The Sega Genesis - Ahead of It's Time
The Sega Genesis was released in North American in 1989 and originally looked to be a doomed system. Nintendo held such a monopoly on the gaming industry that it seemed impossible for any other company to succeed. Nintendo threatened any retailer that if they did business with Sega, Nintendo would no longer allow them to sell Nintendo games in their stores. Sega had to take an unconventional approach to get space in retail stores.
In 1990, Sega opened a store in Bentonville Arkansas which happened to be the home of Walmart’s corporate headquarters. Sega then went on to buy up advertising on every billboard around the Walmart headquarters until they finally agreed to give Sega shelf space for their products in every store. This opened the door for Sega to be able to compete in the gaming industry.
Sonic The Hedgehog
In 1990, a programmer by the name of Yuji Naka created a new algorithm two dimensional bitmap to move smoothly by determining a position on a dot matrix. This allowed for a much faster paced game than what was seen previously. Combining the ability to have faster gameplay and with better graphics made for a completely new gaming experience. When Sega would give technical demos of Sonic The Hedgehog, they would have a side-by-side comparison with Nintendo’s new system, the Super Nintendo. This was the beginning of game companies constantly attempting to out-do each other in graphics and gameplay.
In 1991, Sega’s development labs were tasked with creating a CD-ROM addon for the system. The development team had decided to create an add on that had the same scaling and rotation that Sega’s arcade games did. The Sega Genesis had a Motorola 68000 which was too slow to handle the graphics of a CD-ROM so a 2nd 68000 was built into the Sega CD. One of the greatest advancements that the Sega CD had made was having 6MB of RAM built into the system. At the time, most CD-ROM devices only supported .5MB to 2MB of RAM. This allowed the Sega CD to have shorter load times and display better graphics.
Long before there was the Xbox Game Pass, there was the Sega Channel. Launched in 1994, the Sega Channel was an online content delivery system you plugged into the Sega. The Sega Channel was offered by cable companies such as Time Warner by way of coax cable. The Sega Channel would allow you to get new Sega games, demos, and cheat codes online through your Sega Genesis. The Sega Channel would come with an adapter that you plugged a coax cable into that would download games onto the adapter’s 4MB of RAM. The service eventually ended in 1998 but was continuously praised for its innovation.
While the XBand was not released exclusively on the Sega Genesis, the Sega Channel made better use of this new technology. In 1994, the XBand started as an add-on that would allow players to play co-op games online. Since DSL or cable modem wasn’t available at the time, this would all be done via dial-up connections. XBand would allow you to save a friends list, match making, and keep track of leader boards. Since the XBand utilized dial-up connections, designing the module with ultra-low latency connections was key to its success. In 1995, the manufacturers of the Sega Channel adapters made the XBand modem a standard feature of the Sega Channel.
Despite developing new technologies that were ahead of its time, the popularity of the Sega Genesis was already declining when they were released. Streaming games and playing games online would not be seen again until years later. Eventually, Sega had become a third-party software developer due to an internal battle between the American and Japanese Headquarters. However, it is easy to think “what if” had they had the chance to continue to innovate.