Sega Rebooting Retro Franchises Including Crazy Taxi and Streets of Rage as Gaming Corp Eyes Hollywood Expansion

Dust off those joysticks: Sega is rebooting a handful of retro franchises including Crazy Taxi, Streets of Rage, Golden Axe, Jet Set Radio and Shinobi.

The Japanese gaming giant announced the new initiative, which will “revive a number of IPs as all-new video games, developed for today’s audiences,” Dec. 7 at the Game Awards. Sega also showed the Los Angeles audience a trailer that previews footage of the new games, which are currently in development.

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As two of the rebooted titles already have film adaptations in development, Sega eyes Hollywood ambitions beyond its successful “Sonic” movie franchise. A Shinobi movie adaptation from Marc Platt and Stories International was announced back in 2016, and Lionsgate landed film rights to Streets of Rage last year, recruiting “John Wick” writer Derek Kolstad.

“Sonic is definitely a blueprint for us,” Sega co-COO Shuji Utsumi told Variety in an interview before the Game Awards. “First, we really want to create the games and appeal to the gamers. The game is first. However, if we are creating the world and the characters that gamers love, that means if filmmakers love that kind of direction, [that can inspire] the movies. So, why not?”

With 2020’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” grossing $319 million at the worldwide box office and 2022’s sequel raking in $405 million, Sega is looking to spin new films, television series and licensed products off of other legacy titles. Beyond the five reboots announced, Utsumi says there are additional projects Sega is currently evaluating but has “not yet greenlit.” While nailing down specific release dates for the new Crazy Taxi, Streets of Rage, Golden Axe, Jet Set Radio and Shinobi games is a long way away, Utsumi estimates that the earliest reboot will arrive “in the range of two years.”

The reboots will feature all-new gameplay, and Utsumi promises they will appeal to both those who played the original titles and younger gamers who grew up clutching an iPad. The Sega boss, who also serves as CEO of Sega of America, said the company was inspired to mine its own IP from the ’80s, ’90s and early 2000s because it believes gaming’s footprint in mainstream culture is growing.

Utsumi, a key architect in the 1994 launch of the PlayStation, remembers pitching a movie based on the popular Crash Bandicoot game series. “I was in an elevator pitch position. I had to say, ‘Hey!,’ trying to get their attention. And movie guys treated us like s-word,” he laughs. “Like it was just a toy.”

“Nowadays, directors and producers play many of the games that I produced, and they respect us. They respect our games too,” Utsumi continues. “They understand the audience, they understand the spirit. That’s why more game-themed movies [have been] successful.”

He’s been encouraged by the success of non-Sega video game adaptations, as well, saying he “of course” saw Nintendo and Illumination’s 1.3 billion-dollar grosser, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.”

“‘Mario’ pretty much follows the game, I would say. Ours have a bit [more] new fantasy added,” he says. “[Those filmmakers] approach it a different way, but they are still successful because they understand the value of the game. There are many different great approaches.”

The “Sonic” movies feature a computer-generated blue, speedy hedgehog (voiced by Ben Schwartz) alongside live-action actors Jim Carrey and James Marsden, while the Chris Pratt-starring “Mario” movie is fully animated.

“Sonic the Hedgehog 3,” which is dated for Dec. 20, 2024, features Sega mainstay Shadow, who was teased in the post-credits scene in “Sonic 2.” Given the company’s newfound cross-media approach, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the black and red antihero dashed into a new Sonic game.

“There is a lot of excitement around the appearance of Shadow,” Utsumi says with a proverbial wink. “Maybe we want to push that direction in other Sonic transmedia initiatives.”

Watch the trailer now:

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