You may have heard that the Sega CD Lunars aren't going to be on the Genesis Mini 2 novelty plug-'n'-play console. Or maybe you haven't; that's kind of the thrust of this post.
Actually, odds are good you haven't even heard of the Genesis Mini 2 itself. Let's back up.
Sega - Sega themselves, not the hired guns to which they've relegated previous efforts - got into the mini console game a few years ago, producing a mini Genesis with all the usual suspects from that Steam pack you probably have, plus a few significant bonuses like Castlevania: Bloodlines. This year, they announced a sequel to that effort, this time with Sega CD games included. As Working Designs' RPGs are by far the most fondly-remembered titles on that platform, the people who still care about mini consoles in 2022 were waiting with bated breath to see if the Lunars and Popful Mail (no one's waiting for Vay) would be included. Well, the final list of games for the U.S. version was just released, and, no, the WD games aren't on there. Which is a bit of a kick, since the Lunar titles (and Popful Mail) were announced for the Japanese version of the console, which prompted a new piece of Lunar fanart from Toshiyuki Kubooka. That's probably the biggest impact this decision is going to end up having so far as Lunar is concerned, or perhaps as far as anything is concerned.
Someone on Twitter who's apparently been translating promo material about this device claims to have gotten a secret DM from Victor Ireland they had to promise not to show to anybody (oh, boy) in which Ireland says they didn't offer him enough money. We can skip the debate as to whether this is authentic, because: I thoroughly believe that if they approached him at all, Sega did not offer Victor Ireland enough money. Despite the Sturm und Drang in enthusiast circles, this console is not a major initiative for Sega. Particularly the U.S. version: they're producing only 1/10 the quantities of the original machine. It ships from Japan - Sega of America isn't even involved in production. Sega's clearly not investing much outlay in this product.
That's the thing: this machine isn't going to sell to anyone outside of a very small bunch of enthusiasts, and Sega knows that. There's a variety of reasons for this:
- Nintendo's 8-bit and 16-bit libraries ended up viewed as more historically-significant and, bluntly, better than Sega's. We can debate the factuality of this (Robert Schmitz once said something to the effect that the best RPGs were on Nintendo but his favorites were on Sega, and I kind of echo that sentiment), but that's more or less where the historical assessment has fallen. Furthermore, the current popular conception of the 16-bit era (as opposed to the professional/historical perspective) casts Nintendo as unflaggingly dominant and Sega as an afterthought also-ran - which is completely incorrect but depresses general interest in the Genesis library.
- We live in a significantly different landscape re: streaming than when the NES Classic was released six years ago. One of the reasons the NES Classic was so popular at the time is that there wasn't an official way to enjoy an endless tap of classic Nintendo games on a modern platform. Now, we have exactly that from Switch Online. For classics from any outlet, in fact, streaming and handheld rerelease collections - be they on Switch, mobile, or, now, Steam Deck - are the current way to go. Anything you actually have to hook up to a TV seems dated and requiring undue effort.
- The image of Sega mini consoles has been dampened considerably by cruddy third-party releases. This is the least of the factors, but: remember the cheap AtGames console that popped up in Bed, Bath & Beyond with a ton of bootleg games on it? It was Sega's salvo after the NES classic, and they blew it. In fact, I'm pretty sure there was a number of drugstore Genesis plug-'n'-plays on the market even before the AtGames. Sega only cared to release a proper mini Genesis a few years later after the widely-panned AtGames machine and its slapped-together kin. This new mini comes a few years after that. By now, who cares?
- The Sega Genesis core library has been released to death. Nintendo's classic library is officially available only on Nintendo machines. Sega's classic library is available on various flavors of PC, Nintendo, Sony, Xbox, mobile - sometimes in multiple versions on the same platform (the 3D AM2 stuff, Sega Forever). It's good that Sega is committed to having these games widely available (or, more bluntly, to milking every single cent it can out of them). But it has devalued the library.
- The Sega Genesis core library has been released on and is available for peanuts in a solid format on Steam, the closest thing we have to a universal perma-platform. Yeah, that collection was released 12 years ago. It's still an excellent option for playing those games. You can get like 50 games for $10 on sale! It's delivered huge value for me over the years! It introduced me to Streets of Rage, Shining Force, Fatal Labyrinth, Golden Axe III! (Um, also Sword of Vermilion and Golden Axe II, but not every title can be a winner!) I have a copy of Phantasy Star II I can play whenever I want! Are there minor emulation hiccups? Those in the know assure us there are. You know what the people who are significantly bothered by that are gonna do? Emulate unofficially, using the software and settings of their liking.
The point is: Even if the Lunars were on the Genesis Mini 2, the Mini 2 is a niche product, and it wouldn't help get the games in front of a significantly greater number of people. Expensive-yet-inconvenient dedicated retro machines get a lot of press because they appeal to the type of enthusiasts who fill up game journalism. If you're deep enough into the scene to have even heard of the Genesis Mini 2, chances are you're perfectly capable of playing the Sega CD Lunars through unofficial emulation tailored to your preferences. Yes, if they'd gotten on the Genesis Mini 2, there might have been an article or podcast mention or two on the Sega CD titles, which might have sparked interest in a few readers or listeners. But widespread interest and an infusion of new fans is going to take a rerelease collection on a major platform.
(Note: I've seen assertions that the rights Ireland still holds extend to the audio dub tracks only. If so, he might as well hold the rights entire, since releasing the Sega CD Lunars without the original English audio is like...well, releasing a Sega CD mini without the Lunars.)