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By 1991, compact discs had gained in popularity as a data storage device for music and software. PCs and video game companies had started to make use of this technology. NEC had been the first to include CD technology in a game console with the release of the TurboGrafx-CD add-on, and Nintendo was making plans to develop its own CD peripheral as well. Seeing the opportunity to gain an advantage over its rivals, Sega partnered with JVC to develop a CD-ROM add-on for the Genesis.data storage device for music and software. PCs and video game companies had started to make use of this technology. NEC had been the first to include CD technology in a game console with the release of the TurboGrafx-CD add-on, and Nintendo was making plans to develop its own CD peripheral as well. Seeing the opportunity to gain an advantage over its rivals, Sega partnered with JVC to develop a CD-ROM add-on for the Genesis.[4][131][132] Sega launched the Mega-CD in Japan[4] on December 1, 1991, initially retailing at JP¥49,800.[133] The CD add-on was launched in North America on October 15, 1992, as the Sega CD, with a retail price of US$299;[4] it was released in Europe as the Mega-CD in 1993.[133] In addition to greatly expanding the potential size of its games, this add-on unit upgraded the graphics and sound capabilities by adding a second, more powerful processor, more system memory, and hardware-based scaling and rotation similar to that found in Sega's arcade games.[4][134] It provided battery-backed storage RAM to allow games to save high scores, configuration data, and game progress.[131]

Shortly after its launch in North America, Sega began shipping the Sega CD with the pack-in game Sewer Shark, a full motion video (FMV) game developed by Sewer Shark, a full motion video (FMV) game developed by Digital Pictures, a company that became an important partner for Sega.[4] Touting the benefits of the CD's comparatively vast storage space, Sega and its third-party developers produced a number of games for the add-on that include digital video in their gameplay or as bonus content, as well as re-releasing several cartridge-based games with high-fidelity audio tracks.[128][131] In 1993, Sega released the Sega CD 2, a smaller and lighter version of the add-on designed for the Genesis II, at a reduced price compared to the original.[128] A limited number of games were later developed that use both the Sega CD and the Sega 32X add-ons.[135]

The Mega-CD sold only 100,000 units during its first year in Japan, falling well below expectations. Although many consumers blamed its high launch price, it also suffered from a tiny software library; only two games were available at launch. This was due in part to the long delay before Sega made its software development kit available to third-party developers.[133] Sales were higher in North America and Europe, although the novelty of FMV and CD-enhanced games quickly wore off, as many later games were met with lukewarm or negative reviews. In 1995, Sega announced a shift in focus to its new console, the Saturn, and discontinued advertising for Genesis hardware. The Sega CD sold 2.24 million units worldwide.[93]

With the release of the Saturn scheduled for 1995, Sega began developing a stopgap to bridge the gap between the Genesis and Saturn and serve as a less expensive entry into the 32-bit era.[136] At the Winter Consumer Electronics Show in January 1994, Sega of America research and development head Joe Miller took a phone call from Nakayama, in which Nakayama stressed the importance of a quick response to the Atari Jaguar. One idea came from a concept from Sega Enterprises, "Project Jupiter," a new standalone console.[137] Project Jupiter was initially planned as a new version of the Genesis, with an upgraded color palette and a lower cost than the Saturn, and limited 3D capabilities thanks to integration of ideas from the development of the Sega Virtua Processor chip. Miller suggested an alternative strategy, citing concerns with releasing a new console with no previous design specifications within six to nine months.[138] At the suggestion from Miller and his team, Sega designed the 32X as a peripheral for the existing Genesis, expanding its power with two 32-bit SuperH-2 processors.[139] The SH-2 had been developed in 1993 as a joint venture between Sega and Japanese electronics company Hitachi.[140] At the end of the Consumer Electronics show, with the basic design of the 32X in place, Sega Enterprises invited Sega of America to assist in development of the new add-on.[138]

Although the new unit was a stronger console than originally proposed, it was not compatible with Saturn games.[139] Before the 32X could be launched, the re

Although the new unit was a stronger console than originally proposed, it was not compatible with Saturn games.[139] Before the 32X could be launched, the release date of the Saturn was announced for November 1994 in Japan, coinciding with the 32X's target launch date in North America. Sega of America now was faced with trying to market the 32X with the Saturn's Japan release occurring simultaneously. Their answer was to call the 32X a "transitional device" between the Genesis and the Saturn.[137] This was justified by Sega's statement that both platforms would run at the same time, and that the 32X would be aimed at players who could not afford the more expensive Saturn.[129]

