Unexpected turn from a company known for supporting fan projects
Regardless of Sega’s more recent involvements with the community, the company seems to be generally favorable towards fan projects. Sites like Sonic Fan Games HQ have existed for over a decade without any problems from the parent company, and even if the website somehow managed to fly under their radar, it became clear that Sega was aware of what was going on after Community Manager Aaron Webber was featured as a special guest at the 2010 Sonic Amateur Games Expo. It would seem that Sega is on amicable terms with fan projects based on their properties.
That relationship is being cast in to doubt today as word slowly spreads across the internet that Sega has ordered Bombergames to remove the download for “Streets of Rage Remake“, which saw its fifth and final release earlier this week. Streets of Rage Remake represents a massive undertaking for Bombergames, who first began working on the project in 2003. The goal of the project was to create a seamless narrative between all three Streets of Rage games, and SORR V5 contained over 100 total levels based on every known version of Streets of Rage. The game also featured a number of enhancements, including 83 remixed and remastered music tracks, 19 playable characters, and 64 different types of enemies.
According to the official Streets of Rage Remake FAQ, Sega had been made aware of the project’s intended goal and apparently found no problem with it. Why they’re forcing the game to be taken offline at this point in time is currently unknown – though it could have serious ramifications towards the status of fan projects within the Sega community. One point of contention may be that the vast majority of Streets of Rage Remake is, in fact, content ported from existing Streets of Rage games. Generally, the majority of fan projects attempt to create their own unique content within the boundaries of the game they’re trying to replicate, and while Streets of Rage Remake does contain some new content, a considerable percentage of it was ported from the original Genesis games. In turn, offering that sort of content up for free in Remake would have a detrimental impact on future sales for any re-releases of Streets of Rage.
In short, this may mean that projects like Retro Sonic Nexus are safe for the time being – but puts something like Sonic 2 HD in a very precarious position. The fact of the matter is, Sega is within their legal rights to terminate any and all unofficial uses of their characters – everything from fan art to fan fiction and fan games are all technically copyright infringement by the letter of the law. What matters is whether or not a company like Sega chooses to prosecute, and most fan projects are allowed to exist solely because the copyright owners turn a blind eye. It’s difficult to know for sure if (and where) the line in the sand is drawn regarding “acceptable fan project” versus “unacceptable fan project”. So far, only Microsoft has addressed the issue by publicly authorizing non-commercial distribution of Halo fan projects back in 2007.
Should Streets of Rage Remake find its way back online in an official capacity, we’ll let you know.