After weeks of teasing, SEGA Forever was officially revealed to be a classic games collection initiative to bring everything from the SG-1000 to the SEGA Dreamcast to mobile platforms, with the big surprise being that all the games are free to play (with the option to buy). The collection kicked off with five SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis titles, including four emulated games including Altered Beast, Kid Chameleon, Phantasy Star II and Comic Zone, and the remastered Sonic the Hedgehog from Christian Whitehead. After playing the games and experiencing how the service works, we had a ton of questions for SEGA. Thanks to mobile games community manager Danny Russell, we received a speedy reply and every single one of our questions got answered!
Read on for our interview with Danny.
Can you tell us about the behind the scenes history of SEGA Forever? How long have you been working on the project?
Danny Russell: There have been a number of internal discussions to get something like SEGA Forever in motion for a long time now, but the project really kicked off about a year ago.
As for myself, I started working on SEGA Forever right at the beginning of November 2016, just after I joined at the end of October 2016. From a community point of view, my foremost focus has been reaching out to fans and fan sites, making and finding assets, and getting the permission to use those assets across our social channels.
SEGA Forever has been out for almost a week, how has user engagement been?
Danny Russell: I think I underestimated just how popular the SEGA Forever launch would be. I’m very pleased with how engaged and passionate fans have been with regards to the scope of what we’re doing with SEGA Forever. I’m struggling to keep up with logging all the game and feature requests, but rest assured that I’m on the case!
SEGA has launched a lot of these retro gaming initiatives in the past including SEGA Ages, SEGA Heritage Collection, SEGA Vintage Collection, Dreamcast Collection and even the latest SEGA 3D Classics; how does SEGA Forever differ from these past initiatives?
Danny Russell: I think the trailer gives you a glimpse into how seriously we’re taking SEGA Forever – you didn’t see anything like that for the other re-release initiatives that SEGA have run with before.
We’ve never truly brought up Saturn or SG-1000 titles in the past either (NiGHTS was based on the PlayStation 2 remake). Thanks to the way that monetisation works through ads on mobile, we could be running SEGA Forever… forever.
Some of the aforementioned retro gaming initiatives saw a short lifespan (SEGA Heritage, for example), how committed is SEGA’s mobile division to SEGA Forever?
Danny Russell:Very much so – while it’s not the only mobile project we’re working on, we’re investing the lion’s share of our time on SEGA Forever as it’s such a huge undertaking.
How engaged with SEGA Forever are those outside of SEGA Networks? Are you taking suggestions from SEGA of America, SEGA Europe and SEGA of Japan?
Danny Russell:SEGA of Japan is supporting us a great deal with this project, especially in relation to approvals. As some of us are based in the US and others in SEGA Europe, we speak openly about how SEGA Forever is progressing throughout the Western side of SEGA.
SEGA Forever launched with titles that have appeared on mobile prior and the next teased game, Virtua Tennis, has also been released previously on mobile. Does SEGA Forever plan on bringing retro games that haven’t been released on mobile before?
Danny Russell: While Virtua Tennis Challenge has been out on mobile for years, it’s been at the premium price point of $4.99. By integrating the game into the SEGA Forever brand, we can make it free (with ads), and drop it down to $1.99 while adding 64-bit support alongside other features.
In an ideal world we would have loved to have gone with the original Virtua Tennis or one of its sequels, but the licenses involved made it too complicated to happen.
With regards to titles that haven’t been released before: yes, very much so. Our first several months may seem a little “safe” in terms of the titles we choose, but we are pushing for titles that haven’t been available in earlier collections, and have received approval for many of these titles already.
Can we expect mobile releases of previously released console ports from the Dreamcast Collection and SEGA Heritage lines?
Danny Russell: As long as there’s demand for those titles, and we think they’d work well on mobile (especially controls-wise), of course!
As new versions of smartphone operating systems release, mobile SEGA titles will sometimes become unable to launch due to a lack of updates. Can we expect titles like Jet Set Radio and ChuChu Rocket! to return under SEGA Forever with performance issues fixed?
Danny Russell: Yes, we will be updating several of our delisted titles to be 64-bit compatible, while improving controls, and adding in the relevant SEGA Forever features. We’ve already done this for Altered Beast and Phantasy Star II – if you bought them when they first appeared on iOS you’ll now have the premium SEGA Forever versions.
Would a title like Sonic 4 fall under SEGA Forever, or does SEGA Forever end with the Dreamcast?
Danny Russell: We haven’t fully decided on this just yet, but we’d love to hear more from fans as to whether they’d like to see these as part of SEGA Forever.
While the launch had all SEGA Genesis games, there was a difference in quality between the Christian Whitehead version of Sonic The Hedgehog and the rest which ran on an emulator. Will SEGA Forever have releases that contrast in quality like this?
Danny Russell: Our dev team is hard at work improving the Mega Drive/Genesis emulator, and you’ll be able to see performance getting better in the coming months. We’re also adding numerous features to the wrapper, such as fully customisable control overlays and graphic filter options.
One of the biggest complaints at launch is the emulation, are you guys working on making it more accurate? What is the end goal for the accuracy compared to real hardware?
Danny Russell: At the moment we feel performance can certainly be improved, and continually improving emulation will be part and parcel of SEGA Forever. With the way that mobile operating systems change over time, we have to keep the games updated and optimise accordingly.
The SEGA Forever emulation seems to be barebones, are you working on adding features like screen filters, scan lines, online play and on screen control adjustments like button placement and opacity in the future?
Danny Russell: Yes, we’re implementing all these features! Filters and controller options will be added in the next few months, while online play will be coming a touch later.
