GDC 2013: SEGA bets on mobile, free-to-play, and nostalgia

GDC 2013: SEGA bets on mobile, free-to-play, and nostalgia

softonic GDC iconFor many gamers, the name SEGA brings back great memories of consoles like the Genesis as well as great games like Sonic the Hedgehog and Panzer Dragoon. The company still wants to leverage this gamer nostalgia but is branching out free-to-play mobile games.

Sonic is one of SEGA’s most successful franchises and they’re going to keep pumping out Sonic games until the end of time. The original Sonic The Hedgehog game has been out on iOS for a while, but it was a port running through emulation. The updated Sonic The Hedgehog no longer requires emulation and runs at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second. The whole game has been remastered, including the soundtrack.

This will also be the debut of Sonic The Hedgehog on Android. SEGA demoed the game on an Android tablet with full controller support. The game ran smoothly and the controller worked flawlessly.

sonic the hedgehog for ios

The game will retail for $2.99 on both platforms. Customers who have already purchased the game on iOS will receive this update for free.

We also got a glimpse into two free to play MMOs that SEGA is working on. Puzzle Pirates and Godsrule will be coming to mobile, but Puzzle Pirates isn’t actually a new property and has been around since 2003 on the PC. In 2005, the company made the game free-to-play on browsers.

puzzle pirates

Puzzle Pirates features cartoon, Megablock-looking characters and addictive gameplay. The amount of things to do in the game is mind boggling. Players can join different pirate crews to perform raids on other crews as well as battle for territory on a large world map.

As you can probably tell from the title, the game focuses around solving puzzles to complete different tasks. You can play against other players during duels to see who can solve puzzles the quickest. This is a game where you can pick up for a few minutes to solve a few puzzles and come back to later.

There are lots of islands in the game where players can create homes, shops, and more. Everything is player made so items sold will help profit the seller.

puzzle pirates chat

As this is a free to play game, there is an in-game currency as well as a “premium” currency that players can choose to pay for. This will help you do things faster if you don’t want to deal with the tedium of grinding for gold. There is actually an entire player economy, making Puzzle Pirates a very immersive world.

Puzzle Pirates doesn’t have a solid release date, but the iOS version will be coming out in early summer with an Android version to follow in mid to late summer. The laggy and unresponsive gameplay that we saw means the SEGA team has a lot to work on in the next few months.

sega godsrule banner

Another free-to-play MMO that SEGA demoed at GDC was Godsrule. The game centers around Norse mythology. There will be different factions that players can join and battle against. Gameplay is featured around real-time strategy games, which is a great game style for tablets.

As with Puzzle Pirates, Godsrule will have tons of content to keep players busy for hours at a time. There’s crafting, training, and you can even participate in PvP battles. Players with similar skill level will be paired up for battle to keep things fair.


Players will be able to interact with one another with built-in chat. There are leaderboards where you can keep track of your progress.

The early build we saw being demoed on the latest iPad was quite buggy with taps and swipes not responding. There’s no set date for the game’s release but the developers have told us that it will be out by the end of the year.

Last but not least, we saw House of the Dead: The Lost Reels. This is an on-rails first person shooter for mobile devices. Controls are touch based and require you to aim with your left thumb and fire with your right.

house of the dead mobile

There are currently 6 different weapons you can choose from as well as plenty of consumables for purchase. There is an in-game currency that you can use to unlock more items and abilities. The game is going to be paid and will include micro-transactions.

Gameplay is simple. Aim and shoot the zombies before moving on to a different room to do the same. At the end of a level, players are given a rating based on accuracy and completion of given goals.

While the gameplay we saw was quite smooth, there were still bugs to be worked out. Zombies occasionally walked through walls and there wasn’t much detail in the environments.

It was a bit sad to see the House of the Dead franchise be bastardized in this mobile game. House of the Dead is one of the greatest shooting games to play drunk with your friends at the arcade but mobile version retains none of the atmosphere, campiness, or fun of the arcade shooter.

What we saw from SEGA at GDC 2013 is a mobile focused company that is betting heavily on free-to-play games while continuing to profit from gamer nostalgia. While this strategy may not please die-hard SEGA fans, the games just might profitable enough for the aging gaming company.

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