Looking Back on the SEGA Mega Drive

The SEGA Mega Drive was the second 16-bit console to be launched, two years sooner than the Tremendous Nintendo Leisure System (SNES). Its major objective was to supply all ’80s players an expertise that may make the NES, which till then was dominating gross sales charts, seem weak compared. What adopted was one thing actually particular.


Again in 1988, SEGA was already fairly profitable throughout the arcade recreation discipline and had launched two consoles. What they had been missing, nevertheless, was a machine with the extent of recognition as Nintendo’s NES, which had constructed a reputation for itself each within the Japanese and within the tough US markets. This led SEGA to the discharge of the second 16-bit console after NEC’s TurboGrafx-16.

What might have hindered SEGA in the long term is that they had been a bit too anxious to launch this console, permitting their main opponents (Nintendo) an entire two years to organize earlier than they may enter the 16-bit market.

The Mega Drive was greatest described as an “arcade-ready” console. What meaning is that most of the video games that children and youths had been lining as much as play at their native arcade had been now obtainable on their very own televisions due to this system, ported to the console. The truth is, that was the idea of a extremely profitable advertising and marketing scheme created by the corporate with the intention to appeal to extra consumers.

Launched in Japan on October 29, 1988 and simply two days later, it had bought out! It launched a couple of yr later within the US below the title “Genesis”, whereas European shops needed to wait till September 1990 to get it on their cabinets.

Tech Specs

The Mega Drive launched many new components to the business when it first launched.

Its most important CPU was a Motorolla 68000 operating at 7.63 Mhz which was used as the idea for the Blast Processing know-how which, mixed with a number of the different minor methods within the console, may elevate gaming velocity to the subsequent stage. But many individuals thought this was nothing lower than a advertising and marketing trick by SEGA with the intention to downplay the capabilities of the NES — and the SNES afterward. The US commercials for the Genesis that present how briskly it may play video games in comparison with the outdated and outdated NES paint a fairly good image.

The Mega Drive’s RAM had a capability of 64KB, with a further 64KB devoted to its video RAM and one other 8KB for the audio RAM. The console additionally got here with a Zilog Z80 sound CPU, which was the unit utilized by all consoles of the earlier period. There have been additionally two sound chips — one by Yamaha and one other by Texas Devices — to assist create the sound results.

The Z80 additionally served because the first-ever backwards appropriate processor. With the acquisition of a easy add-on, Mega Drive homeowners may play all of the SEGA Grasp System’s video games on their new console.

The Mega Drive’s GPU may show as much as 512 colors, with any 61 certainly one of them showing on-screen concurrently.

The console’s outward look was futuristic, with quantity sliders for the usage of audio system and a black color to provide it a cooler look than the tasteless, white-and-grey Nintendo consoles. Its controller got here with three buttons on the precise aspect and was way more snug and simpler to make use of in comparison with that of the Grasp System. In some nations, they gave the controller the nickname “croissant” due to its form, which was altered slightly later with the Mega CD II.

As an idea, the Mega Drive was designed with a extra mature viewers in thoughts.

Former CEO SEGA America within the 90s, Tom Kalinske. Supply: SEGA of America.


The Mega Drive was the console which may put a cease — albeit short-term — to Nintendo’s dominance within the US gaming market. Former CEO of Mattel and Matchbox and CEO of SEGA America within the 90s, Tom Kalinske, got here up with many aggressive advertising and marketing methods to assist promote the console, a few of that are nonetheless mentioned to this present day.

There have been enormous promoting campaigns inside shops and on a number of TV networks, tournaments, billboards, a “Sonic Days” marketing campaign, and even blimps flying over a number of cities that featured the corporate’s emblem on them! The truth is, we would want to dedicate an entire separate article to speak about Kalinske’s advertising and marketing technique.

Issues didn’t go as anticipated for the Mega Drive within the Japanese market, as they rapidly misplaced steam after the console’s nice launch numbers.Nevertheless, in different areas of the world, equivalent to Brazil, Russia, Asia, and so on. the Mega Drive was extremely properly acquired.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that in some nations, SEGA’s console occupied the next piece of the market in comparison with the SNES. One of many most important causes behind this success was that it was the most affordable possibility out of the 2. The Mega Drive’s lowered value was one of many key advertising and marketing methods to assist it struggle again in opposition to the competitors and it proved to be extremely profitable. The launch of Sonic the Hedgehog and its inclusion in a bundle cope with the console again in 1991 gave gamers a major cause to show to SEGA’s system. One other issue that helped elevate gross sales digits was the extra 7.63 Mhz on the Mega Drive’s CPU, which when mixed with the Mega CD, may enhance gaming velocity considerably.

1989 full unfold advert on SEGA Mega Drive (often known as ‘Genesis’ in North America). Supply: Reddit.

With spectacular titles equivalent to Golden Axe, The Punisher, Streets of Rage, Afterburner, Altered Beasts, Ghouls n Ghosts, Strider, and so on. SEGA turned the market on its head.

In the meantime, the Sonic Staff was persevering with to ship high quality titles that had dethroned Tremendous Mario from the No.1 gaming mascot place. On the identical time, the Japanese firm’s partnerships with a number of third-party builders, equivalent to EA, had been starting to bear fruit via the launch of video games that the business hadn’t even laid eyes on till that time.

All this introduced complete gross sales numbers for the Mega Drive far above these of the SNES in 1994. The stability, nevertheless, shifted as soon as Nintendo launched a number of new hit titles of their very own, equivalent to Tremendous Metroid, Killer Intuition, Donkey Kong Nation, and so on., with SEGA’s console barely lacking out on the chance to develop into extensively often known as the “winner” of the 4th console era.

Again in 1993, a smaller model of the console often known as the Mega Drive II was launched which, simply because the Grasp System II and the Mega CD II earlier than it, was designed with the decrease manufacturing worth in thoughts and was obtainable for a extra reasonably priced value. In 1998, a 3rd version launched to the US market completely for an excellent lower cost. This model had the drawback that it wasn’t in a position to connect with the SEGA CD or the Grasp System Converter, however with a price ticket of simply $19.99, it was one thing that few folks may resist.

“Genesis Does”, a nod to the notorious ‘SEGA does what Nintendon’t”


The Mega Drive is reported to have closed its life cycle with round 42-47 million in complete gross sales and over 900 titles in its assortment. It was a really outstanding piece of {hardware}, with much more modern concepts launched throughout its period. The Mega CD, the 32X, the Nomad, the Multi-Mega, the Karaoke Package, and the modem that supported on-line play (which was launched completely in Japan) confirmed folks how a lot SEGA wished to push the business ahead. Sadly, most of those concepts had been rushed, leading to many advertising and marketing errors. It might additionally affect the groundwork of the corporate, transferring away from {hardware} improvement later down the road.

But gamers left with lots of of hours spent taking part in nice video games which, when mixed with the pleasant competitors between the Mega Drive and the SNES, helped elevate the requirements of the business.

The Mega Drive will all the time be a type of candy childhood recollections, for individuals who skilled it. It left its mark within the historical past of gaming as one of many two best consoles of the 16-bit era. For these of you who’ve but to attempt it out, I might extremely suggest that you just give it a go! You’ll be pleasantly stunned with what you discover!

For the top, most people who find themselves approaching their 40s will discover it laborious to overlook the primary a part of former SEGA CEO Kalinske’s aggressive marketing campaign, which featured the unforgettable tagline: SEGA DOES WHAT NINTENDON’T!


Sign up or develop into a SUPERJUMP member to hitch the dialog.