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Sega launching range of free retro games for mobile

Two to three Sega Forever releases planned per month, publisher hopes to convert 10% with ad-removal in-game purchase

Sega is kickstarting a new long-term initiative that will see the publisher release scores of classic games for free on iOS and Android.

Under the brand Sega Forever, the company is rolling out emulations of titles from all of its past consoles, including Master System, Mega Drive, Game Gear - and eventually Dreamcast and Saturn.

Five games will be available when the series launches tomorrow - Sonic The Hedgehog, Comix Zone, Phantasy Star II, Kid Chameleon and Altered Beast - with plans to release another two to three titles per month.

With the back catalogue Sega has available, the publisher is confident it will be able to continue bringing more classics to mobile for years to come. There are 15 classic Sega titles already available through the App Store that will also be brought into the Forever fold.

"It's a very easy conversion to take those games to free," Sega Network's chief marketing officer Mike Evans tells GamesIndustry.biz. "We're just bolting in the advertising support model and a single in-app purchase that can disable those ads."

All games will be free, ad-supported and playable offline. These will be more than just straight emulations of the original titles, adding leaderboards and cloud saves as well as new control schemes for touchscreens. Controller support will also be available for those who prefer a more traditional experience.

The ads have been integrated in a way that does not interrupt the gameplay experience - something that was very important to Evans.

"The games were never designed for ads or in-app purchases, which is why we've maintained this faithful emulation experience," he says. "We've spent a lot of time looking at the analytics from the soft launch in the Philippines to understand how we can get this model to be the best for the game experience itself whilst balancing the commercial needs we have."

However, it's the advertising that will be the key to generating revenue, according to Evans. Sonic CD was previously converted to this free, ad-supported model and, according to the exec, returned more revenue than it did when it was a premium game.

Sega does expect some users to make the $1.99 purchases that removes the ads, but Evans says this is not crucial to making the Forever range profitable.

"[In the tests we've done] we see rates of between 10% and 15% of people that go on to disable the ads within the games," he says. "That's a good rate and over a period of time it will tail slightly towards the 10% mark. I think that's the perfect rate.

"That aside, there's enough revenue to be made from the advertising side that we don't need very high volumes of conversion from the in-app purchases."

Sega will also be running ongoing polls and surveys to gauge which titles fans would like to see get the Forever treatment in future. Read our full interview with Evans to find out how these could dramatically change Sega's plans and lead to fresh outings from dormant IP.

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James Batchelor


James Batchelor is Editor-in-Chief at GamesIndustry.biz. He has been a B2B journalist since 2006, and an author since he knew what one was