Sega Channel

Last updated

Sega Channel
Sega Channel.svg
Sega Channel logo and mascot, Sega Pat
Developer Sega
TypeOnline service
Launch date
  • NA: December 1994
Platform Sega Genesis
StatusDiscontinued as of 1998

Sega Channel was an online game service developed by Sega for the Genesis video game console, serving as a content delivery system. Launching in December 1994, Sega Channel was provided to the public by TCI and Time Warner Cable through cable television services by way of coaxial cable. It was a pay to play service, through which customers could access Genesis games online, play game demos, and get cheat codes. Lasting until July 31, 1998, Sega Channel operated three years after the release of Sega's next generation console, the Sega Saturn. Though criticized for its poorly timed launch and high subscription fee, Sega Channel has been praised for its innovations in downloadable content and impact on online services for video games.

An online game is a video game that is either partially or primarily played through the Internet or any other computer network available. Online games are ubiquitous on modern gaming platforms, including PCs, consoles and mobile devices, and span many genres, including first-person shooters, strategy games and massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG).

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 of 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, followed by North America as the Genesis in 1989. In 1990, it was distributed as the Mega Drive by Virgin Mastertronic in Europe, Ozisoft in Australasia, and Tectoy in Brazil. In South Korea, it was distributed by Samsung as the Super Gam*Boy and later the Super Aladdin Boy.



Released in Japan as the Mega Drive in 1988, North America in 1989, and Europe and other regions as the Mega Drive in 1990, the Sega Genesis was Sega's entry into the 16-bit era of video game consoles. [1] In 1990, Sega started their first Internet-based service for the console, Sega Meganet, in Japan. Operating through a cartridge and a peripheral called the "Mega Modem", this system allowed Mega Drive owners to play seventeen games online. A North American version of this system, dubbed "Tele-Genesis", was announced but never released. [2] Another phone-based system, the Mega Anser, turned the Japanese Mega Drive into an online banking terminal. [1] Due to Meganet's low number of titles, prohibitively high price, and the Mega Drive's lack of success in Japan, the system proved to be a commercial failure. By 1992, the Mega Modem peripheral could be found in bargain bins at a reduced price, [3] and a remodeled version of the console released in 1993 removed the EXT 9-pin port altogether, preventing the newer model from being connected to the Meganet service. [4]

Internet Global system of connected computer networks

The Internet is the global system of interconnected computer networks that use the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to link devices worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of private, public, academic, business, and government networks of local to global scope, linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless, and optical networking technologies. The Internet carries a vast range of information resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext documents and applications of the World Wide Web (WWW), electronic mail, telephony, and file sharing.

Sega Meganet, also known as the Net Work System, was an online service for the Mega Drive in Japan and later Brazil. Utilizing dial-up Internet access, Meganet was Sega's first online multiplayer gaming service, and functioned on a pay to play basis. The system functioned through the use of a peripheral called the Mega Modem and offered several unique titles that could be downloaded, and a few could be played competitively with friends. In addition, it shared technology and equipment with more serious services such as the Mega Anser, used for banking purposes. Though the system was announced for North America under the rebranded name "Tele-Genesis", it was never released for that region. Ultimately, the Meganet service would be short-lived, lasting approximately a year before it was discontinued, but would serve as a precursor to the Sega Channel and XBAND services, as well as a predecessor to online gaming services for video game consoles. Retrospective feedback praises the attempt by Sega to introduce online gaming, but criticizes the service for its logistical issues and lack of titles.

A Model 2 Sega Genesis, released in 1993 Sega-Genesis-Mk2-6button.jpg
A Model 2 Sega Genesis, released in 1993

In April 1993, Sega announced the Sega Channel service, which would utilize cable television services to deliver content. [5] National testing in the United States for the service began in June, and deployment across the United States began in December, [6] with a complete U.S. release in 1994. [7] By June 1994, Sega Channel had gained a total of 21 cable companies signed up to carry the service. [8] Fees in the United States for the service varied depending on location, but were approximately US$15 monthly, plus a $25 activation fee, which included the adapter. [7] The Sega Channel expanded into Canada in late 1995, with an approximately Can$19 monthly fee. [9] During the planning stages of the service, Sega looked to capitalize on the rental market, which had seen some success with the Sega CD being rented through Blockbuster, Inc., and was looking to base the service's offering of games and demos to help sell more cartridges. [5]

Cable television Television content transmitted via signals on coaxial cable

Cable television is a system of delivering television programming to consumers via radio frequency (RF) signals transmitted through coaxial cables, or in more recent systems, light pulses through fiber-optic cables. This contrasts with broadcast television, in which the television signal is transmitted over the air by radio waves and received by a television antenna attached to the television; or satellite television, in which the television signal is transmitted by a communications satellite orbiting the Earth and received by a satellite dish on the roof. FM radio programming, high-speed Internet, telephone services, and similar non-television services may also be provided through these cables. Analog television was standard in the 20th century, but since the 2000s, cable systems have been upgraded to digital cable operation.

United States dollar Currency of the United States of America

The United States dollar is the official currency of the United States and its territories per the United States Constitution since 1792. In practice, the dollar is divided into 100 smaller cent (¢) units, but is occasionally divided into 1000 mills (₥) for accounting. The circulating paper money consists of Federal Reserve Notes that are denominated in United States dollars.