The 32X was released in November 1994, in time for the holiday season. Demand among retailers was high, and Sega could not keep up orders for the system.[139] More than 1,000,000 orders had been placed for 32X units, but Sega had only managed to ship 600,000 units by January 1995.[129] Launching at about the same price as a Genesis console, the price of the 32X was less than half of what the Saturn's price would be at launch.[136] Though positioning the console as an inexpensive entry into 32-bit gaming, Sega had a difficult time convincing third-party developers to create games for the new system. After an early run on the peripheral, news soon spread to the public of the upcoming release of the Sega Saturn, which would not support the 32X's games. The Saturn was released on May 11, 1995,[141] four months earlier than its originally intended release date of September 2, 1995.[142] The Saturn, in turn, caused developers to further shy away from the console and created doubt about the library for the 32X, even with Sega's assurances that there would be a large number of games developed for the system. In early 1996, Sega conceded that it had promised too much out of the 32X and decided to stop producing the system in order to focus on the Saturn.[129] Prices for the 32X dropped to $99 and cleared out of stores at $19.95.[139]

More than a dozen licensed variations of the Genesis/Mega Drive have been released.[143] In addition to models made by Sega, alternate models were made by other companies, such as Majesco Entertainment, AtGames, JVC, Pioneer Corporation, Amstrad, and Aiwa. A number of bootleg clones were created during its lifespan.[22]

First-party mod

In 1993, Sega introduced a smaller, lighter version of the console,[106] known as the Mega Drive 2 in Japan, Europe, and Australia[d] and simply sold as Genesis (without the Sega prefix) in North America. This version omits the headphone jack in the front, replaces the A/V-Out connector with a smaller version that supports stereo sound, and provides a simpler, less expensive mainboard that requires less power.[109]

Sega released a combined, semi-portable Genesis/Sega CD unit called the Genesis CDX (marketed as the Multi-Mega in Europe). This unit retailed at $399.95 in the U.S.[144] (roughly $100 more than the individual Genesis and Sega CD units put together, since the Sega CD dropped its price to $229 half a year before[145]), and was bundled with Sonic CD, Sega Classics Arcade Collection, and the Sega CD version of Ecco the Dolphin.[146] The CDX features a small LCD screen that, when the unit is used to play audio CDs, displays the current track being played.[147] With this feature and the system's lightweight build (weighing two pounds), Sega marketed it in part as a portable CD player.[144]

Late in the 16-bit era, Sega released a handheld version of the Genesis called the Genesis Nomad. Its design was based on the Mega Jet, a Mega Drive portable unit featured on airplane flights in Japan. As the only successor to the Game Gear, the Nomad operates on 6 AA batteries, displaying its graphics on a 3.25-inch (8.25-mm) LCD screen. The Nomad supports the entire Genesis library, but cannot be used with the Sega 32X, the Sega CD, or the Power Base Converter.[148]

Exclusive to the Japanese market was the TeraDrive, a Mega Drive combined with an IBM PC compatible computer. Sega also produced three arcade system boards based on the Mega Drive: the System C-2, the MegaTech, and the MegaPlay, which support approximately 80 games combined.[144] (roughly $100 more than the individual Genesis and Sega CD units put together, since the Sega CD dropped its price to $229 half a year before[145]), and was bundled with Sonic CD, Sega Classics Arcade Collection, and the Sega CD version of Ecco the Dolphin.[146] The CDX features a small LCD screen that, when the unit is used to play audio CDs, displays the current track being played.[147] With this feature and the system's lightweight build (weighing two pounds), Sega marketed it in part as a portable CD player.[144]

Late in the 16-bit era, Sega released a handheld version of the Genesis called the Genesis Nomad. Its design was based on the Mega Jet, a Mega Drive portable unit featured on airplane flights in Japan. As the only successor to the Game Gear, the Nomad operates on 6 AA batteries, displaying its graphics on a 3.25-inch (8.25-mm) LCD screen. The Nomad supports the entire Genesis library, but cannot be used with the Sega 32X, the Sega CD, or the Power Base Converter.[148]

Exclusive to the Japanese market was the TeraDrive, a Mega Drive combined with an IBM PC compatible computer. Sega also produced three arcade system boards based on the Mega Drive: the System C-2, the MegaTech, and the MegaPlay, which support approximately 80 games combined.[22]

