The system was redesigned and was sold in the United States under the name Sega Master System in June 1986, one year after the Nintendo Entertainment System was released. The console sold for $200. The Master System was then released in other places, including a second release in Japan in 1987 under its new name.
Though the Master System was more technically advanced in some ways than the NES, it did not attain the same level of popularity among consumers in the United States. Its lack of success in the U.S. has been attributed to various causes, among them the difference in game titles available for each platform, and the slightly later release date of the Master System. The licensing agreement that Nintendo had with its third-party game developers may have had an impact as well; the agreement stated, in effect, that developers would produce games for the NES only. The Master System sold 125,000 consoles in the first four months. In the same period, the NES would net 2,000,000.
Nintendo had 90% of the North American Market at the time. Hayou Nakayama, then CEO of Sega, decided not to use too much effort to market the said console in the NES-dominated market. In 1988, the rights to the Master System in North America were sold to Tonka,but its popularity continued to decline. The move was considered a very bad one, since Tonka had never marketed a console and had no idea on earth what to do about it.
In 1990, Sega was having success with its Sega Megadrive/Sega Genesis, and they took back the rights from Tonka for the SMS. They designed the Sega Master System II, a newer console which was smaller, and lacked a reset button. The latter came about as a cost reduction measure. Sega did everything in its power to market the system, but nothing came out of it. The card slot was also absent.
By 1992, the Master System's sales were virtually nonexistent in North America, and production ceased. The SMS didn't do too well in Japan either, since the Nintendo Family Computer, which the Japanese Master System competed with, dominated the Japanese market.
In Europe, the Sega Master System was marketed by Sega in many different countries, including a few which Nintendo wasn't even selling consoles to. The Europeans garnered lots of third party support for the SMS, and it outdid the NES in that market. Nintendo was forced to get licensing for some popular SMS titles in that market. The Master System was supported until 1996 in that market. It was finally discontinued so Sega could concentrate on the Sega Saturn.
Brazil was one of the SMS' most successful markets. It was marketed in that country by Tec Toy, Sega's Brazilian distributor. A Sega Master System III had been released in that market, and several games had been translated for the Brazilians. Characters in the said games had been modified so that they appealed to Brazilian audiences. Brazil was where the first several Sonic the Hedgehog Game Gear titles started out in. Tails, one of the characters, made his worldwide debut in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the Master System. That title would later be ported to the Game Gear in other markets. Later in its life in Brazil, Game Gear games had been ported to the Master System, and several original Brazilian titles were made for the system. The console production was familiar to the Brazilians, which explains the success in that market. During the Master System's final days in Brazil, games had been marketed for small children. The console finally ended production in that market in 1997.
Overall, the SMS was mildly successful worldwide, but failed to capture the Japanese and North American markets. Sega would learn from its mistakes and made the Sega Megadrive wildly popular in Europe and Latin America, and the North American equivalent, the Sega Genesis, popular in that said market. The failure of the SMS meant the success of the Megadrive and Genesis.
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2 Notable Games
3 External Links