As Sonic celebrates his 20th anniversary, Sega West boss Mike Hayes has admitted to "making too many Sonic games", promising: "The development teams now know what they need to do" with future titles.
Insisting that the icon remained "right at the heartbeat of [the publisher's] business," Hayes claimed that this year's key release, Sonic Generations, would deliver, "an experience that people have been waiting for for a long time".
The low point for the inconsistent series, which debuted on Mega Drive two decades ago today, is widely seen as the disastrous 2006 PS3 and Xbox 360 release, Sonic The Hedgehog.
"[That] was probably the worst Metacritic that we've got," Hayes told Eurogamer. "We kind of didn't really know where to put it and we probably tripped up a bit. The thing we've subsequently found – and it's not rocket science – is that we have two very distinct audiences for Sonic.
"We've got us lot sitting around the table that's the original fanbase, which is huge, and then we've got a younger audience that just sees Sonic as a good icon but they want a game that's relevant to them," he added.
Hayes blamed "confusion" over the target audience for the series' weakest offerings. "I do acknowledge that the quality of some of the earlier games was certainly not where we would have liked to have been," he conceded.
"Now the development teams are very clear where they need to try and craft their games going forward. And actually now they've got the bit between their teeth, it's quite a single-minded process for them to try and improve on that."
After the success of Sonic 4: Episode 1 and Sonic Colours, and with a playable demo of Sonic Generations released this week, the publisher believes it's back on track. "I think Generations, for the loyal fanbase, is going to be highly regarded," Hayes predicted.
On the decision to release the demo months before the game's release, Sonic brand director David Corless insisted that the publisher didn't need to indulge in the "usual smoke and mirrors tactics in our industry," since it "knew how good this game is".
Ahead of Generations this Christmas, Sonic's next outing will be in Mario & Sonic at the London Olympic Games, the latest addition to a series that has already shifted over 19 million copies.
"I do think that over the last few years there's been a real uplift," said Corless. "I think we're in a very strong position knowing what's coming next with Generations and Mario & Sonic London. The vision we've got for Sonic beyond is brilliant."