The Rise And Fall (And Rise Again) Of Sega

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The best place to start - shock, horror - is at the beginning of Sega's first meaningful foray into the home console market with the 8-Bit Master System, and 16-Bit Mega Drive (or Genesis in the USA). Until this point, Sega was best known for their arcade titles which, to this very day, continued to suck the change out of our collective pockets for decades. For this very reason, Sega's whole mission statement when entering the home console market was - insofar as was possible with the hardware available - to bring this arcade experience into the living room.

Released as a foil to Nintendo's NES console which was absolutely smashing it the world over at the time, the Master System burst onto US and European shelves in 1986 and 1987, respectively, to very different fortunes.

The Master System itself was a perfectly playable, fun system, which delivered on the promise of bringing home Sega's flagship arcade titles with as much authenticity as could be churned out of the 8-Bit architecture.

It could not, perhaps unsurprisingly, topple Nintendo from their lofty position, and struggled badly in both Japan and the USA, with only around 3 million units sold in total between these two territories, despite a much more encouraging 7 million units sold in Europe.

It was with the release of the 16-Bit Mega Drive, however, that Sega really came to the fore.

Released between 1988 and 1990 in various parts of the world, the Mega Drive was a huge success for Sega, selling almost 31 million units during its lifetime, and fared particularly well in North America and the UK.

Aside from the 'Blast Processing' power, the system had under the hood, not to mention the tongue-in-cheek "Genesis Does What Nintendon't" advertising campaign, the main thing the Mega Drive had over the Master System, and allowed it to ultimately take a sizeable chunk of the market away from Nintendo, was a certain blue hedgehog.

It would not be overstating things to say that Sega and Sonic the Hedgehog are one and the same entity in the public consciousness; arguably as synonymous as Nintendo and Mario. This was massively important for Sega, as side-scrolling, 'mascot games' were as in vogue in the late '80s and early '90s as battle royale titles are today, and Mario's reign was virtually unchallenged until Sonic came along.

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Jedi Knight, last son of Krypton, backwards-compatible gaming nerd, Dark Knight of Teesside...