The size of the games is a big issue with SEGA Forever games, each SEGA Genesis game being almost 50mb in size. Is the size per game something you have been working to decrease?
Danny Russell: Yes, we’re looking at ways to reduce the size of the games. We are currently bringing in advisors who are deeply established within the emulation community to help us fix issues like this.
Was there ever a plan to bring or create a SEGA Forever app, sort of how the SEGA Mega Drive and Genesis Classics handles retro games on PC in a hub?
Danny Russell: We chose to go for separate apps for each game due to the way discoverability works in the mobile ecosystem. If you tell a friend they need to play Altered Beast or Comix Zone, the first thing they’ll do is search for those games. If we had a centralised app, you’d have to search for SEGA Forever – searching for the title of the game wouldn’t always work. As it’s currently set up you can search for SEGA Forever or the game’s title and you’ll find the app you’re after.
While SEGA Forever announced that it was bringing all major console games to mobile, it left out arcades. Will SEGA arcade games be featured in the future?
Danny Russell: We know that the arcade releases for some SEGA titles are considered the definitive versions. There’s certainly a strong possibility, but not one we can confirm just yet!
Some retro SEGA games could benefit from implementing touch controls, is there a plan to handle titles with specific touch controls or are you going for a emulated on-screen controller for each release?
Danny Russell: Saturn and Dreamcast titles will have specific touch controls where it makes sense. Imagine if we were to port a light gun game – of course we’d have you tap the enemy rather than use a virtual D-pad to shoot them!
For emulators we’re sticking with on-screen controllers for now, but the OSD will be fully customisable soon, which should please people who want to set up their own preferred layout rather than the default presets available at the moment.
Players with controllers will be getting a lot of use out of them. We’re committed to making sure all SEGA Forever titles have Bluetooth controller support.
The promise of SG-1000 games is exciting as that console never saw a release in the west. Given the nature of SG-1000 games being small and simple, will we see bundled compilation packs, an SG-1000 hub app, or will these be released on a title by title basis like the Genesis/Mega Drive games?
Danny Russell: The current plan is to release them the same way as the launch Mega Drive/Genesis titles.
In an interview with Eurogamer you guys mentioned that the Unity wrapper added into games was done to make porting to consoles easier. Is making the games playable across platforms a priority for SEGA Forever?
Danny Russell: We are keeping all formats in mind for SEGA Forever, but as the mobile division, we have to prove ourselves there first!
It could be argued that mobile gamers and console gamers are two different audiences, with that in mind how would popularity of a mobile port lead to a potential home console franchise revival?
Danny Russell: They’re two different markets, but not necessarily two different audiences – there’s some overlap. As a retro gamer, I enjoy playing games like Final Fantasy VII on my original PlayStation, but I also like the fact I can play it on mobile, PC, or PlayStation 4 depending on where I am and what I’m doing.
We’re finding that a lot of people want to play these SEGA titles without having to buy a dedicated console or PC. Many people are in professional or personal situations that don’t allow them to spend a lot of time playing games at home either. They want a hit of nostalgia, and they’re carrying a phone in their pocket that can give them what they’re after.
If we are porting a Saturn or Dreamcast game across to mobile, much of the groundwork in preparing the port for mobile will make it easier to get that game across to other systems. If it’s successful, and we see a surge in demand, of course it makes the game appearing elsewhere more likely.
SEGAGAGA was mentioned as a possible future title. A fan translation project has long been in the works, would SEGA be willing to work with this team to complete the localization of the game?
Danny Russell: We’re looking at all avenues to make lesser-known SEGA titles available to SEGA fans on mobile. If working with fan-translators is feasible and the path of least resistance, you can bet we’re willing!
Can we expect Saturn and Dreamcast Bluetooth controllers compatible with SEGA Forever games?
Danny Russell: We’ve received quite a few requests for this! We’re looking into options, but improving the quality of our emulation is our first priority.
The marketing for SEGA Forever has been strong, with unique and well made teaser items (cassette tape, cereal box) and the trailer. Will this level of marketing continue? Can you tell us who was behind the marketing?
Danny Russell: We came up with all these ideas in-house – the team working on SEGA Forever is very passionate – and we have plenty more where those came from!
SEGA now owns Atlus and Technosoft, can we expect any of their back catalog to appear in SEGA Forever or their own retro initiative?
Danny Russell: Technosoft games fit well within the remit of SEGA Forever, but we haven’t had any discussions with Atlus, so we can’t confirm anything on that front just yet.
Can you tell us more about the SEGAZINE mentioned in the SEGA Forever app? Would a fan site like ours be able to submit articles for inclusion in the SEGAZINE?
Danny Russell: Yes, we’re open for business! At the moment we’re feeding in content from our social feeds, but the entire point of the SEGAZINE is to open it up to both fans and fan sites.
We want to see your game collections, fan art, merchandise, and any other pieces of content you think that would fit in your favourite game’s feed. I can’t guarantee everything submitted will make it in, but I will reply to everything sent in to email@example.com (eventually!).
What will SEGA Forever look like in one year?
Danny Russell: While the majority of titles will still be Mega Drive/Genesis (as these do tend to be our most popular titles), there’ll be a whole bunch of Master System, SG-1000, and Game Gear titles in the mix by then too. Dreamcast titles will be in the mix by then, and we’ll be well underway in developing our Saturn ports too.
What is the best way for fans and customers to engage with SEGA about SEGA Forever?
Danny Russell: Please use our social channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), or the firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail address. We do apologise if we don’t get back to you right away as we are a small team, but we’ll always get through to you eventually!
Thank you again to mobile games community manager Danny Russell for answering our questions! Do you have questions about SEGA Forever? Leave them in the comments below and we will see if SEGA can provide answers.Ad: