Published on July 24th, 2013 | by Shawn Long, Features Editor
Editorial: Why I miss SEGA in the Console Wars
Growing up, I had two choices in life: SEGA or Nintendo.
My pre-teen years brought about the company known as Sony, but initially it was an ongoing battle between two giant corporations that couldn’t stand each other. From smear campaigns, to trash talking, nothing was off limits. No one was friendly, and that’s how I liked it. Just a genuine conflict between companies. “Genesis does what Nintendon’t.”
I mean, how much more ballsy can you get than that? SEGA didn’t care about hurting feelings, and played the cocky bastard who picked on everyone. We all know how the story ends, though. It was a tragic tale and fall from greatness for the one-time console competitor. However, I still deeply miss SEGA consoles, and there are many reasons why you should too.
SEGA was willing to do anything to stay ahead of the times. While Nintendo simply did cartridges on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), SEGA decided that it wanted to do full-motion video (FMV), music and games. In 1991 (1992 in North America) the company introduced the SEGA CD which did all of the above. It was one of the first to feature video in console games, and the sound quality was mostly excellent.
Anyone picking up SEGA CD game in the current-gen is quick to laugh at the low quality of the video, at the time of its initial release it was mind-boggling to see. No one was doing stuff like that, and as a kid, there was nothing cooler. the technological feat spanned more than just games on disc. There was also something called the “SEGA Channel.”
The SEGA Channel was an awesome service. Although it wasn’t available in many marketplaces, it allowed you to “stream” games to your Genesis console via your cable provider for a monthly fee. Up to 50 games at a time were available, including demos of unreleased games. Gamers had access to cheats and tips, as well as contests with real-world prizes. Remember, this was back in ninety-freakin’ three, a time where Internet was still an unknown and basic cable was hardly available. The folks at SEGA said forget that, we are gonna blow your mind.
SEGA was also the first company to allow online console play. The Sega Saturn had the ability to go online, and although the price was steep ($200 modem, $20 monthly fee), it allowed you to play games online and check email. Again, a first on consoles. True, it wasn’t the smoothest service, but it worked.
SEGA’s last hurrah was the Dreamcast, which broke down even more doors. SEGA.net was a service on the Dreamcast that allowed free online play and web browsing. Eventually SEGA was going to charge for the service with a monthly fee, but many games of Quake III: Arena were played before that was ever announced. SEGA went all out with the Dreamcast right down to the unusual controller design, and was an appropriate swan song for the company in the console world.
Was SEGA batcrap insane? Of course it was. If it wasn’t, then it’s would probably still be around today. Mismanagement of funds, releasing systems too early and pressure from the other companies made it close its doors on the console industry for good. I think that really hurt the gaming industry as a whole, though. Everything today is so … standard, so bland, so same old, same old.
It’s funny to think of it, but SEGA’s biggest rival, Nintendo, is now the company that carries on the spirit of the old SEGA. The Wii, the Nintendo DS, these are all unusual devices that I could have seen SEGA attempt if it was still in the console race today. Now with the misfire of the Wii U, it seems like originality is no longer accepted in the video game world. Everyone wants their high-def graphics for their Madden and Call of Duty, but no one cares about the companies trying anything to break the mold anymore.
The day that SEGA died as a console manufacturer was a deadly blow to the video game industry. One that I think is showing more prevalent now then ever before.