The Sonic series played an interesting role in the overall presentation of Sega World in that it mixed and matched from various iterations of the franchise. While the Sonic and Knuckles characters were immortalised as statues at Sega World, so was the character Sally Acorn, who did not appear in any of the Sonic games and instead was featured in a cartoon, Sonic the Hedgehog: The Animated Series. A small blunder that Sega World made was diverge from Sega’s official design of Sonic by having his arms miscoloured as blue instead the normal beige.
The launch of the new Sonic game for Dreamcast in 1999, titled Sonic Adventure, was a big deal for Sega and the franchise. The game was also positioned as somewhat of a reboot of the franchise. To that extent, Sega decided to redesign Sonic and the other characters in the franchise, as well as introduce new ones. Even though the new styling for the characters was introduced, Sega World did little to follow the development, as the statues based on the older Sonic franchise would remain at the theme park until its closure, and the merchandise would not be updated with the new designs either.
It is hard to know why Sega World did not update its facility and merchandise based on this development, but it is likely that lack of funds was likely the reason, as well as the departure of Sega from the partnership. Whatever the reason was, it still did not change the fact that it made Sega World feel like it was misplaced in time. The overall lack of an attractive value proposition at Sega World, due to the low number of attractions, was the main reason that the theme park failed to hit off. However, Sega’s mismanagement of its own business and the Sonic franchise certainly did not help Sega World either.
What may have been
One can only speculate how differently things may have turned out if Sega World had managed to reach its break even point at the conclusion of the 2000 Summer Olympics. Maybe the ice rink and other attractions would have been installed at the facility and helped maintain visitor numbers, and the unique red building with the glass cone as a ceiling would remain a permanent fixture in the Darling Harbour landscape. But in the same vein, one could also speculate at how different things could have turned out for Sega and its Saturn console if they had released a proper Sonic game for the console’s launch.
At the end of the day, Sega World in Sydney failed, and it did so because it seemed to be the wrong type of initiative for wrong place at the wrong time. That is why no one really mourned the theme park when it closed in 2000, let alone remembers that it even existed over a decade later.
All requests for comment for this story by Kevin Bermeister, Cameron Chisholm & Nicol, Future World Concepts, SGA, and the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority went unanswered before this story went to publication.