Younger gamers mostly think of Sega as a fun game publisher responsible for characters like Sonic the Hedgehog. However, once upon a time, they were Nintendo’s chief rival and a major player in the home console market.
Older gamers remember (and rightfully so) that Sega made a number of puzzling decisions that ultimately spelled doom for their home console manufacture. Before they crashed and burned, though, Sega just happened to predict every major gaming innovation for the next few decades!
Here are just eight of the ways Sega was wildly ahead of its time.
1. Online Gaming
Online is now a staple of gaming. We download games on services like Steam and Xbox Live and then play with fellow gamers all around the world.
Many credit Xbox Live with bringing online gaming to the console world in 2002. But two years earlier, the Sega Dreamcast allowed gamers to play Quake III Arena and Phantasy Star Online, beating Xbox Live to the punch.
However, Sega actually started online gaming way before that. In 1994, Sega launched “Sega Channel.” This allowed people to pay a a monthly subscription and download many different games through a cable television service.
And a few years before that, Sega launched “Meganet,” a service that allowed limited online gaming… in 1990! It’s pretty basic in retrospect, but this was online competitive console gaming a full 12 years before Xbox Live!
2. Portable Power
It feels like Nintendo has had the market on handheld gaming cornered forever. And with the Nintendo Switch, they have finally provided a portable, fully-powered gaming system that can also help you stream your favorite videos and movies.
However, Sega got here first! The Sega Nomad came out back in 1995. What made it special was that it was a fully portable Sega Genesis. Nintendo, however, was only offering handhelds like the Gameboy that were far less powerful than the home console.
Admittedly, the Sega Nomad ate quite a few batteries. However, this system remains the definitive way to play actual Sega Genesis cartridges on the go. And thanks to innovations from companies like TerraOnion, you can even play Sega CD on this system.
3. TV on the Go
As our wireless connections became stronger, streaming multimedia became the dominant way of watching movies and television. Game consoles followed suit, allowing users to watch Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and more through their Xbox or PlayStation consoles.
Nintendo eventually took this to the next level by offering Hulu and YouTube on the Switch. This meant users could enjoy portable video streaming on a bigger screen than their phone had to offer.
Of course, the Switch didn’t come out until 2017. Would you believe that Sega beat them to the punch over 25 years earlier?
The Sega Game Gear had a TV tuner attachment. With this simple purchase, users could watch TV wherever they went!
4. Disc-Based Gaming
Despite Nintendo’s great love of cartridges, the modern console world is dominated by disc-based games. Ever since the PlayStation came out in 1995, we have been playing most of our console games on CDs, DVDs, and Blu-rays.
However, none of this would have happened without Sega. First, they came out with the SEGA CD peripheral back in 1992. This allowed users to play CD-based games, complete with video, on their Sega Genesis consoles.
The SEGA CD was ultimately a failure. However, it influenced Nintendo to start working on a CD attachment for the SNES with none other than Sony. When creative differences led to the end of the project, Sony worked on their own project: the original PlayStation!
5. Hi-Saturn GPS
The GPS in our smartphones makes driving easier than ever. The days of taking maps out of the glove compartment are long gone. One portable device gets you there and back!
Way before smartphones, though, Sega provided the same service as part of the Sega Saturn. Back in 1995, Sega released a relatively small handful of Sega Saturns designed for car use, called the Hi-Saturn. They had features you’d expect (like an LCD screen and car adapter) and some you wouldn’t expect (like built-in karaoke).
The wildest part was the GPS. With the help of an antenna, this game system would help you navigate. And this was 12 years before the first iPhone!
6. 3D Focus
As gaming trends go, 3D gaming comes and goes. Nintendo made a lot of traction with their 3DS in 2011, but soon came out with 2DS models because public demand for 3D gaming wasn’t as high as expected. Similarly, PS3 offered a number of 3D games, but the trend never really caught on.
Both Nintendo and Sony offered games in stereoscopic 3D. And, whether they knew it or not, they were copying Sega.
Before the Sega Genesis, Sega released the Master System in 1985. And to spice this classic system up, they released SegaScope 3D Glasses in 1987 that let gamers enjoy certain games in stereoscopic 3D. There were only a handful of compatible games, but Sega still gets points for rocking 3D games 24 years before the Nintendo 3DS.
7. Downloadable Games
Earlier, we mentioned online Sega Genesis features such as Meganet and the Sega Channel. In addition to letting gamers play games online, they let users download games to their device.
Simply put, this predicted our ability to download entire games through modern online services. And, for better or for worse, it paved the way for gaming publishers to release DLC for games that users had already paid full price for.
8. Backwards Compatibility
Gamers love backwards compatibility. This was a big selling point for the Xbox 360 and the original PS3: that users could still enjoy most of their older games for the previous system. And rumors now swirl that the PS5 might allow users to play every single generation of PlayStation games.
However, this all started with the Sega Genesis. This was Sega’s follow-up to their original Master System. And users could play any Master System games on their Genesis and even Game Gear, instantly giving loyal users a bigger library of games.
Ultimately, the release of the Sega Dreamcast in 1999 spelled the company’s doom in the home console market, as the system could not compete against the PS2 and Xbox. But though Sega got out of the console game, it was once wildly ahead of its time.
Did you own a Sega CD or subscribe to the Sega Channel? What are your fondest Sega memories? Sound off in the comments below!