For those old-school Sega fans and those who were quite satiated with the recent release of Nintendo's NES and SNES classics, 2019 could be the year for you. Rumours are swirling that Sega of Japan is due to release a reboot of the much-beloved 1989 console the Sega Genesis, also known worldwide as the Sega Megadrive, which sold over 30 million units during its original run and enjoys a special place in the hearts of gamers across the world to this very day. In a decision that was likely spurred on by the massive success of the previously mentioned Nintendo releases, which themselves have already sold hundreds of thousands of units since the re-release earlier this year, Sega posted an unexpected and somewhat vague Twitter announcement, featuring an image of this new hybrid console.
Since then speculation across the Twitterverse has skyrocketed, with pundits wondering how a re-release of such a popular vintage console will work out practically, and whether this also means new games releases. This will also be the first hardware release from Sega since the release of the Dreamcast way back in 1998, so stakes are understandably high. Let's take a look back at the heady days of 90s Sega to see what we might expect from this release.
Sticking with the Classics
One of the big talking points since Sega's sneaky late night Twitter announcement is the practical issues that accompany the release of a still-popular classic console. Will original Genesis cartridges be useable in the new console? Will there be pre-installed games? Will there be a new type of disc which is not adaptable with the original console? There remains plenty of questions to answer, and developers should keep in mind that not every classic game will be popular today. One thing that gamers can be sure of is that the re-release will give a whole new generation of gamers the chance to play through some of the most iconic and influential games of the 1990s. When people think Sega, they automatically think of its most successful progeny, Sonic the Hedgehog, who has spawned over 70 titles, most notably the smash hit Sonic Adventures, and sold well over 300 million units, making the little blue hedgehog by far Sega's most valuable cash cow. Beyond this, it remains a mystery which games will get the re-boot next year, but you can bet that the guys at Sega will be sticking with the most popular and memorable ones. 1999's arcade classic Crazy Taxi anyone?
Developments So Far
If the Sega dream team need some help in deciding which games should make the cut, they don't need to look too far to see which ones have true staying power and have remained just as popular with gamers today as they were when they were first released. One area worth looking to is mobile gaming, which has exploded in popularity alongside the rise of smartphones, now being worth over $35 billion dollars according to Statista, and well over half of the total market share for the gaming industry. With classic consoles being harder to find these days, mobile gaming has stepped in to fill the gap, with old-school console emulators for smartphones having exploded in popularity in recent years. Gamers can, of course, play the full spectrum of Sonic the Hedgehog games on mobile, with smartphone versions of the classic titles now accounting for a significant chunk of Sega's sales, with the Dreamcast-style Sonic Dash having been downloaded over 100 million times. Other Sega classics that have found a new lease of life on mobile include the critically-acclaimed Crazy Taxi: City Rush, which perfectly emulates the original gameplay, and the nail-bitingly terrifying House of the Dead: Overkill which seeks to recreate the classic arcade feeling of this popular zombie franchise.
If Sega is looking beyond just bringing back their most popular titles for the Genesis re-release, they might look for inspiration in the release of newer titles which have sought to emulate the vintage gaming experience. One of the most popular releases of the past couple of years was the Pac-Man 256 (or "endless Pac-Man"), which brought a fresh take on one of the most retro gaming experiences there is. Similarly, iconic old-school titles like Gamecube's Frogger have proven to be smash-hits on Android, being brought up-to-date to bring a modern gaming experience with a classic feel. Beyond this, you also have cross-platform gaming which has highlighted the popular appetite for traditional gaming, with websites like Betway continuing to provide digital versions of classic games like blackjack and roulette. On top of this, the resurgent popularity of previously long-gone titles like the original Grand Theft Auto and early Tomb Raider titles, which one might think would have become irrelevant due to more recent releases from these franchises, shows that there's something about the classic experience which nostalgia-loving gamers just can't get enough of.
What to Expect in the Future
With these developments in mind, we can see Sega's recent announcement as a logical cultural and industry-wide culmination, the next step in a wider shift towards classic gaming experiences, that no amounts of mind-blowing graphics, AI, or immersive software can possibly provide. Expect to see the continued renaissance of retro gaming, as more and more developers and franchises seek to capitalise on the growing and insatiable public appetite for nostalgia-tinged gaming experiences. Sometimes the simplest concepts are the most effective, and the fact that stripped-back titles like Sonic and Pac Man have become the most popular titles on the market shows this the most.