Following the launch of SEGA Forever, SEGA’s new mobile service which aims to revolutionize retro gaming on mobile, it quickly became apparent that the emulation of their first batch of games was less than optimal. In particular, DigitalFoundry’s John Linneman told people to stay away from the games altogether, noting the poor performance of the new Unity wrapper used in 90% of the games. Now, SEGA’s Mike Evans has addressed a number of questions from Eurogamer in a rather harsh interview. Reading the interview, I have mixed thoughts about both some of Mike Evan’s answers as well as Eurogamer’s questions.
As it stands, it seems evident that SEGA shouldn’t have launched the service with this much hype. Disregarding some issues with purchasing the games, it’s really the poor emulation that stands out. This should have been optimized ahead of the game’s launch, especially that they already had some of these games on mobile as a reference point. I think the bigger question is whether or not the underlying Unity code is actually of the quality required for a project like this. If the base isn’t solid, then everything is going to crumble as more features or patches are added. But this should quickly become evident with future updates. In the interview, Mike Evans does seem to downplay the emulation issues, pointing to the generally favorable reviews. But getting the emulation right is absolutely key for a service like this, and really not something that’s only for the “specialists”. If it’s not working properly, then any new game that’s going to be added is just going to suffer from similar issues. As such, I hope SEGA concentrates on improving emulation before adding new games to SEGA Forever’s lineup.
On the other hand, Eurogamer’s question where they ask if the project is a “cash grab” seems like a low blow. It seems evident that this project is unlikely to bring in a ton of money for SEGA. Especially early on, with so few games available. In fact, my main worry is whether or not the service will survive long enough for more games to be added. As I’ve said in a previous article, SEGA’s approach to mobile games has been brutal, with online games being discontinued and pulled from the store within months of their initial release. Mike Evans may be passionate about the project, but I’m not sure how much patience the higher-ups have to allow this project to grow.
Ultimately, I think it’s a good thing that fans are urging SEGA to do better. Everything really depends on SEGA right now, it’s really up to them to show the potential of the service. I’m surprised to see Mike Evans mention wanting to bring Segagaga over, seeing as that involves not only emulating but also localizing the game. It’s games like that, which haven’t been available on any other platforms, that can make the service stand out. This opens the door for games like Sakura Wars as well. Whether or not SEGA Forever is really the revolutionary retro platform that Mike Evans hopes it will be should become clear over the following months.