By now you’ve undoubtedly heard Nintendo’s announcement at this year’s Game Developer’s Conference to make Genesis games available via download on their upcoming Revolution console. The news has swept across the internet like digital wildfire, as gamers get set for what is shaping up to be the first real online battles ever waged in the console wars. People seem pretty excited at the prospect of being able to choose from the “best of” over a thousand Genesis and TurboGrafx-16 for download, and many see this move as Nintendo thumbing its nose at the competition, in light of Microsoft’s relaunch of Xbox Live and Sony’s upcoming PS3 Network. Not only will their shiny new Revolutions play all the hottest first and (hopefully) third party titles, but there will be an ample selection of old school goodies ready to fill in the gaps during those slow periods between big releases. The Genesis library, almost a thousand games strong in its own right, is sure to receive some serious love, especially if rare imports are made available.
And we say it’s about damn time.
When the Revolution launches later this year, you’re going to see some serious initial interest in Sega’s back catalogue. No longer will gamers have to schlep their Genesis consoles to the TV every time they have an urge to play Streets of Rage 2 or Golden Axe. In fact, some are saying that they’ll no longer need them at all! (Good luck playing Popful Mail that way!) As far as they’re concerned, this is a true godsend.
Upon closer inspection, however, things aren’t as clear as they would seem. In reality, it’s a mixed message that apparently breeds as much indifference as it does excitement. Are diehard Genesis fans going to be interested in this turn of events, and if so, will anyone but them really care? Sega and Nintendo are banking on gamers coming out for these retro offerings, and it’s really all a question of knowing who’s to benefit the most. The whole concept of downloadable content has exploded in the last few years, and for the first time all the next generation consoles will offer their own brand of online service. Nintendo has definitely taken a step in the right direction, but the question is: who are they trying to convince?
On the One Hand…
The thing is, I look at this scenario and come away perplexed. I’m thinking: what’s the big deal? Why all the interest now? Why is it so special that the most powerful hardware generation is going to feature games almost twenty years-old? Furthermore, why all the buzz, when these same games have been available for download for years — for free?
Now now, put away your morality sticks. We’re not here to debate the social ramifications of piracy and emulation. That’s not the point of this little rant. Regardless of one’s particular feelings on the matter, we have to call a spade a spade, and emulation is as much a factor of a gamer’s online life as is owning a decent game pad. Emulators are free, as are many of the ROMs for them, including those for the Genesis and TG-16. Chances are that anyone with any real interest in playing these games already has them on their machine, and the prospect of having them on the Revolution probably provokes little more than a strong yawn. Heck, if you were to go about finding a copy of KEGA or Gens and some Genesis ROMs right now, you’d most likely be way ahead of Nintendo’s service on launch day, and you’d most certainly have more games then they will overall (there’s that “best of” thing again).
One of the biggest issues raised by gamers has been that of cost. All eyes point to E3 as the time and place that Nintendo will reveal just how much a trip down memory lane will run, and there’s undoubtedly some skepticism as to how to garner serious attention in light of the massive emulation scene that permeates the internet. Downloadable game services like Game Tap and GameBlast have yet to prove themselves attractive to indie developers (something Xbox Live Arcade is starting to do), which would offer new titles that can’t be had anywhere else, so only those games already released will be on the menu. These types of services require an injection of tens of millions of dollars to get off the ground and maintain, something Nintendo has.
The added news of TurboGrafx CD-ROM support gives this news a bit more of a bite, but on the Genesis front we’ve not had the same good fortune. If you’re going to support the U.S. Turbo Grafx CD, then why doesn’t the Sega CD get the same attention? Surely it isn’t because of quantity or quality of software (all you buttheads ready to shout “FMV!” should spend some time looking around this site before you speak). I can understand snubbing the 32X, but not the Sega CD.
Again, I try to find the benefit for Genesis fans here, and I just don’t see it. You’re being offered games you probably already own, and some truly memorably CD titles like Snatcher, Sonic CD, Dark Wizard, and Shining Force CD won’t be part of the program (as far as we know). Sega and Nintendo are going to have pull one mighty rabbit out of their hat if they hope to cater to dedicated gamers.
On the Other Hand…
So, Genesis fans are probably not all that excited by
Nintendo president Satoru Iwata’s announcement. Then who should be? I’ll tell you who, and this who this whole deal is most likely aimed at: the younger generation and casual gamers. For all the tech savvy Mr. Wizards there are on the internet today, there’s still a ton of gamers out there too young for the emulation scene or not interested enough to get into it. Kids today aren’t born with a laptop in the placenta (give it some time though), and mom and dad are sure to be happy to see a massive library of simple and engaging games that can be had for significantly less money than the latest retail release. By the same token, giving older and more casual gamers the titles they remember from their youth in a single, easy package is just what the doctor ordered, and this online service is sure to be quite enticing to them.
And there might yet be a chance to bring those long-time gamers onboard. Xbox Live Arcade is proving to game companies that it isn’t all about shrinky-dink colorform textures and massive frame rates. One of the most successful Xbox 360 games out there is Geometry Wars: Evolved — a $5 Live Arcade download (400 Gamer Points). There’s an increasing number of “hardcore” gamers who sometimes want a break from the next generation and all its bells and whistles, and they know that gameplay is king on Live Arcade. This isn’t a new phenomenon at all, as the multitude of retro collections released today and the enduring popularity in arcades of such classics such as Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga can attest. Sometimes, people just want to play a game and have fun, without worrying about which button is for medium kicks and how to disengage the HUD. The relative simplicity of yesterday’s consoles are still powerfully attractive, and this is where the NES, Genesis, and TG-16 will have the chance to pounce like hungry tigers.
In the End, the Genesis Wins
As the time for E3 draws near, Nintendo is quietly filling its quiver with all the ammunition it will need in order to survive the next generation of the console wars. Whether or not you’re excited about the prospect of Genesis games on the Revolution, one fact remains undeniably clear: there’s going to be a lot of new Genesis gamers come 2007. As the premier source of Genesis-related information on the internet, Sega-16 is ready to step up and welcome them. We will show them what they’ve been missing for the last seventeen years, or to help them remember that long-lost favorite they enjoyed as a child. We will be here to educate and entertain, as we have been doing for the last two years. It’s our sincerest hope here at Sega-16 that our site proves to be an invaluable resource to newcomers and those returning to the fold, on all aspects of the Genesis and its add-ons.
You can’t deny that it’s a great feeling to have Sega’s most successful console back in the limelight. Next Month’s E3 will shed more light on the whole situation, and we will be reporting on it as it happens. This interesting situation opens up a whole new dimension in the Genesis legacy, and you can be certain that we’ll be there to cover them with new columns and features. I hope you’ll join us.