Update (Tuesday, December 6): Yesterday, it looked like Sonic Frontiers would easily win the 100% fan-voted Players' Voice award at this year's Game Awards. Its lead vanished overnight, however, and what seemed like a nice story about an enthusiastic fanbase has taken a turn. As I write, lifelong internet enemies are being made.
The current Player's Voice award voting results are no longer available on the Game Awards site (opens in new tab), but at last check, Genshin Impact had leapt into a tie with Sonic Frontiers. Unless the voting data starts displaying again (the site might just be overwhelmed), we won't know whether Sonic fans or Genshin fans will triumph until The Game Awards air on Thursday. Geoff Keighley, you clever bastard: You knew this would happen, didn't you?!
Tuesday 1:18 pm ET: #SonicFrontiers and Genshin Impact at a dead heat - former is expected to break the tie.Stray, for the first time in the round, will make a significant gain while Elden Ring falters. #SonicNews pic.twitter.com/YFFIKYczYMDecember 6, 2022
I'm joking around, but my original article from yesterday (below) attracted a few responses that reminded me that this is dead serious for some. A genuine effort is being made by many Sonic fans to award Frontiers the recognition they feel it deserves, and although I've jokingly framed Genshin fans as villainous Sonic spoilers, they're serious about supporting the game they love in this fight.
It hasn't been the lighthearted fight one might expect given that it's over a relatively minor award. A currently popular post (opens in new tab) on the Genshin Impact subreddit accuses Sonic fans of using bots to vote, while the Sonic subreddit has banned further discussion of the award because of how ugly it was getting.
"We get it. You're upset because a 2020 mobile gacha game is likely going to win the 2022 Player's Choice poll," wrote the head moderator (opens in new tab) of r/SonicTheHedgehog. "Nevertheless, the posts have become so repetitive and, in some cases, toxic that we are putting our Sonic-style block feet down and no longer allowing new posts on the subject. Several comment threads have also been locked."
The mod also tells "brigaders from r/Genshin_Impact" to stop trolling or be banned, and likewise instructs Sonic fans to stop "spreading toxic lies about Genshin fans."
Over on Twitter, a Sonic supporter started a rumor that Genshin Impact is using in-game rewards to bribe players to vote for it, a claim I have found no evidence to support, although some Genshin fans are facetiously perpetuating it. After pointing out that the bribery claim is untrue, industry analyst Daniel Ahmad joked (opens in new tab) that he'd made "a terrible mistake" by getting involved.
I've made a terrible mistake 😭I'm now being attacked by Sonic fans that think there's a grand conspiracy by miHoYo to bribe players to vote at the game awards and my comment / part joke about Genshin having aggressive monetization has Genshin fans tearing me to shredsHelp!December 6, 2022
Be careful out there, friends. My original story from Monday, when Sonic Frontiers still lead the Players' Voice voting, follows below.
Original article (Monday, December 5): Most winners at Geoff Keighley's Game Awards are determined through a mix of public voting and jury selection—PC Gamer is one of those jurors—but one award, called Players' Voice, is entirely up to the public. Right now, the leader of that public vote is overwhelmingly Sonic Frontiers.
After coming out on top in the first two rounds, Sonic Frontiers has a whopping 48% of the votes in the third and final round of the Players' Voice award voting (opens in new tab). In second place, Genshin Impact has 29%, and in third, Elden Ring has just 13%. God of War: Ragnarok is in fourth with 8%, and Stray has the last spot at 2%.
"Can we get a Sonic Sweep?!?!?!" wrote Sega senior PR manager Evan Bader on Twitter (opens in new tab) earlier today.
Sonic Frontiers is not among the jury-selected nominees for TGA's overall Game of the Year award, although Elden Ring, God of War: Ragnarok, and Stray are. The others in the GOTY category are Horizon Forbidden West, A Plague Tale: Requiem, and Xenoblade Chronicles 3. It's pretty much a given that Elden Ring will win that category. I previously thought that Ragnarok might have a chance at upsetting it, but if the public and jurors vote like they are in the Players' Voice voting, it won't come close.
The Player's Voice award, on the other hand, will probably go to Sonic Frontiers, which wasn't nominated for any other Game Awards. From one perspective, that discrepancy illustrates why the main awards shouldn't be decided entirely by fan vote. The Game Awards says (opens in new tab) it mixes jury voting and public voting to avoid the winners being "socially engineered," and the Sonic fan lobby, which has also awarded Sonic Frontiers (opens in new tab) a higher Metacritic user score than Elden Ring, seems pretty good at coordinating its enthusiasm.
An alternative interpretation, however, is that the Sonic Frontiers nomination snub means it has simply been under-appreciated by mainstream critics. Our anti-Sonic bias has been exposed! (Plus it released a bit late in the year.)
Can we get a Sonic Sweep?!?!?! Round 3 of the Players' Voice vote for #TheGameAwards is up and Sonic Frontiers is out to a COMMANDING lead.Vote at: https://t.co/cOdgfvXJM0#SonicSweep #SonicFrontiers pic.twitter.com/PcwrHUHOlSDecember 5, 2022
The divide between fans and professional critics isn't actually as chasmic as I thought it might be, though. PC Gamer's Sonic Frontiers review wasn't among the glowing ones, but there are lots of positive critic reviews. According to Gene Park at The Washington Post (opens in new tab), Frontier's controls, soundtrack, "evocative" storytelling, and Sonic Adventures-style structure are a boon for long-time Sonic fans.
"Sonic Frontiers won't win any awards, and it doesn’t need them," wrote Park in November. "For fans of the hedgehog, experiencing the game feels like winning a lifetime achievement award."
That last bit may be true, but unless Genshin Impact fans rally quickly (and the gap between the games did close a little today), it looks like Frontiers will win at least one non-imaginary award after all.
Even non-Sonic fans seem to be getting into the Sonic Sweep. As I saw one voter say on Twitter, Elden Ring and the like will get all the attention in the main awards, so why not vote for a different game in the one category where the favorites can be beaten?
Voting for the Players' Voice award (opens in new tab), as well as the other Game Awards, is open for two more days. The winners will be announced at the 2022 Game Awards this Thursday at 7:30 pm ET.