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Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: The console that put Sega on the map

Sega Mega Drive/Genesis controllers

The Sega Mega Drive was a home video game console released in 1988 in Japan and in 1989 in North America (as the Sega Genesis). Sega’s predecessor was the Master System, an 8-bit console released in 1985 to compete with the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Nintendo, however, had captured a much larger swathe of the video game market and Sega was banking on the Mega Drive to make Sega more competitive.

One of Sega’s main unique selling points of the Mega Drive was its 16-bit microprocessor, double the capability of the NES’s 8-bit system, a feature Sega highlighted in its promotion. Genesis does what Nintendon’t.

With the Mega Drive one could argue that Sega had officially ‘arrived’ and the console wars were were on (like Donkey Kong!). Sega in particular played on the idea that the Mega Drive was edgier and cooler than the family-friendly ‘safe’ brand of Nintendo. Sonic the Hedgehog similarly gave off an edgier vibe than did Super Mario. And Sega positioned itself as a console that gave more of an arcade feel to its games.

The Sega Mega Drive / Genesis was a hit, putting pressure on Nintendo to deliver with its next console, the Super Nintendo (SNES), released in 1990 (officially named Super Famicom in Japan). Despite the novelty of the SNES and the brand power various Nintendo games commanded, the Mega Drive / Genesis would continue to outsell the SNES for several years. Loyalties would remain entrenched as some gamers were fierce in their allegiance to their chosen console manufacturer.

Sega had a good run in the 1990s but eventually bowed out of the console wars following its release of the Dreamcast in 1998. By that point Sony had established itself as a major player in the home console market with its release of the PlayStation in 1994 and anticipation was high for the released of the PlayStation 2. Microsoft would also enter the market in 2001, advancing the console wars into a new era.

Sonic the Hedgehog for Sega Mega Drive
Sonic the Hedgehog for Sega Mega Drive
Sonic the Hedgehog for Sega Mega Drive, instruction manual
Sonic the Hedgehog for Sega Mega Drive, instruction manual

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