Sega’s disjointed hardware strategy: A story in pictures

November 4, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

It’s no secret that Sega was all over the place towards the end of the 16-bit era in terms of their hardware strategy.  There were two models of the base Genesis, two models of the basic Sega CD, the CDX combination system, third party hardware like the JVC X’Eye and other licensed devices, the Nomad, and, of course, the 32X.  In other words, what a mess!

So, I always knew things had gotten complicated for Sega fans around the time of the 32X’s release, but now that I’ve picked up a new-in-box console myself, it’s really become clear how bad it really was.  One of my favorite parts of getting an unopened gaming item from years past is looking through the stuff that comes in the box.  Not just the game, systems, or manuals, but especially the advertising inserts.  Opening these old games and systems is like a time capsule, and the 32X was especially interesting.

I figured a few other people out there might be interested in seeing some of the same things, so here are a few shots of what came in the 32X box, which really emphasize how much of a mess Sega’s hardware strategy really was.

Let’s start off a little easy.  First of all, we have a flyer for the Genesis six-button controller.  This controller did a nice job of segmenting the Genesis market.  There were those who had the three button controller and couldn’t make the most of the hottest games of the time: fighters.  Mortal Kombat?  Street Fighter II?  Eternal Champions?  Forget it, if you didn’t have a six-button controller.  Sure, you could play them, but why would you want to?  I give Sega the benefit of the doubt on this one, though.  The three-button controller was well past its prime and six buttons were practically required.  Besides, controller changes are almost always for the better.  This one was a fantastic upgrade, just like the NES dogbone controllers, and the Xbox S and Saturn revisions that would follow.

Six Button Flyer

Six Button Flyer

Sure, an upgraded controller segments the market, but it was probably a good business decision in general, since the older controllers were so lacking.  But this next one is odd.  Did Sega really need to get into the business of making power strips?  Well, they were  kind of forced to.  After all, if you had a Genesis, Sega CD, AND a 32X, then you’d have three separate AC adaptors.  The best part?  Most standard power strips can’t fit three separate AC adaptors… So, Sega was there for its devoted fans:

Sega Power Strip

Sega Power Strip

So, getting all your systems plugged in is a bit difficult, huh?  Well, that’s nothing compared to this next picture.  Just think about all the different possible hardware combinations those power supplies were feeding.  In fact, there were even different cords required for attaching the 32X to different base combinations!  This picture sums it up nicely, but actually underestimates the problem.  Where’s the X’Eye?  Where’s the LaserActive??  Oh, and remember that the number of combos doubles once you add in the 32X!

Too many Sega combinations

Too many Sega combinations

The best part of all this?  Even Sega themselves couldn’t keep their different hardware combinations straight.  As the next two pictures show, there was some definite confusion over the CDX.  Was it supported or wasn’t it?  It seems they thought it was, but at the last second, decided it wasn’t, so they slipped a warning card into the box and a sticker on its front to correct the out of date printed instructions.  Oh, and how were people supposed to know that the 32X audio might not work properly for their model of Genesis if gamers only got to see this warning card after buying and opening the system?

32X Warning Card

32X Warning Card

Conflicting Information

Conflicting Information

Ahh, that was fun.  I hope you get as much amusement out of all this as I did.  It’s sad to see Sega out of the hardware business, but when I see stuff like this, it’s obvious they have nobody else to blame but themselves.  Can you really hold it against consumers for being skeptical when Sega released the Saturn?  As great as the system was (and really, the Sega CD and 32X aren’t awful platforms, either), I can understand why things turned out the way they did.

Oh, and as for my Genesis/CD/32X setup?  Yeah, it’s a mess, too.  To make matters worse, the system just ends up flat out freezing when I play anything on the 32X.  Fun!  Notice the extra A/V cord for the Model 1 Genesis, the otherwise useless piece of spacer plastic for the Model 2 Genesis, and the two totally different controllers.  Plus the Sonic & Knuckles with lock-on Sonic 3!  Maybe “disjointed hardware strategy” is an understatement…

Sega 32X'Eye

Sega 32X'Eye

About Tim
My name is Tim. I live in Madison, WI. I'm a retro gamer.

Comments

2 Responses to “Sega’s disjointed hardware strategy: A story in pictures”
  1. Kris says:

    Interesting article. I like the CDX adapter in the manual that does not exist. I actually use my 32x with a CDX, 3 systems and 2 power bricks. And you can open the CDX cd lid without removing the 32x unit.

  2. Mike says:

    I believe the reason behind the 32X not being supported on the CDX had to do with RF interference.

    The 32X came with metal clips (the “electromagnetic shield plates”) that were supposed to be installed inside the Genesis cartridge slot to electrically connect the 32X unit’s shielding to the Genesis shielding.

    So, on the CDX, I believe Sega ran into a problem with not being able to shield RF interference with the 32X properly, and therefore could not get FCC approval to legally sell it as an add-on for the CDX, even though it will actually function just fine.

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