Genesis Nomad

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Genesis Nomad
Sega Nomad.svg
Also known asSega Nomad
Manufacturer Sega
Type Handheld game console
Generation Fifth generation
Release date
  • NA: October 1995
Media Sega Genesis ROM cartridge
CPU Motorola 68000
  • Mono speaker
  • Headphone jack
Power6 AA batteries, 2 to 3 hours
Predecessor Game Gear, Mega Jet

The Genesis Nomad (also known as Sega Nomad) is a handheld game console manufactured by Sega and released in North America in October 1995. The Nomad is a portable variation of the Sega Genesis home video game console (known as the Mega Drive outside North America). Based on the Mega Jet, a portable version of the home console designed for use on airline flights in Japan, Nomad was the last handheld console released by Sega. In addition to functioning as a portable device, it was designed to be used with a television set via a video port. Released late in the Genesis era, the Nomad had a short lifespan.

Handheld game console lightweight, portable electronic device used for gaming

A handheld game console, or simply handheld console, is a small, portable self-contained video game console with a built-in screen, game controls, and speakers. Handheld game consoles are smaller than home video game consoles and contain the console, screen, speakers, and controls in one unit, allowing people to carry them and play them at any time or place.

Sega Japanese video game developer and publisher and subsidiary of Sega Sammy Holdings

Sega Games Co., Ltd. is a Japanese multinational video game developer and publisher headquartered in Tokyo. Its international branches, Sega of America and Sega Europe, are respectively headquartered in Irvine, California and London. Sega's arcade division, once part of Sega Corporation, has existed as Sega Interactive Co., Ltd. since 2015. Both companies are subsidiaries of Sega Holdings Co., Ltd., which is in turn a part of Sega Sammy Holdings.

Sega Genesis Fourth-generation home video game console and fourth developed by Sega

The Sega Genesis, known as the Mega Drive in regions outside North America, is a 16-bit home video game console developed and sold by Sega. The Genesis is Sega's third console and the successor to the Master System. Sega released it as the Mega Drive in Japan in 1988, and later as the Genesis in North America in 1989. In 1990, it was distributed as the Mega Drive by Virgin Mastertronic in Europe, Ozisoft in Australasia, and Tec Toy in Brazil. In South Korea, it was distributed by Samsung as the Super Gam*Boy and later the Super Aladdin Boy.


Sold exclusively in North America, the Nomad was never officially released worldwide, and employs a regional lockout. Sega's focus on the Sega Saturn left the Nomad under-supported, and the handheld itself was incompatible with several Genesis peripherals, including the Power Base Converter, the Sega CD, and the 32X.

North America Continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere

North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered by some to be a northern subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea.

A regional lockout is a class of digital rights management preventing the use of a certain product or service, such as multimedia or a hardware device, outside a certain region or territory. A regional lockout may be enforced through physical means, through technological means such as detecting the user's IP address or using an identifying code, or through unintentional means introduced by devices only supporting certain regional technologies.

Sega Saturn Video game console

The Sega Saturn is a 32-bit fifth-generation home video game console developed by Sega and released on November 22, 1994 in Japan, May 11, 1995 in North America, and July 8, 1995 in Europe. The successor to the successful Sega Genesis, the Saturn has a dual-CPU architecture and eight processors. Its games are in CD-ROM format, and its game library contains several arcade ports as well as original games.


