16-Bit personal machines like the Commodore Amiga and the Atari ST, as well as 16-Bit arcade machines, were outpacing the 8-bit videogame consoles. Another problem was that Nintendo had 95% of the North American videogame market, and 92% of Japan's videogame market; Nintendo's 8-bit and 16-bit machines were not that successful in Europe. Sega knew the Sega Master System was not going to make it in North America and Japan, so they decided to make a new console.
Since the System 16 arcade games that Sega was making got very popular, Hayou Nakayama, then Sega's CEO, decided to make their new system a 16-Bit one. The final design worked great, and so they used three new arcade boards, being the Megatech, Megaplay, and the System C. Any of the games made for these systems could work on their new console.
The first name Sega thought of for their console was the MK-1601, but Sega decided to use "Sega Megadrive" as the name. "Mega" had the connotation of superiority, and "Drive" had the connotation of speed and power. They went with that name for the Japanese, European, Asian, and Australian versions of the console.
However, "Megadrive" was trademarked in the United States, so Sega chose the name "Genesis" in that area, since "Genesis" supposedly marked the beginning of a new age in videogames.
The Genesis was released in the United States in January 9, 1989 in New York, New York and Los Angeles, California only. It sold for around $200 at launch and was to become Sega's most successful console. The rest of the country got it on September 15 of the same year. By then, the price was down to $190.
The Genesis initially competed against the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System, but although it had superior graphics and sound, had a hard time overcoming Nintendo's ubiquitous presence in the consumer's home. Sega of America competed by focusing on a slightly older user base, with such titles as Altered Beast and the Phantasy Star series. People were wowed by the power of the graphics that the Genesis had. The TurboGrafx 16, which had been released six months earlier, had been poorly marketed in North America, so it wasn't a threat in that market.
Gamers had felt that there were too many arcade ports in the Genesis library, and that there wasn't a "killer app". Third party companies, such as Electronic Arts, whom had a great library, and Capcom, which made the hit game Strider, kept the console alive.
A Sega Master System converter was availible for the Genesis. The Powerbase converter is on top of the console and plugs into the cartridge port. On the Master System, the pause button was on the front. All Master System accessories, including the light gun and 3D Glasses, can be used for this converter.
The release of the highly-anticipated Sonic the Hedgehog 2, coinciding with a rather vicious ad campaign barbed at Nintendo, propelled the Genesis into its heyday, outselling the Super Nintendo for the first time since the SNES's release.
Arguably, the greatest moments for the Genesis lay in the years 1992 and 1993. The Sega CD (North American version of Sega Mega-CD) once again made Sega outdo Nintendo in the "greatest technology title". Also, a swarm of third party companies were making games for the Genesis. However, Sega started to make some very bad decisions after those glory days.
There was also a redesign of the Genesis console itself, the Sega Genesis 2, which reduced cost and size by consolidating chips, and integrated stronger region encoding (which broke compatibility with some older games.) The original console itself went through innumerable revisions, unknown to most users save the ones who owned one of the very first consoles, which had trouble playing a few of the newer games. A new version of the Sega CD, the Sega CD 2, was made to accommodate this.
The Sega Genesis 32X (Sega Super 32X in Japan and Sega Mega 32X in Europe) came out, but was even more so of a disappointment than the Sega CD. This ruined Sega's integrity, and the reputation would ultimately kill Sega's console business.
Because of the failures of the Sega CD and 32X, the lack of advertising, and the disputes between Sega of America and Sega of Japan, things were grim by 1994. Sega had a bad image not just from those issues, but also violence issues surrounding the Mortal Kombat games released on the Genesis. The Genesis version outsold the SNES version 4 to 1, because the Sega version had uncensored violence, unlike the Nintendo counterpart. However, people became worried over the level of violence in this and other Sega videogames. Sega introduced the Videogames Rating Council, or VRC, which helped, but to an insignificant degree.
The market share dived from 65% to 35% within the course of a year. More woes came with the announcement of the Sony Playstation in 1995, and the earlier announcement of Project Atlantis, which later became the Nintendo 64. Sega made another blunder when it stopped support of the Genesis in favor of the Sega Saturn in 1996. People decided to play the Playstation and Nintendo 64 instead.
A portable version of the system called the Sega Nomad was released probably too late to ever be successful, though it played the same cartridges as the home console (with some notable incompatibilities.) Sega's successor to the Genesis was the Saturn.
Although Sega had talks about a Game Gear Converter, tentatively named the Mega Game Gear, Sega never made one.
In 1997, Majesco announced that they wanted to make a budget version of Sega's Genesis. In 1998, Majesco released the "Sega Genesis 3" for $50, which only came in North America.
There were also a number of Genesis clones (see below).
Overall Sega's Genesis did fairly well in North America because of its arcade ports, sports titles, and platform games. While it did leave its mark on gaming history, it lost the console war by a slight margin. Sega's Genesis was technically inferior to Nintendo's SNES.
|Table of contents|
2 Technical Specifications
3 External link
Versions of the Sega Genesis
See also: Sega Genesis Game List