Sat. Jan 28th, 2023

For decades, the only real way to enjoy the many fan-modified versions of classic console games floating around was through the legally questionable method of downloading modified ROM files and running them through a computer emulator (despite legal hardware for ripping cartridges). Now, Sega is finally lending some official support to what has been a highly unofficial activity until now, adding the ability to modify and redistribute certain classic PC-emulated Genesis titles through Valve’s Steamworks platform.

The newly announced Sega Mega Drive Classics hub will serve as a 3D front-end for emulated Sega ROMs you already own on Steam, simulating the kind of bedroom a diehard Sega fan had in the mid-’90s. The hub comes complete with a virtual CRT TV, graphics enhancement filters, a virtual shelf of cartridge boxes, and a day/night cycle to show you how much time you’re wasting on decades-old games.

But more than these cosmetic changes, “every Mega Drive [read: the Japanese/European name for the Genesis] game will now have Steam Workshop support so you can share your modified versions of your favorite retro Sega titles,” read an official announcement video.

As far as we know, this is the first time that a maker of retro consoles or console games has explicitly allowed the legal distribution of modified copies of its classic titles in any form. In the past, fans trying to distribute mods for emulated console games were more likely to receive letters (or, at best, benign neglect) from rights holders than any official support. In fact, many classic game makers have long vilified emulation in general as a potential piracy threat rather than a potentially lucrative revenue stream.

There are no details yet on what customizations will be possible through Steamworks (Sega says more details will be available next week), but we can at least expect players to edit and distribute their own new graphic tilesets, replacing the official sprites and background elements with their own (so expect a lot of “Ecco the Dong-fin” mods to immediately flood the Steam Workshop). If we’re lucky, we’ll see support for the kind of deeper ROM hacking that has enabled everything from edited text and music to new levels and redesigned game settings in emulated Genesis titles in the past.

While Sega’s updated Steam emulation hub won’t be released until April 28, titles currently available in Steam’s Sega Genesis Classics Collection will all be updated for free with the new hub features, including Steamworks modding, on that date (even if you purchased them earlier). bought). ). The list of supported titles is currently missing some emulated Genesis titles that have historically been available through Steam individually or as part of other bundles (the Sonic the Hedgehog series and Toejam and Earl are some notable omissions). So far, the announcement has only come through Sega’s UK PR channels, even though the same games are all available to US Steam users as well.

We hope this is the start of a trend and more classic game makers realize that it just makes good business sense to let fans legally play with emulated versions of their retro catalog.

By akfire1

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