The Mega Jet, a portable Mega Drive designed for airplanes and cars, provided the design inspiration for the Genesis Nomad Sega Mega Jet (8459104642).jpg
The Mega Jet, a portable Mega Drive designed for airplanes and cars, provided the design inspiration for the Genesis Nomad

The Sega Genesis was Sega's entry into the 16-bit era of video game consoles. [1] In Japan, Sega released the Mega Jet, a portable version of the Mega Drive for use on Japan Airlines flights. The Mega Jet requires a connection to a television screen and a power source, and so outside of airline flights can only be used in cars equipped with a television set and cigarette lighter receptacle. [2] On planes, the Mega Jet was connected into armrest monitors. It had a limited consumer release in Japanese department stores in 1994, but did not see success. [3]

Japan Airlines Co., Ltd. (JAL), also known as Nikkō (日航), is an international airline, headquartered in Shinagawa Tokyo, Japan. Its main hubs are Tokyo's Narita International Airport and Tokyo International Airport, as well as Osaka's Kansai International Airport and Osaka International Airport. JAL group companies include Japan Airlines, J-Air, JAL Express, Japan Air Commuter, Japan Transocean Air, ZIPAIR Tokyo and Ryukyu Air Commuter for domestic feeder services, and JAL Cargo for cargo and mail services.

A front-to-top view of the Nomad, showing the red power switch, the "DC in" port, the cartridge input, and an "AV out" port to show the Nomad on a TV monitor Sega-Nomad-Handheld.jpg
A front-to-top view of the Nomad, showing the red power switch, the "DC in" port, the cartridge input, and an "AV out" port to show the Nomad on a TV monitor

Planning to release a new handheld console to succeed the Game Gear, Sega originally intended to produce a system with a touchscreen interface two years before the handheld by Tiger Electronics. However, touchscreen technology was expensive at the time, so Sega instead released the Genesis Nomad, a handheld version of the Genesis. [4] The development codename was "Project Venus". [5] [6] Sega hoped to capitalize on the Genesis's popularity in North America. At the time, the Genesis Nomad was the only handheld console that could connect to a television. [3]

Game Gear handheld game console

The Game Gear is an 8-bit fourth generation handheld game console released by Sega on October 6, 1990 in Japan, in April 1991 throughout North America and Europe, and during 1992 in Australia. The Game Gear primarily competed with Nintendo's Game Boy, the Atari Lynx, and NEC's TurboExpress. It shares much of its hardware with the Master System, and can play Master System games by the use of an adapter. Sega positioned the Game Gear, which had a full-color backlit screen with a landscape format, as a technologically superior handheld to the Game Boy.

Touchscreen input/output device usually layered on the top of an electronic visual display

A touchscreen, or touch screen, is an input device and normally layered on the top of an electronic visual display of an information processing system. A user can give input or control the information processing system through simple or multi-touch gestures by touching the screen with a special stylus or one or more fingers. Some touchscreens use ordinary or specially coated gloves to work while others may only work using a special stylus or pen. The user can use the touchscreen to react to what is displayed and, if the software allows, to control how it is displayed; for example, zooming to increase the text size. handheld video game console

The is a fifth-generation handheld game console released by Tiger Electronics in August 1997. A smaller version, the Pocket Pro, was released in mid-1999. The first version of the can be connected to a 14.4 kbit/s modem for Internet connectivity, hence its name referencing the top level domain .com. It was the first video game console to include a touchscreen and the first handheld console to include Internet connectivity. The sold less than 300,000 units and was discontinued in 2000 because of poor sales.

The Nomad was released in October 1995 in North America only and had a retail price of $249.99, although the price was quickly lowered to $179.99. [5] [7] The price of Nomad was criticized by many, and was a major limiting factor at launch. In addition, Sega made a deal with toy retailer Toys "R" Us making them the only retailer that would sell the Nomad. This meant that other retailers would miss out on the release and would not have access to the product. The Nomad was released 5 years into the market span of the Genesis, so the console had an existing library of more than 500 Genesis games at launch. [8] While Sega Technical Institute's The Ooze was originally planned as a launch game, it was not included. [9] According to former Sega of America research and development head Joe Miller, the Nomad was not intended to replace the Game Gear, and Sega of Japan had few plans for the new handheld. [8] Sega was supporting five different consoles: Saturn, Genesis, Game Gear, Pico, and the Master System, as well as the Sega CD and 32X add-ons. In Japan, the Mega Drive had never been successful and the Saturn was more successful than Sony's PlayStation, so Sega Enterprises CEO Hayao Nakayama decided to focus on the Saturn, resulting in the end of support for the Genesis and Genesis-based products. [10] Additionally, the Game Boy, Nintendo's handheld console which had been dominant in the market, became even more dominant with the release of Pokémon Red and Blue. This meant the Nomad was not successful. By 1999, the Nomad was being sold at less than a third of its original price. [3]

