For a long time, the only way to enjoy fan-edits and additions to your favorite classic games was by downloading the patched ROM and playing them on an emulator. Now, it seems Sega is opening up some of its older titles to official mod support, at least on Steam. Today, Sega Europe announced the Sega Mega Drive Classics Hub, releasing as a free update for the current Sega Genesis Classics Collection on April 28.
The basic point of the new front-end is a 3D representation of an early-90s style entertainment center, but there's more hidden in the announcement.
"The new-look system is based on a bedroom of an early nineties Sega fan with dynamic time-of-day conditions, retro Sega paraphernalia, a shelf full of Mega Drive games (including the ones you own) and of course a CRT TV! That's not all, every single Mega Drive game will now feature Steam Workshop support allowing you to share modified versions of your favourite retro Sega titles!" wrote Sega community manager Daniel Sherdian.
It's the last part that's interesting. Allowing to players to not only modify classic Sega games, but also share those modifications is a huge change for the classic mod community. This is seemingly the first time any platform holder has allowed legal modification of its titles. For games like Sonic the Hedgehog and Streets of Rage, fans have long made and distributed their own levels, expansions, and even full sequels. Those fan games have persisted under the radar because Sega has not pursued them legally, except in a few cases. Now though, there's hope for the modding scene.
Of course, the question is: how far does the Steam Workshop support go? I expect that you'll probably be able to release alternate sprite work for supported titles, but how deep will Sega let fans take it? Are we talking about allowing full ROM hacks? Those questions will remain unanswered until the new hub launches.
Sega has released a full list of supported titles for the new hub, and while there are some big omissions (like Sonic the Hedgehog), it's a pretty solid list. The full list is below:
I'm assuming that the Steam Workshop support will also be coming to the US versions of Sega Classics, but there's no confirmation yet.
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