industry happen, exactly? Game Informer is the latest to dig into that question with a new feature that includes some interesting comments from Nintendo and Sega notables, including developers of both the Sonic and Mario games.

"I always thought it would be great to have Sonic and Mario in the same game," Super Mario Bros. designer Shigeru Miyamoto told Game Informer. "but if you put them in an action game, the feeling of speed is very different, so it wouldn't have worked."

Longtime Sonic game dev Takashi Iizuka seems to have felt less strongly about the mash-up, telling Game Informer that "from my perspective, yeah, the companies may have been at war from a promotional standpoint – there was a lot of rivalry being created. As hardware manufacturers, you're always out there competing against everyone else in the marketplace, but for me, I was just out there to make the greatest games possible, and bring them to as many people as possible."

So when Sega's Dreamcast died in 2001 and the company ceased to be a platform holder, it seems many Sega devs were eager to bring their games to Nintendo platforms. As Game Informer points out, Sonic games were released on Nintendo hardware starting in 2002 with Sonic Adventure 2, but it took years for the two companies to agree to put their flagship characters in the same game: 2007's Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games.

"'I started this conversation with Nintendo, and then later when Sega picked up the license for the Olympic Games video games, we had that foundation with Nintendo to say 'We want to bring Sonic and Mario together and have them appear in the same world and have them compete against each other,'" Iizuka told Game Informer. "'And we're going to use the premise of it being the Olympic Games and these characters are participating in the Olympic Games together to make that happen.'"

For more comments from those involved about how this came to pass (including former Sega marketing director Al Nilsen, who notes that "We have battle scars from those days. Personally, I just don't see a world where Sonic and Mario are best buddies,") check out the full feature over on Game Informer's website.

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