A Cry for Help: Sega Visions Magazine Announces the 32X - Part Four

< Part Three
Jake Spencer
09 March 2012


Now we're getting more and more redundant now.

I could barely squeeze out a few sentences about the PowerBack, and here's nearly half a page explaining that the PowerBack is awesome because you can charge it, and the you can play your Game Gear on that charge for up to four hours. You can even play it while you charge. And - brace yourself - you can charge it with an AC adapter!

It really does seem like a solid purchase, but this is the third discrete advertisement for the same battery pack in this issue. How much convincing do I need? How many pictures, how any paragraphs? Just tell me how long it can hold a charge and how much it costs. This is the third PowerBack ad, and I still don't know the price!

This is all nit-picking, right? Isn't the PowerBack just a straw man?

Not exactly.

The above is printed only a few pages after Sega Visions' Game of the Year Awards. There are eight different categories for Genesis games, with a total of twenty-nine different games receiving awards and nominations. There's a clear message here: Genesis has games - good ones, and lots of 'em.

Meanwhile, Sega CD and Game Gear have one category each. That's one winner and four finalists per system. Of the five Game Gear games highlighted, all five games are also available on the Genesis, with better graphics and better sound. The big winner is Cool SPOT, Virgin's surprisingly fun 7-UP advertisement, while the shortlist is rounded out with... Road Rash? Mortal Kombat? Are these the games you want to play on a handheld, primarily single-player system? Unless you have a friend with a link cable and a second Game Gear, what's the appeal?

The only advantage of the Game Gear releases is portability, which is a huge advantage as long as we ignore the message implied by three different ads, and outright stated in one: without a big, heavy battery pack of unstated price, your Game Gear will die every few hours, will cost your parents $500 to keep powered, and your used AA batteries will end up in "our already overstuffed landfills."

CDX, on the other hand, is perfect. It's a Genesis, a Sega CD, and a portable CD player. "Just toss it in your backpack and bring it along." (Unlike the Genesis, which...would also fit in a backpack.)

How long do its batteries last?

Shut up.

 Allow 6-8 Weeks

Here's everything this article has been about, thrown into sharp relief. Most of these peripherals are of the "dull necessities" variety, and there aren't any consoles for sale here, so everything looks fairly reasonable at a glance. But then what is a "Mega Mouse," and why does it cost more than Ghouls n' Ghosts?

The Super Nintendo had a mouse, but it was made to work with a specific game - Mario Paint - and it was successful because Nintendo took a software-first approach to hardware design. Sega emphatically did not.

More Power Buys:
  • INXS - Make Your Own Video* costs $54.99. Marky Mark - Make Your Own Video costs $64.99. I can only assume there's a $10 Funky Tax.

  • Barney (based on the purple dinosaur) is listed as $59.99. My friends owned this game. Sixty smackers, and my friends actually owned this game. Meanwhile, the only video game I owned was the Tiger Electronics LCD Sonic the Hedgehog game. Stupid rich friends and their parents' stupid disposable income.

  • Game prices range from $19.99 (Dragon Crystal, Game Gear) to $81.50 (Phantasy Star 3, Genesis). Adjusting for inflation, that's $30.57-$124.65 in 2012 dollars. (And people still freak out if we charge more than $1 for an indie game.)

* This is the name printed. In fact, the proper titles were Make My Video: INXS and Make My Video: Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. Pronoun trouble!

 Are You a Winner or a Klutz?

Here at the end of the magazine, all the way on the back cover, is the page that gets it right.

Throughout this feature we've seen a confused, misguided company dig its own grave, but let's step back to the spring of 1994. Let's go back to a time several months before Nintendo and Rare released Donkey Kong Country, and the outcome of the 16-bit Console Wars was still anyone's guess.

It's all too easy to see the problems eighteen years later, but kids in those days really didn't know Sega was getting a running start before leaping into a pit of irrelevance. I was six, and all I knew was that I loved Sonic!

I also loved Mario. I loved Nintendo systems, and I loved Genesis, and I loved computers, and my love for one didn't hurt the others. It helped! It was all a love for good games.

Still, a company must be concerned with market share to survive, and Sega wanted to crush Nintendo. That's why Sonic was created in the first place - to be a better Mario.

Before Sonic, Sega had produced technologically impressive hardware, but Alex Kidd in Miracle World and Fantasy Zone couldn't compete with The Legend of Zelda and Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! Even the Genesis was a flop until Sega took Altered Beast out of the box and replaced it with Sonic the Hedgehog. It was software that sold the hardware.

Ground Zero Texas was not going to give Sega an edge over the Super Nintendo. Three pages of battery ads were not going to ward off the Game Boy, which could keep a game of Tetris going all day without special attachments.

No, Sega was a viable contender for first place in the video game market because it had excellent software. That was the strength, and it was all that was necessary. Not 32X, not the Activator; just high-quality games. Everything else competed for attention, diluted the message, ate up company resources, and squandered fans' goodwill to the the point that when the wonderful, software-driven Dreamcast was released a few years later, the Sega name had already been damaged beyond repair.

But in 1994... In 1994, you couldn't throw a Slammer without hitting Sonic's smirking face printed on a pack of Life Savers, and Genesis was the baddest system around. That's why this ad campaign was a success. It shows some hardware, but it also shows a reason to buy that hardware.

We loved Genesis. We loved Sonic. Most of all, we loved Genesis because we loved Sonic, because Sonic's games were excellent. That was why the hardware sold.

Sega lost track of that.