The Sega Mega Drive is a fourth-generation video gaming system produced and manufactured by Sega, initially launched in Japan in 1988; the following year the 16-bit beast was released within the United States as Sega Genesis. Within most of Europe, Australia along with other PAL regions the Mega Drive was released under it’s original name in early 1990.
Why are there two brands for the same console? Quite simply, Sega was at the time not able to acquire legal rights to the Mega Drive name for use in North America.
The Sega Mega Drive was the third home console to be released by Sega, following hot on the tails of the Master System, and succeeded by a string of ill-fated hardware releases beginning with the Mega CD (1992), 32x (1994), Saturn (1995), and finally ending with the Dreamcast in 1999. Sega continues to release games for third-party consoles, but many consider the company’s golden-age to be centred around the release of the Mega Drive.
The Mega Drive’s initial rival came in the form of the already well-established Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), also known as the Famicom in Japan. Within the first 12 months of release, it is now known that Sega only managed to shift a paltry 400,000 units against Nintendo’s huge install-base, with this trend carrying on well into the launch of the NES’s successor, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, or SNES for short.
The condemnation of violent games such as Mortal Kombat in the USA proved to offer a positive outcome for Sega, giving them the necessary foothold to develop the world’s first content rating procedure for video games.
Rather than be pressured into releasing heavily censored games, the Videogame Rating Council enabled Sega to release video games with very little censorship, giving the console a significant edge any time the same software was published for the family-friendly Super Nintendo and other consoles, which were often heavily censored at the time.
Further wins included the release of Sega’s most well-known franchise, Sonic The Hedgehog, which has just celebrated its 29th anniversary and continues to sell immensely well upon every new release. Strong fan dedication for the “blue blur” has even given birth to the yearly Summer of Sonic convention, usually hosted in London. This event continues to grow, and has played host to a plethora of special guests ranging from former Sonic Team CEO and original Sonic programmer Yugi Naka, Takashi Iizuka (director and lead designer for Sonic Adventure 2), and Jun Senoue (music composer for Sonic Adventure 2), amongst dozens of other contributors to the Sonic universe.
At least within Europe and the United States, Sega’s 16-bit console was without debate Sega’s most profitable gaming system, and although Sega never issued a complete breakdown of product sales, estimations by industry experts put the figure at close to 41 million units. This number in fact continues to grow as officially licensed third-party adaptations of the Mega Drive continue to be manufactured even today, with a number of independent video game developers still producing new games for the console, most notably in Brazil.
What are your thoughts on Sega’s blast-processing-powered monster of a console? Share your nostalgia-inducing stories below and we’ll share our favourites on the next instalment of Nostalgia Time!