Working with Sega Enterprises, JVC released the Wondermega on April 1, 1992, in Japan. The system was later redesigned by JVC and released as the X'Eye in North America in September 1994. Designed by JVC to be a Genesis and Sega CD combination with high quality audio, the Wondermega's high price ($500 at launch[149]) kept it out of the hands of average consumers.[150] The same was true of the Pioneer LaserActive, which requires an add-on known as the Mega-LD pack, developed by Sega, in order to play Genesis and Sega CD games. Although the LaserActive was lined up to compete with the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, the combined price of the system and the Mega-LD pack made it a prohibitively expensive option for Sega players.[151] Aiwa released the CSD-GM1, a combination Genesis/Sega CD unit built into a boombox. Several companies added the Mega Drive to personal computers, mimicking the design of Sega's TeraDrive; these include the MSX models AX-330 and AX-990, distributed in Kuwait and Yemen, and the Amstrad Mega PC, distributed in Europe and Australia.[22]

After the Genesis was discontinued, Majesco Entertainment released the Genesis 3 as a budget version in 1998.[152] A similar thing happened in Portugal, where Ecofilmes, Sega's distributor in the country, obtained a license to sell the Mega Game II. This version was more akin to the second first-party model, being noteworthy the inclusion of six-button controllers and a switch to alternate between different game regions, enabling this version to play all games without the need for any device or modification to bypass region locking.[153] In 2009, AtGames began producing two new variations: the Firecore, which can play original Genesis cartridges as well as preloaded games, and a handheld console preloaded with 20 Genesis games.[154] Companies such as Radica Games have released various compilations of Genesis and Mega Drive games in "plug-and-play" packages resembling the system's controller.[155]

Re-releases and emulation

A number of Genesis and Mega Drive emulators have been produced, including GenEM, KGen, Genecyst, VGen, [156] Gens[157],and Kega Fusion. The GameTap subscription gaming service included a Genesis emulator and had several dozen licensed Genesis games in its catalog.[158] The Console Classix subscription gaming service includes an emulator and has several hundred Genesis games in its catalog.[159]

Compilations of Genesis games have been released for other consoles. These include Sonic Mega Collection and Sonic Gems Collection for PS2, Xbox, and Nintendo GameCube; Sega Genesis Collection for PS2 and PSP; and Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection (known as the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection in PAL territories) for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.[160][161]

During his keynote speech at the 2006 Game Developers Conference, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata announced that Sega would make a number of Genesis/Mega Drive games available to download on the Wii's Virtual Console.[152] A similar thing happened in Portugal, where Ecofilmes, Sega's distributor in the country, obtained a license to sell the Mega Game II. This version was more akin to the second first-party model, being noteworthy the inclusion of six-button controllers and a switch to alternate between different game regions, enabling this version to play all games without the need for any device or modification to bypass region locking.[153] In 2009, AtGames began producing two new variations: the Firecore, which can play original Genesis cartridges as well as preloaded games, and a handheld console preloaded with 20 Genesis games.[154] Companies such as Radica Games have released various compilations of Genesis and Mega Drive games in "plug-and-play" packages resembling the system's controller.[155]

A number of Genesis and Mega Drive emulators have been produced, including GenEM, KGen, Genecyst, VGen, [156] Gens[157],and Kega Fusion. The GameTap subscription gaming service included a Genesis emulator and had several dozen licensed Genesis games in its catalog.[158] The Console Classix subscription gaming service includes an emulator and has several hundred Genesis games in its catalog.[159]

Compilations of Genesis games have been released for other consoles. These include Sonic Mega Collection and Sonic Gems Collection for PS2, Xbox, and Nintendo GameCube; Sega Genesis Collection for PS2 and PSP; and Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection (known as the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection in PAL territories) for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.[160][161]

During his keynote speech at the 2006 Game Developers Conference, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata announced that Sega would make a number of Genesis/Mega Drive games available to download on the Wii's Virtual Console.[162] There are select Genesis games available on the Xbox 360 through Xbox Live Arcade, such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic 2,[163] as well as games available via the PlayStation Network[164] and Steam.[165]

On May 22, 2006, North American company Super Fighter Team released Beggar Prince, a game translated from a 1996 Chinese original.[166] It was released worldwide and was the first commercial Genesis game release in North America since 1998.[167] Super Fighter Team would later go on to release two more games for the system, Legend of Wukong and Star Odyssey.[167] In December 2010, WaterMelon, an American company, released Pier Solar and the Great Architects, the first commercial role-playing video game specifically developed for the console since 1996,[168] and the biggest 16-bit game ever produced at 64 Mb.[169] Pier Solar is the only cartridge-based game which can optionally use the Sega CD to play an enhanced soundtrack and sound effects disc.[170] In 2013, independent programmer Future Driver, inspired by the Disney film Wreck-It Ralph, developed Fix-It Felix Jr. for the Genesis.[171] In 2017, American company Mega Cat Games released Coffee Crisis, a Beat 'em up, for the Sega Genesis.[172]

