Sega Restarts Production of a 27-Year-Old Gaming Console
Today, gamers have to choose between PlayStation, Xbox, or PC platforms. In Brazil, gamers now have a fourth option. After their Dreamcast console failed in the early 2000s, Sega had retired from the hardware market to focus on the software side of their business. Yesterday, they announced that they’d be going back to their roots by relaunching one of their most popular consoles. The MegaDrive/Genesis is back in production, but only in Brazil.
Like most consumer technology, the gaming industry is fast-paced and in rapid growth. Every single year industry leaders release hardware and software that is faster, more immersive, and more powerful. Even the most groundbreaking technology is considered obsolete after a few short years. In this environment, it’s surprising to see a company invest in something that had been considered obsolete since 1994.
Sega’s Most Famous Console
The Sega MegaDrive, known as the Genesis in some markets, was the console to have in the early 90s. It’s advanced 16-bit ‘Blast’ processor was capable of handling three times as much data as Nintendo’s Entertainment System. It’s sprite base graphics and the multi-channel audio system was unbelievable at the time, but hardly compares to the 3D graphics we have today.
The Appeal of Vintage Technology
While most gamers quickly moved on the Sony Playstation and Nintendo 64, the unique feel of the Sega MegaDrive/Genesis made its mark on gamers. Throughout the 90s, hardware was evolving so fast that every new generation of consoles brought something to the table that seemed impossible just a few short months before.
Today, technology is reaching a bit of a plateau. Each new generation of consoles is more of an update to an existing platform, rather than the ground-up redesigns we saw in the past. While the graphics and sound of the MegaDrive/Genesis are technologically basic, they create a unique gaming experience unlike any other. The same principle supports the popularity of apps like Instagram. Their photo sharing app recreates the limitations of 1970s photographic technology. While the MegaDrive/Genesis is not better than modern design, many people find it more appealing.
The original MegaDrive/Genesis used a Motorola 68000 processor clocked at 7.6 Mhz. At the time, this was one of the most powerful CPUs on the market, used in everything from high-end computers to simple consoles. It was capable of drawing graphics at a resolution of 32x32. Although it could produce 64 unique colors, only 15 of them could be on screen at any given time. The audio was produced by the Z80 chipset, a MIDI system that could make 16 different types of sound.
While this was some of the best hardware on the market 25 years ago, it’s been out of production for a very long time. The new MegaDrive/Genesis functions just like the old system, but uses modern hardware that we’re all familiar with. The console uses an ARM processor similar to the ones found in our mobile phones, replicating all the functions of the old device.
The original system had cartridges that ranged in size from 512Kb to 8Mb. The latest model has replaced this system with an SD card. The card comes with 22 of Sega's best selling MegaDrive/Genesis games pre-installed.
If you’re looking to pick one up yourself, you’ll need to shell out $125 for the privilege. To many of us, this may seem a little high. But in Brazil, the game console has such a large cult-following that gamers have been known to shell out ten times as much for the hard-to-find original. In this market, updating an old console with modern technology makes perfect sense.