Sega Technical Institute video game developer

Sega Technical Institute (STI) was an American development division of Sega. Founded by Atari veteran Mark Cerny in 1991, the studio sought to combine elite Japanese developers, including Sonic Team programmer Yuji Naka and his team, with new American talent. STI developed a number of Sonic the Hedgehog games, as well as other games for the Sega Genesis, before it was closed at the end of 1996.

<i>The Ooze</i> 1995 video game

The Ooze (ジ・ウーズ) is a video game developed by Sega Technical Institute and released in 1995 for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis console. In the game, players take the role of a slimy puddle of liquid and face off against various enemies and obstacles.

Sega Pico Educational video game console

The Sega Pico, also known as Kids Computer Pico, is an educational video game console by Sega Toys. Marketed as "edutainment", the main focus of the Pico was educational video games for children between 3 and 7 years old. The Pico was released in June 1993 in Japan and November 1994 in North America and Europe, later reaching China. It was succeeded by the Advanced Pico Beena, which was released in Japan in 2005. Though the Pico was sold continuously in Japan through the release of the Beena, in North America and Europe the Pico was less successful and was discontinued in early 1998, later being re-released by Majesco Entertainment. Releases for the Pico were focused on education for children and included titles supported by licensed franchised animated characters, including Sega's own Sonic the Hedgehog series. Overall, Sega claims sales of 3.4 million Pico consoles and 11.2 million game cartridges, and over 350,000 Beena consoles and 800,000 cartridges.

Technical specifications

Motorola MC68000, similar to one used in the Genesis Nomad KL Motorola MC68000 CLCC.jpg
Motorola MC68000, similar to one used in the Genesis Nomad

Similar to the Genesis and the Mega Jet, the Nomad's main CPU is a Motorola 68000. [11] Possessing similar memory, graphics, and sound capabilities, the Nomad is nearly identical to the full-size console; the only variation is that it is completely self-sufficient. However, due to the smaller screen size it suffers from screen blurring, particularly during fast scrolling. [12] The Nomad has a 3.25 inch side-lit color screen and an A/V output that allows the Nomad to be played on a television screen. [11] Design elements of the handheld were made similar to the Game Gear, but included six buttons for full compatibility with later Genesis releases. [3] Also included were a red power switch, headphone jack, volume dial, and separate controller input for multiplayer games. The controller port functions as player 2, so single-player games cannot be played with a Genesis controller. [11] The Nomad could be powered by an AC adapter, a battery recharger known as the Genesis Nomad PowerBack, or six AA batteries, [5] [13] which provide a battery life of two to three hours. [3] The Nomad consumed more power (DC 9V, 3.5W) than Sega's earlier portable gaming console, the Game Gear (DC 9V, 3W). The Nomad also lacks a "Reset" button, which makes it impossible to complete certain games, such as the X-Men video game, which require pressing the button to finish certain objectives.

Central processing unit Central component of any computer system which executes input/output, arithmetical, and logical operations

A central processing unit (CPU), also called a central processor or main processor, is the electronic circuitry within a computer that carries out the instructions of a computer program by performing the basic arithmetic, logic, controlling, and input/output (I/O) operations specified by the instructions. The computer industry has used the term "central processing unit" at least since the early 1960s. Traditionally, the term "CPU" refers to a processor, more specifically to its processing unit and control unit (CU), distinguishing these core elements of a computer from external components such as main memory and I/O circuitry.

Motorola 68000 microprocessor

The Motorola 68000 is a 16/32-bit CISC microprocessor, introduced in 1979 by Motorola Semiconductor Products Sector.

