When SEGA announced last week that it was launching SEGA Forever, a service that allows people to play classic games for free on iOS and Android, fans were ecstatic. Although it sounded too good to be true, SEGA fans anticipated the launch with excitement. However, Digital Foundry’s John Linneman warned players away from the games, saying that the emulation was “lousy and not good at all.”
According to Eurogamer, the initial games released in SEGA Forever —
Sonic The Hedgehog, Phantasy Star 2, Comix Zone, Kid Chameleon, and Altered Beast — are performing worse than the older versions, even on advanced hardware. This is allegedly because the retro classics were ported over using Unity.
“These games are designed to run at 60 frames per second (fps). This emulator tries to do that but drops frames resulting in something that looks like 45fps or so. There are loads of dropped frames, hitches or skips,” Linneman said.
“30fps is bad, but an even, stable 30fps would have been better than this. The issue here is that it skips and stutters during gameplay. And when a notification occurs, it gets much worse. So it never plays smoothly.”
Furthermore, it seems the low-tech titles performed better on older hardware due to more optimized emulation. Linneman cited RetroArch, another emulator, to have been a better fit for the SEGA Forever project. Unfortunately, its developer, Libretro, revealed that it couldn’t reach an agreement with SEGA with regard to its terms of service.
RetroArch devs tweeted that SEGA had stubbornly insisted that RetroArch re-license their entire program, which would strip them of their rights, and not show any branding.
Eurogamer reached out to SEGA Network’s chief marketing officer, Mike Evans, regarding the issue. He explained that they chose Unity because it would enable them to bring the content to other platforms as well.
“We use Unity not just on these games but on a portfolio basis across many of SEGA’s apps. It enables us to broaden it—mobile’s the start of what we’re doing and we’re focused on getting that right, but it opens up other commercial opportunities for us with Apple TVs, desktops and the Switch as well,” Evans said.
Evans further explained that one particular emulator RetroArch was using is under a general public license (GPL). This means that from a SEGA perspective, a GPL license can’t be bundled with SEGA proprietary games because this would mean losing certain rights within the games.
With regards to credit, Evans said that SEGA always gives full recognition, saying that if the company is featuring someone’s tech in the game, they would get accreditation for that like what they did with Christian Whitehead.
“If you see that, what he’s done with the Retro Engine, Sonic Boots up, the Sega logo plays and then it’s Christian Whitehead, he’s really a member of the SEGA family in that sense,” Evans said.
Evans also denied that SEGA Forever is a cash grab to preserve SEGA’s past. He defended SEGA, saying that this is a passion project for the company and linking it to the corporate statement of reviving brands.
“If you look at this project, it’s not a high-yielding project for SEGA, it provides enough cash to make it viable but it’s about getting the IP to the fans and allow them to rediscover it.”
With regard to the game selection being disappointing, Evans said that the team tried to figure out the best launch line-up, with some based on historical context. As an example, SEGA would offer 10 titles. While many will love only three of these, the rest would be new titles the user hasn’t played before. Every couple of weeks, new titles will come out, and the idea is for the user to choose the titles that mean something to them.
“We’re going to keep working and the selection is about what we hear back from the fans, what we hear from the market and what we hear about the quality,” Evans promised, adding that they are listening to all the feedback and examining the data they have.
“We’re going to test and retest to get it as good as we possibly can,” he said. “I’m confident the next couple of games and over a period of time, you’re going to see a marked improvement.”
[Featured Image by Matt Dunham/AP Images]