Sega Master System Jul 20, 2014 14:47:00 GMT
Post by The Laird on Jul 20, 2014 14:47:00 GMT
The Sega Master System (SMS) started off life in Japan as the Sega Mark III and was the successor to the unpopular Sega SG-1000 console. Released in 1985, it was fully backwards compatible with the previous machine and hardware wise it was pretty much just an upgrade on the existing system. The SG-1000, released in 1983, and the SG-1000 Mk. II were incredibly similar to the American ColecoVision console and also the range of MSX computers. This is because the MSX was designed as a “hardware standard” that could be used by anyone wishing to licence the technology. It never quite caught on despite the support of many large companies like Sony, Yamaha, Toshiba and Philips. Ironically the MSX “standard” was designed by Microsoft, who would later on help to standardise personal computers with their Windows operating system. Just to confuse things further Sega later released a computer version of the SG-1000 called the SC-3000, which went on to outsell its console cousin. Although it was never successful in Japan the SG1000 had a great deal of success in Australia and New Zealand, where it was sold by John Sands and Grandstand.
The Mark III was moderately successful in Japan selling just over 1 million units in its first year of release but failed to capture and significant market share from the rival Nintendo Famicom. So in 1987 Sega redesigned the console as the Master System, a year after the North American release. It featured the addition of a built-in Yamaha YM2413 FM sound chip (not found in the western SMS), a rapid fire unit and 3-D glasses. All of which had been separate accessories for the Mark III, it continued to fully backwards compatible. In 1986 the Mark III became the Sega Master System for its release in North America and proceeded to take on the already popular Nintendo Entertainment System and Atari 7800 ProSystem. Sega redesigned the console for the North American market and looked towards toy manufacturer Tonka to market and distribute the machine for them. This proved to be a big mistake on Sega’s behalf as Tonka didn’t have a clue how to position the machine in the market and by 1988 Nintendo accounted for 83% of the video game market in the United States with a further 15% being controlled by Atari. When the Master System was discontinued in North America in 1992 it had only sold 2 million units, nearly half the amount of the Atari 7800 and was totally eclipsed by the 34 million NES’ sold.
In Europe it couldn't have been more different however. The Master System was released in this region in September 1987 and as Sega had done in North America they turned to other companies to market and distribute the console for them. The most successful of these was Virgin Mastertronic, a UK company that were part of the huge Virgin Group and well known to European computer gamers. They took the rights to sell the machine in both the UK and France and it was a massive success. Both the console and it’s games were cheaper than the rival NES and Virgin knew the market far better than Nintendo’s European partner Mattel. Much of this success was down to the lure of its many arcade conversions, especially those by Sega. Coin-op translations were a big draw for European gamers where they constantly topped the home computer charts. Virgin Mastertronic did such a great job in fact that Sega ended up buying them out completely and turning them into Sega Europe. The Master System continued to sell well in Europe right into the nineties as a budget alternative to its little brother the Mega Drive. By the time it was discontinued in Europe in 1996 it had sold over 8 million units and had outsold its big rival the NES in the UK by nearly 4:1!
The Master System also achieved significant success in South America where it was both produced and sold by a company called Tectoy. It was first sold in this market in 1989 and plug and play versions of the console are still sold there up to this day! Tectoy even produced and licensed their own games for the machine in this market as well as converting many previously Game Gear only games. Brazil saw such delights as Street Fighter II, Dynamite Headdy and Woody Woodpecker.