On December 5, 2007, Tectoy released a portable version of the Genesis/Mega

On December 5, 2007, Tectoy released a portable version of the Genesis/Mega Drive with twenty built-in games.[173] Another version called "Mega Drive Guitar Idol" comes with two six-button joypads and a guitar controller with five fret buttons. The Guitar Idol game contains a mix of Brazilian and international songs. The console has 87 built-in games, including some from Electronic Arts based on the mobile phone versions.[174] It was announced that Tectoy has developed a new Genesis console that not only looks almost identical to the original model of the Genesis, but also has a traditional cartridge slot and SD card reader, due for release in June 2017.[175]

In 2009, Chinese company AtGames produced a Genesis/Mega Drive-compatible console, the Firecore.[154] It features a top-loading cartridge slot and includes two controllers similar to the six-button controller for the original Genesis. The console has 15 games built-in and is region-free, allowing cartridge games to run regardless of their region.[176] AtGames produced a handheld version of the console.[177] Both machines have been released in Europe by distributing company Blaze Europe.[176]

In 2018, Sega announced a microconsole, the Genesis/Mega Drive Mini.[178] The console includes 40 games, including Gunstar Heroes and Castlevania: Bloodlines, with different games for different regions and a save-anywhere function. Streets of Rage composer Yuzo Koshiro provided the menu music. The console was released on September 19, 2019.[179]

Reviewing the Genesis in 1995, Game Players noted that its rivalry with the Super NES was skewed by genre, with the Genesis having superior sports games and the Super NES superior RPGs. Commenting that the Genesis hardware was aging and the new software drying up, they recommended consumers buy a next generation system or a Genesis Nomad instead, but also advised those who already owned a Genesis to not sell it.[180] In a 1997 year-end review, a team of five Electronic Gaming Monthly editors gave the Genesis scores of 4.5, 5.0, 4.0, 4.5, and 7.5 - for all five editors, the lowest score they gave to any of the five consoles reviewed in the issue. While their chief criticisms were the lack of upcoming game releases and dated hardware, they also concurred that the Genesis was clearly inferior to the Super NES in terms of graphics capabilities, sound chip, and games library. John Ricciardi in particular considered the Genesis overrated, saying he had consistently found more enjoyment in both the Super NES and TurboGrafx-16, while Dan Hsu and Crispin Boyer recommended it based on its selection of classic titles and the high value-for-money of the six pack-in games Sega was offering at the time.[181]

Legacy

The

The Genesis has often ranked among the best video game consoles. In 2009, IGN named it the fifth best video game console, citing its edge in sports games and better home version of Mortal Kombat, and lauding "what some consider to be the greatest controller ever created: the six button".[182] In 2007, GameTrailers named the Genesis as the sixth best console of all time in their list of top ten consoles that "left their mark on the history of gaming", noting its great games and solid controller, and writing of the "glory days" of Sonic the Hedgehog.[183] In January 2008, technology columnist Don Reisinger proclaimed that the Genesis "created the industry's best console war to date", citing Sonic the Hedgehog, superior sports games, and backward compatibility with the Sega Master System.[184] In 2008, GamingExcellence ranked it sixth of the 10 best consoles, declaring, "one can truly see the Genesis for the gaming milestone it was."[185] At the same time, GameDaily rated it ninth of ten for its memorable games.[186]

In 2014, USgamer's Jeremy Parish wrote, "If the Atari generation introduced video games as a short-lived '70s fad ... and the NES generation established it into an enduring obsession for the young, Sega's Genesis began pushing the medium toward something resembling its contemporary form", expounding that the system served as "the key incubator for modern sports franchises", made "consoles truly international" by providing Western third-parties previously put at a disadvantage by Nintendo's restrictive licensing policies with a more profitable alternative, created "an online subscription service" that foreshadowed "PlayStation Plus more than 15 years early" with the Sega Channel, and "played a key role in ensuring the vitality and future of the games industry by breaking Nintendo's near-monopolistic hold on the U.S. and awakening the U.K. to the merits of television gaming".[187]

For his part, Kalinske highlighted Sega's role in developing games for an older demographic and pioneering "the concept of the 'street date'" with the simultaneous North American and European release of Sonic the Hedgehog 2.[188][189] John Sczepaniak of Retro Gamer noted, "It was a system where the allure was born not only of the hardware and games, but the magazines, playground arguments, climate, and politics of the time."[22] Sega of America's marketing campaign for the Genesis was widely emulated, influencing marketing in the subsequent generation of consoles.[190]