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Sega Genesis: A Brief History

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Sega Genesis: Genesis Does what Nintendon’t


   Sega released its third console, the 16-bit Sega Genesis, in 1998.  It was the successor of the Master System, and was also known as the Sega Mega Drive.  The system was built by adapting the Sega System 16 arcade board.  It supported a library of over 900 games which were made by Sega as well as many third-party developers.  In addition, it supported Master System games if the Power Base Converter, Sega CD, and the 32X, each sold separately, were installed.

   The Mega Drive found its primary competition in Japan in the Super Famicorn and the NEC PC Engine.  Against this competition, it did not fare well, but it did perform quite well in the North American market, in Brazil and in Europe.  Part of its success in these regions has been attributed to the set of arcade game ports and the growing popularity of the Sonic the Hedgehog series.  Using aggressive marketing towards the youth, Sega successfully branded the Sega Genesis as the “cool” console for teenagers.

   Despite its initial success, two years later, upon the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System, it underwent a fierce battle for the market.  In fact, this advertising battle was so significant that it has been termed the “console war” by journalists and historians since.  The battle even brought more widespread public attention to video game consoles in general and arguably made them more mainstream.

   Part of that battle included the battle of the mascots.  As Nintendo was successfully branding their company with the Mario series, Sega wanted to match them with their own mascot.  This led to the creation of “Mr. Needlemouse” who was renamed Sonic the Hedgehog.  The lovable mascot led to what is arguably one of the best video game franchises in history.  Sonic featured pop culture references in his look and demeanor, with boots based on Michael Jackson’s attire and the can-do attitude of former President Bill Clinton.

   Popular game titles for the Sega Genesis included Mortal Kombat and Night Trap, both games which, because of their violent content, helped lead to the Videogame Rating Council, which eventually became the Entertainment Software Rating Board.



SEGA GENESIS - Model: MK-1601


   Original Release - This model had the box art and pack-in game "Altered Beast" sold with this version.  The easiest way to tell this from all the other versions of the 1601 is the "HIGH-DEFINITION" text along the top of the cartridge slot, an expansion (EXT) port on the back, and when this unit is turned on it does not show the "License Screen".  The FCC-ID Code on this unit is FJ846EUSASEGA.  The "46E" original release version is one the easiest version of the 1601s to add RCA and S-Video to.

   Variation #1 - This model looks the same as the original release version but had "Sonic the Hedgehog" box art and pack-in game.  With this version, SEGA added the License Screen before each game.  This version also added the evil "Lock-Out" chip for region restrictions. The FCC-ID code on this unit is: FJ8USASEGA.  The 46E portion was removed from this and all later variations.

   Variation #2 - In the final version of the 1601, SEGA removed the "HIGH-DEFINITION" text and the EXT Port were both removed.  The FCC-ID code is the same as the variation 1: FJ8USASEGA.


SEGA GENESIS - Model: MK-1631


   Variation #3 - This was the first model which was a significant revision of the Sega Genesis.  It included a reconfiguration of the output ports, the elimination of the volume control, headphone jack and RF output port.  A new AC cable was required for this version.  It also has a much better picture than the 9-pin Composite port.


SEGA GENESIS - Model: MK-1461


   Variation #4 - The final model of the Sega Genesis and was licensed to Majesco for manufacturing.  It is much smaller than the original system.  It has most of the same ports, except the elimination of the CD port.  This means this version cannot connect to the SEGA CD.


  • Unit Lifetime:  1989 – 1997
  • Units Sold (Worldwide):  40+ Million
  • Games Released (Worldwide):  900+
  • Backwards Compatibility:  Compatible with the SMS through use of the Power Base Converter 
  • Media Type:  Cartridge
  • Resolution:  320 x 224
  • Colors Available:  512
  • Colors on Screen:  64
  • Sound Output (Model 1):  6 Channel Mono
  • Sound Output (Models 2 & 3):  6 Channel Stereo
  • Power Requirements (Model 1):  9V 1200amps
  • Power Requirements (Model 2 & 3):  10V 850amps
  • Best A/V Cable Available (All Model):  RCA

(If you see anything incorrect or that you want added, feel free to comment below and the posting will be edited to reflect the corrections.)

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