"Some of that criticism is probably warranted," Ratcliffe admitted to GameDaily. "We definitely recognize that a franchise that has been going as long as Sonic, you really have to put a huge amount of effort in to make sure that you maintain that quality, and arguably a disproportionate amount of effort."
Ratcliffe added that upcoming Sonic titles reflect the first steps in ensuring quality installments of Sega's flagship franchise, citing BioWare's development of the upcoming Nintendo DS RPG Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood as an example.
"We can't just stand still with Sonic; we've got to be looking at different ways to develop the character, different genres, and so on... If you're going to put Sonic in his first RPG experience, who do you go to? Bioware, the world leader in making RPGs," the executive said.
Released in 2006, Sonic's current-gen debut in Sonic the Hedgehog (PS3, 360) was widely panned for its poor controls and lengthy load times, as well as glitches which led many to declare the game as "unfinished." Ratcliffe offered that the game was the result of Sonic Team's inexperience with the new platforms.
"I think the Sonic next-gen experience in terms of quality, that was relatively early in the next-gen cycle when lots of developers were just coming to grips with the technology. It's not a huge surprise when you try to get something out for launch or thereabouts and the quality is not optimal."
He continued, "This time around, with Sonic Unleashed, we got a great new engine, the Hedgehog engine, and that allows us to truly deliver the Sonic experience as it arguably should have been on the next-gen...Then with a nice innovative twist, we're taking Sonic in a different direction, slow him down and he transforms into a 'werehog.'"
"Do we get concerned about it? Yes, of course we're always concerned about how we're developing that franchise," Ratcliffe concluded. "And a lot of time and effort is spent discussing how we develop Sonic."