Scrolling demo effect

In computer displays, filmmaking, television production, and other kinetic displays, scrolling is sliding text, images or video across a monitor or display, vertically or horizontally. "Scrolling," as such, does not change the layout of the text or pictures but moves the user's view across what is apparently a larger image that is not wholly seen. A common television and movie special effect is to scroll credits, while leaving the background stationary. Scrolling may take place completely without user intervention or, on an interactive device, be triggered by touchscreen or a keypress and continue without further intervention until a further user action, or be entirely controlled by input devices.

The Nomad is fully compatible with several Genesis peripherals, including the Sega Activator, Team Play Adaptor, Mega Mouse, and the Sega Channel and XBAND network add-ons. However, the Nomad is not compatible with the Power Base Converter, Sega CD, or 32X. This means the Nomad can only play Genesis games, whereas the standard Genesis can also play Master System, Sega CD, and 32X game with the respective add-ons. [3]

Game library

A typical in-game screenshot of Sonic the Hedgehog, taken from its first level, Green Hill Zone MD Sonic the Hedgehog.png
A typical in-game screenshot of Sonic the Hedgehog , taken from its first level, Green Hill Zone

The Nomad does not have its own game library, but instead plays Genesis games. At the time of its launch, the Nomad had over 500 games available for play. However, no pack-in game was included. The Nomad can boot unlicensed, homebrew, and bootleg games made for the Genesis. Some earlier third-party games have compatibility issues when played on the Nomad, but can be successfully played through the use of a Game Genie. Likewise, due to its lack of compatibility with any of the Genesis' add-ons, it is unable to play any games for the Sega Master System, Sega CD, or Sega 32X. The Nomad employs two different regional lockout methods, physical and software, but methods have been found to bypass these. [3]

Reception and legacy

Blake Snow of GamePro listed the Nomad as fifth on his list of the "10 Worst-Selling Handhelds of All Time", criticizing its poor timing into the market, inadequate advertising, and poor battery life. [7] Scott Alan Marriott of Allgame placed more than simply timing into reasons for the Nomad's lack of sales, stating, "The reason for the Nomad's failure may have very well been a combination of poor timing, company mistrust and the relatively high cost of the machine (without a pack-in). Genesis owners were too skittish to invest in another 16-bit system." [5] Stuart Hunt of Retro Gamer , however, praised the Nomad, saying in a retrospective that Nomad was "the first true 16-bit handheld" and declared it the best variant of the Genesis. [3] In the same article, he notes the collectability of the Nomad, due to its low production, and states, "Had Sega cottoned on to the concept of the Nomad before the Mega Drive 2, and rolled it out as a true successor to the Mega Drive ... then perhaps Sega may have succeeded in its original goal to prolong the life of the Mega Drive in the U.S." [3] Chris Plante of The Verge drew parallels between the Nomad and the Nintendo Switch, released years later. [14]

See also

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  1. Sczepaniak, John (August 2006). "Retroinspection: Mega Drive". Retro Gamer . No. 27. Imagine Publishing. pp. 42–47. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015 via Sega-16.
  2. "Mega Jet Lands!!". Electronic Gaming Monthly . No. 57. Sendai Publishing. April 1994. p. 64.
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  4. Fahs, Travis. "IGN Presents the History of SEGA (Page 7)". IGN . Retrieved October 18, 2013.
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  11. 1 2 3 "Nomad: Sega's On-the-road Warrior". GamePro . No. 87. IDG. December 1995. p. 20.
  12. "Pocket Cool". Electronic Gaming Monthly . No. 89. Ziff Davis. December 1996. p. 206.
  13. "Games 'n' Gear". GamePro . No. 93. IDG. June 1996. p. 12.
  14. Plante, Chris (May 29, 2017). "Sega Nomad was the Nintendo Switch of 1995 — and now a modder has given it USB power". The Verge . Vox Media . Retrieved August 16, 2018.