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Sega Genesis Model 2 with 6 Button Pad

The Sega Genesis, known as the Mega Drive in regions outside of North America, is a 16-bit home video game console developed and sold by Sega. The Genesis is Sega's third console and the successor to the Master System. Sega released it as the Mega Drive in Japan in 1988, followed by North America as the Genesis in 1989.

Launch[]

Sega released the Mega Drive in Japan on October 29, 1988, though the launch was overshadowed by Nintendo's release of Super Mario Bros. 3 a week earlier. Positive coverage from magazines Famitsu and Beep! helped to establish a following, but Sega only managed to ship 400,000 units in the first year. In order to increase sales, Sega released various peripherals and games, including an online banking system and answering machine called the Sega Mega Anser. Nevertheless, the Mega Drive was unable to overtake the venerable Famicom and remained a distant third in Japan behind Nintendo's Super Famicom and NEC's PC Engine throughout the 16-bit era.

Sega announced a North American release date for the system on January 9, 1989. At the time, Sega did not possess a North American sales and marketing organization and was distributing its Master System through Tonka. Dissatisfied with Tonka's performance, Sega looked for a new partner to market the Genesis in North America and offered the rights to Atari Corporation, which did not yet have a 16-bit system. David Rosen made the proposal to Atari CEO Jack Tramiel and the president of Atari's Entertainment Electronics Division, Michael Katz. Tramiel declined to acquire the new console, deeming it too expensive, and instead opted to focus on the Atari ST. Sega decided to launch the console through its own Sega of America subsidiary, which executed a limited launch on August 14, 1989, in New York City and Los Angeles. The Genesis was released in the rest of North America later that year.

The European version was released in September 1990, at a price of GB₤189.99. The release was handled by Virgin Mastertronic, which was later purchased by Sega in 1991 and became Sega of Europe. Games like Space Harrier II, Ghouls 'n Ghosts, Golden Axe, Super Thunder Blade, and The Revenge of Shinobi were available in stores at launch. The console was also bundled with Altered Beast. The Mega Drive and its first batch of games were shown at the 1990 European Computer Entertainment Show (ECES) in Earl's Court. Between July and August 1990, Virgin initially placed their order for 20,000 Mega Drive units. However, the company increased the order by 10,000 units when advanced orders had exceeded expectations, and another 10,000 units was later added following the console's success at the ECES event. The projected number of units to be sold between September and December 1990 had eventually increased to 40,000 units in the United Kingdom alone

Console wars[]

The rivalry between Nintendo and Sega resulted in what has been described as one of the most notable console wars in video game history, in which Sega positioned the Genesis as the "cool" console, with more mature titles aimed at older gamers, and edgy advertisements that occasionally attacked the competition. Nintendo, however, scored an early public relations advantage by securing the first console conversion of Capcom's arcade classic Street Fighter II for the SNES, which took over a year to make the transition to the Genesis. Despite the Genesis's head start, much larger library of games, and lower price point, the Genesis only represented an estimated 60% of the American 16-bit console market in June 1992, and neither console could maintain a definitive lead for several years. Donkey Kong Country is said to have helped establish the SNES's market prominence in the latter years of the 16-bit generation, and for a time, maintain against the PlayStation and Sega Saturn. According to Nintendo, the company had sold more than 20 million SNES units in the U.S. According to a 2014 Wedbush Securities report based on NPD sales data, the SNES ultimately outsold the Genesis in the U.S. market.

Add-ons[]

In addition to accessories such as the Power Base Converter, the Genesis supports two add-ons that each support their own game libraries. The first is the Sega CD (known as the Mega-CD in all regions except for North America), a compact disc-based peripheral that can play its library of games in CD-ROM format. The second is the Sega 32X, a 32-bit peripheral which uses ROM cartridges and serves as a pass-through for Genesis games. Sega produced a custom power strip to fit the peripherals' large AC adapters. Both add-ons were officially discontinued in 1996.

Emulation[]

In 2018, Sega announced a microconsole, the Genesis/Mega Drive Mini. It will include 42 games, including Gunstar Heroes, Castlevania: Bloodlines and Contra: Hard Corps, with different games for different regions and a save-anywhere function. Streets of Rage composer Yuzo Koshiro will provide the menu music. The console is planned for release on September 19, 2019.

Many homebrew developers have been making new games for the Genesis over the years including Tanglewood and rereleases of esoteric Taiwan released games by Piko Interactive such as Water Margin - The Tales of Clouds and Winds and Canon - Legends Of The New Gods.

Legacy[]

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". 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. 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. In 2008, GamingExcellence ranked it sixth of the 10 best consoles, declaring, "one can truly see the Genesis for the gaming milestone it was." At the same time, GameDaily rated it ninth of ten for its memorable games.

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".

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. 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." Sega of America's marketing campaign for the Genesis was widely emulated, influencing marketing in the subsequent generation of consoles

Contra games released on Sega Genesis[]

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