Game Trivia

  • The Sega/Mega CD was unveiled to the public for the first time at the 1991 Tokyo Toy Show, to positive reception from critics. Although the system sold well initially, the already small consumer base for the Mega Drive in Japan caused the add-on unit to stall in sales very quickly. Within its first year in Japan, the Mega-CD only sold 100,000 units. Third-party software for the new system suffered because Sega took a long amount of time to release software development kits. Other factors impacting sales included the high launch price in Japan and only two games available at launch.

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  • The Sega/Mega CD was officially released in two different hardware variants. The first model was a front-loading system in which the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive sat on top of. The second model was a top-loading unit that sat on the right side of the core system when plugged in, making this model more ergonomic. Other model variants included the JVC X-Eye and The Genesis CDX. Both of these units had the cartridge slot and CD-ROM drive installed and required only one power supply to operate.

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  • Advertising for the Sega CD in the United States included one of Sega's slogans, "Welcome to the Next Level". Though only 50,000 units were available at launch due to production issues, the add-on sold over 200,000 units by the end of 1992. Blockbuster Video even purchased Sega CD units for rental in their stores.

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  • To further promote the Sega CD's technical capabilities, Sega of America partnered with Digital Pictures to produce FMV (full-motion video) games for the system, including titles such as Sewer Shark, Tomcat Alley, and Slam City with Scottie Pippen just to name a few. The most notorious of these is Night Trap due to reports of nude scenes in the game (there were none) which prompted the United States Congress to become involved in marketing violent video games to children. The game has since gathered a cult following.

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  • The Sega CD was marketed as the "CD Aladdin Boy" in South Korea and only sold through reputable distributors, like the Korean-based Samsung. This roundabout method was necessary, due to a cultural ban on Japanese importation dating back to the acrimonious mid-1940s, when colonial Japanese rule ended.

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  • The system was named the Sega Mega CD in conjunction with the name Mega Drive in Europe and Japan. The system was simply renamed Sega CD in the United States, dropping "Mega" from the title due to the name change of "Genesis."

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  • Because Sega of America was not provided a functioning unit, Michael Latham and Sega of America vice president of licensing Shinobu Toyoda put together a functioning Sega CD by acquiring a ROM for the system and installing it in a dummy unit. Further frustrating the Sega of America staff was the construction of the add-on. Scot Bayless, former Sega of America senior producer said: "The Mega-CD was designed with a cheap, consumer-grade audio CD drive, not a CD-ROM. Quite late in the run-up to launch, the quality assurance teams started running into severe problems with many of the unitsand when I say severe, I mean units literally bursting into flames. We worked around the clock, trying to catch the failure in-progress, and after about a week we finally realized what was happening." They discovered CD games needed to use more time seeking data than the CD drive was designed to provide.

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  • Development of the Sega/Mega CD was highly secretive for Sega of Japan, and did not consult with Sega of America until mid-1991. They were not given so much as a functioning unit to test out, instead they were initially only given preliminary technical documents about the system. Former Sega of America executive producer Michael Latham said, "When you work at a multinational company, there are things that go well and there are things that don't. They didn't want to send us working Sega CD units. They wanted to send us dummies and not send us the working CD units until the last minute because they were concerned about what we would do with it and if it would leak out. It was very frustrating."

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  • By the early 1990s, compact discs were making a huge impact as a storage medium for music and video games. Believing CDs were the new future for video games, Sega's Consumer Products Research and Development Labs, led by manager Tomio Takami were tasked with creating a CD-ROM add-on for the system.

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  • 2.24 million units of the Sega/Mega CD were sold worldwide. It is often recognized as among the best-selling add-on peripherals for a video game system.

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  • Sales of the Sega/Mega CD were lackluster due to several inconveniences for potential customers. Because the Sega-CD is an add-on peripheral and not a stand-alone system, a Genesis/Mega Drive is required to use the CD unit, forcing consumers to spend more money. Additionally like the core unit, the Sega CD requires its own power supply to be used. Its prohibitive price point of $300 in 1992 was also out of the question for most consumers.

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  • The Sega CD was originally intended to equal the capabilities of the TurboGrafx-CD, but with twice as much random-access memory (RAM), and sell for about JP¥20,000 (or US$150). In addition to relatively short loading times, Takami's team planned for the device to feature hardware scaling and rotation similar to that found in Sega's arcade games, which required the use of a dedicated digital signal processor (DSP).
    However, two changes made later in development caused the system add-on to become more expensive than initially planned. Because the Genesis' Motorola 68000 CPU was too slow to handle the Sega CD's new graphical capabilities, an additional 68000 CPU was incorporated into the add-on. Furthermore, Sega decided to increase the Sega CD's available RAM from 1 Mbit to 6 Mbit in order to compete with NEC's RAM expansions for their PC Engine system. This proved to be one of the greatest technical challenges during development since the Genesis' access speed was initially too slow to run programs effectively. The cost of the device was now estimated at $370, but market research convinced Sega executives that consumers would be willing to pay more for a state-of-the-art machine.

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  • Reception to many Sega/Mega CD games were lackluster, particularly to many of the game's graphics. For a higher price point and using compact disc medium, consumers were disappointed that Sega/Mega CD games looked no better on-screen than most Genesis/Mega Drive games, despite being capable of full-motion video (FMV). The reason for this is because both the core unit and the CD add-on use the exact same color palette. At one point, there were plans in development for the Sega/Mega CD to have a larger color palette, but this was later vetoed.

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  • The Sega CD launched at a price point of 49,800 Yen in Japan, $299.99 in the United States, and 270 British pounds in the UK.

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