Twenty years ago, on August 14th, 1989, SEGA’s most successful console debuted in North America to challenge Nintendo for dominance in the fourth-generation of console gaming. Without the console’s success, we wouldn’t be here right now talking about motherfuckin’ blue hedgehogs.
While the SEGA Master System was superior to the Nintendo Entertainment System with better graphics and sound, the console failed to establish a library of games to rival the NES’ stellar collection in anywhere but Europe. So, in 1989, two years before the launch of the Super Nintendo, SEGA debuted the Genesis with mild success. Shipping only 400,000 units in its first year, SoA CEO Michael Katz introduced his two part solution to boost sales. The famous “Genesis Does What Nintendon’t” slogan and, my personal favorite, the use of celebrities in games, like Arnold Palmer Golf and Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker.
It wasn’t until 1991 when Sonic the Hedgehog changed the gaming landscape forever. Originally, the awful Altered Beast was the pack-in game with the console, but a bold move by SEGA CEO Hayao Nakayama put Sonic the Hedgehog in the box instead. With critics claiming that the ‘hog was starring in the best game made thus far, people waiting for the Super Nintendo were convinced and bought a Genesis. Genesis took a 55% market share over Nintendo soon after.
However, the success was short lived as SEGA drove their biggest success into the ground with the SEGA CD and 32X add-ons. These disasters failed to establish a solid library of games and were too expensive. With five consoles actively on the market with the Saturn’s launch (Game Gear, Genesis, Saturn, Pico, and the Master System in South America), SEGA discontinued the production of the Genesis. With the Genesis outselling the Saturn in North America, the results were disastrous as Nintendo took total control of the 16-bit generation. The rest is history and now we have Mario and Sonic running triatholons together.
My older brother got the Genesis with Sonic the Hedgehog for his birthday. I was only three years old when this happened, so my first Genesis memory that I can recall is playing Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and getting trapped in Casino Night Zone. Those were some fun times.
If you have any Genesis/16-bit Sonic memories of your own, please share them with us in the comment box below to celebrate the Genesis’ 20th birthday.