2022 was an outstanding year for gaming. PC players received numerous ports of previously console-locked games such as God of War (2018) and Marvel’s Spider-Man. Indie titles received some well-deserved spotlight with names such as Cult of the Lamb and Stray. New titles for modern, well-consolidated franchises came out kicking some ass with Elden Ring. And we watched as the classical franchises reinvented themselves in their own genre with Pokemon Legends: Arceus (and Scarlet and Violet some months later) and, maybe unexpectedly, Sonic Frontiers.
Sonic had a complete blast in 2022. Its second movie quickly rose to become the highest-grossing video game movie of all time with a total of U$ 402 million earned worldwide. This was followed by the release of Sonic Origins, which brought all Sonic The Hedgehog games and Sonic CD to modern platforms, and the announcement of the Netflix series Sonic Prime. This all culminated in the release of their newest open-world game Sonic Frontiers.
The community welcomed the game with arms open wide, even with some of its mixed reviews. It wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely the best work done in the last few years. From dazzling visuals to its wonderful soundtrack (a Sonic titles trademark), everything seemed to be perfect for the fans, who were happy to see their favorite Hedgehog climbing its way to the Game Awards ceremony. And that’s when things got bad.
The (Unlucky) Nominations for the Game Awards
Sonic was honored to participate in two categories: the regular Best Adaptation and the fan-voted Players’ Voice awards. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was responsible for the first nomination, while Frontiers led the other, which was shared with many other different titles.
As enjoyable as the Sonic movie was, people knew that Jim Carrey’s last dance wasn’t enough to outshine the brilliance of the fan-favorite adaptations such as Cyberpunk: Edgerunners or League of Legends: Arcane, which went out as the big winner of the night. No, no one would be bothered by that, but something else happened. And that something was the necessary trigger to unleash the fans’ fury upon the internet: The fan votes for Players’ Voice.
The tradition category is the only one that isn’t decided by the TGA staff but by fans themselves through the event’s official site. Many games were nominated, but the final stretch was between God of War Ragnarök, Elden Ring, Stray, and the two biggest competitors, Sonic Frontiers and Genshin Impact. You probably know how the story went from here on.
Genshin’s Sudden Ascension and the First Fraud Accusations
As the votes reached its final phase, Sonic fans went outraged when they saw that the mobile gacha title Genshin Impact, initially released in 2020, was competing directly against them. Why is this happening? This is a 2022 voting; Sonic deserves this! This is his year, not Genshin’s!
Something that both Sonic and Genshin share in common is that their fanbases are not… how can I say it? The most pacific ones out there…? You get the point, especially if you’ve been on the internet for a while. Both sides can be pretty chill and wholesome most of the time, but every fandom is doomed to have that vocal toxic minority. It just happens that some groups of them are louder than others.
Now add a little bit of competitiveness to the mix between those two groups who were ready to lash out at each other. The result is days of discussions and accusations of cheating by both parties when Genshin started to close the gap against Sonic Frontiers, the initial leader.
Related: How Many Post Credits Scenes are in Sonic Frontiers? – Answered
The other three finalists couldn’t even dream of getting that close. As big as their fanbase could be, there wasn’t anything to win out of it, and all three of them were favorites for other regular categories at the show. Elden Ring got the big GOTY, while Stray was named the Best Indie Game, and GoW swept many prizes such as Best Narrative and Innovation In Accessibility.
To Cheat or Not To Cheat?
Bots are always expected in such competitions, but they were first brought to question after the hate flames spread. And when the voting servers crashed after Sonic received a huge lead, something was clearly wrong.
But what about Genshin Impact? The fanbase was just as fervorous as Sonic’s when the voting reached its final moments. And some fans have doubtlessly resorted to unethical means to guarantee their definitive win. But was this really the reason for their initial boom, or was it something else?
Their inclusion was also questioned due to being a 2020 title. But was it eligible? The category in question was named “Players’ Voice.” Players have continued to enjoy the game two years after its initial release and are very vocal about that, so is there any reason for it not to be a part of the competition? Fortnite and Minecraft were also included in the first rounds, but those games were never questioned.
Genshin Impact always received a lot of hate due to mimicking elements from other games, but the game has grown enough to be called a unique title of its own a long time ago. It is surely a product of the so-called “post-Breath of the Wild era,” but it has its own uniqueness in storytelling, design, and gameplay in the many new regions released every few months.
As I said before, there was definitely proof of toxic behavior by both fans, and none were merely victims here. But the problems were addressed when the winner was announced. That implies that the winner was decided fair and square. And we know how that went.
If acknowledging bots’ manipulations is not enough to believe in the winners’ veracity, I honestly don’t know what to say.
How Sonic’s Fans Have Made Their Own Downfall
Most people agree that if Sonic’s fans didn’t bother attacking the Genshin fanbase first, things wouldn’t have gone that bad. This is likely to be true as many external factors have influenced the Chinese title’s victory.
The first of them is timing. When discussions started to heat up, former Chinese president Jiang Zemin had just passed away, which caused a huge commotion in the most populated country in the world. Online gaming servers were shut down for a day in tribute to their fallen leader, including Genshin Impact, which is very well-received in China.
Related: How to Rename the Wanderer in Genshin Impact
But why does that matter for the America-based Game Awards? Well, the news that foreign Sonic fans were attacking one of their favorite games during a grieving period for their country couldn’t come at the worst time. They couldn’t play the game, so what would they do? Vote, of course! Sonic fans have summoned the wrath of the Chinese, and that wouldn’t end well for them.
That’s when the bot rumors started, which prompted both fanbases to bombard the site with them, causing it to shut down temporarily, and when it was back up, it didn’t show the current results anymore to avoid more backlash.
There were also “bribing” accusations. People said that Genshin only won because Hoyoverse would give Primogems (in-game currency) if that happened. And although that wasn’t real either, misinformation on that fact was undeniably a driving factor for people to hate it (and, sadly, vote for the wrong reasons).
First of all, it was never stated anywhere that rewards were being distributed. Second, while people claimed that this also happened in the past, the game didn’t receive any award in TGA 2020, but players still received Primogems due to nomination only. Genshin wouldn’t receive prizes until 2021 when the rewards were repeated.
And aside from that, there were also those people that just didn’t care enough for the competition, but started to vote simply to piss off one of the sides. This happened for both competitors, but we’ve seen who came out on top in the end.
The Real Winners at the End
While Sonic did deserve to receive at least a single prize, this was the worst category possible for that to happen. Genshin had just received one of its most anticipated characters and a new region that’s still expanding, bringing many players back to the game. Players’ Voice is ultimately a popularity competition, and Sonic just happened to be not as popular today as fans imagined.
No side “had the right” to the victory more than the other, as both had not the purest of intentions (as no human could possibly have), and it’s sad to see how low the situation has gone. Both franchises are great in their own regard, and people could see that there was no point in this discussion.
At the very least, Sonic fans get to enjoy a new and good title that may be what they needed to give back some steam to the franchise. And Genshin players got some extra gems for new characters. All could have come down in a better way, but it didn’t.
But we can say that Sonic was robbed of something; it happened as soon as Frontiers wasn’t included in the Best Score and Music category, which was probably the best shot it could have at the competition. The soundtrack was one of the game’s biggest points, and they definitely deserved better. They may not be able to defeat God of War, but at least it wouldn’t feel as bad as it did.