Canadian dollar currency of Canada

The Canadian dollar is the currency of Canada. It is abbreviated with the dollar sign $, or sometimes Can$ or C$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies. It is divided into 100 cents (¢).

In early 1995, Sega CEO Hayao Nakayama decided to end development on the Sega Genesis and its add-ons, the Sega CD and Sega 32X. This decision was made to support the Sega Saturn, which had been released in Japan already. [1] This placed the release of the Sega Channel right at the height of the Genesis' decline from the market. [6] At its peak, Sega Channel had over 250,000 subscribers, but by 1997, the number of subscribers had dropped to 230,000, [10] two years after Nakayama made the decision to shift focus from the Genesis to the Saturn. [6] Though Sega looked at options to bring the service to PCs, [10] the service was eventually discontinued by July 31, 1998. [11]

A video game accessory is a distinct piece of hardware that is required to use a video game console, or one that enriches the video game's play experience. Essentially, video game accessories are everything except the console itself, such as controllers, memory, power adapters (AC), and audio/visual cables. Most video game consoles come with the accessories required to play games out of the box : one A/V cable, one AC cable, and a controller. Memory is usually the most required accessory outside of these, as game data cannot be saved to compact discs. The companies that manufacture video game consoles also make these accessories for replacement purposes as well as improving the overall experience. There is an entire industry of companies that create accessories for consoles as well, called third-party companies. The prices are often lower than those made by the maker of the console (first-party). This is usually achieved by avoiding licensing or using cheaper materials. For the mobile systems like the PlayStation Portable and Game Boy iterations, there are many accessories to make them more usable in mobile environments, such as mobile chargers, lighting to improve visibility, and cases to both protect and help organize the collection of system peripherals to. Newer accessories include many home-made things like mod chips to bypass manufacturing protection or homemade software.

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.

Personal computer Computer intended for use by an individual person

A personal computer (PC) is a multi-purpose computer whose size, capabilities, and price make it feasible for individual use. Personal computers are intended to be operated directly by an end user, rather than by a computer expert or technician. Unlike large costly minicomputer and mainframes, time-sharing by many people at the same time is not used with personal computers.

Technical aspects and specifications

Scientific Atlanta Sega Channel adapter in original box complete with power adapter, coaxial adapter, and documentation Sega Channel adapter.jpg
Scientific Atlanta Sega Channel adapter in original box complete with power adapter, coaxial adapter, and documentation

After making the initial purchase and paying the activation fee, Genesis owners would receive an adapter that would be inserted into the cartridge slot of the console. [7] The adapter connected the console to a cable television wire, [8] doing so by the use of a coaxial cable output in the rear of the cartridge. [6] Starting up a Genesis console with an active Sega Channel adapter installed would prompt for the service's main menu to be loaded, which was a process that took approximately 30 seconds. From there, gamers could access the content they wished to play and download it into their system, which could take up to a few minutes per game. [7] This data would be downloaded into the adaptor's on-board 4 MB RAM, and would be erased when the system was powered off. [11]

Coaxial cable A type of electrical cable with an inner conductor surrounded by concentric insulating layer and conducting shield

Coaxial cable, or coax is a type of electrical cable that has an inner conductor surrounded by a tubular insulating layer, surrounded by a tubular conducting shield. Many coaxial cables also have an insulating outer sheath or jacket. The term coaxial comes from the inner conductor and the outer shield sharing a geometric axis. Coaxial cable was invented by English physicist, engineer, and mathematician Oliver Heaviside, who patented the design in 1880.

Programming and transmission of the Sega Channel's monthly services started with a production team at Sega, which would put together content every month and load it onto a CD-ROM. It was then sent to a satellite station, [12] located in Denver, Colorado. [13] From the station, the signal was transmitted via a Galaxy 7 satellite, which uploaded at 1.435 GHz and downloaded at 1.1 GHz, to the local cable providers. [6] In Canada and across South America and Europe, however, the satellite transmission stage was bypassed altogether in favor of direct uploads of the Sega Channel CD-ROM via a cable television headend. [12] In order for the signal to function properly, it had to be clear of noise in order to prevent download interruptions. To ensure no issues, cable providers had to "clean" their broadcast signal. [7] [11]

CD-ROM pre-pressed compact disc

A CD-ROM is a pre-pressed optical compact disc that contains data. Computers can read—but not write to or erase—CD-ROMs, i.e. it is a type of read-only memory.

Satellite Human-made object put into an orbit

In the context of spaceflight, a satellite is an object that has been intentionally placed into orbit. These objects are called artificial satellites to distinguish them from natural satellites such as Earth's Moon.

Denver State capital and consolidated city-county in Colorado

Denver, officially the City and County of Denver, is the capital and most populous municipality of the U.S. state of Colorado. Denver is located in the South Platte River Valley on the western edge of the High Plains just east of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. The Denver downtown district is immediately east of the confluence of Cherry Creek with the South Platte River, approximately 12 mi (19 km) east of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Denver is named after James W. Denver, a governor of the Kansas Territory, and it is nicknamed the Mile High City because its official elevation is exactly one mile above sea level. The 105th meridian west of Greenwich, the longitudinal reference for the Mountain Time Zone, passes directly through Denver Union Station.

Game library

Alien Soldier, a game released for the service. Though not available in North America in cartridge format, it was available on Sega Channel in that region. AlienSoldierScreenshot.jpeg
Alien Soldier , a game released for the service. Though not available in North America in cartridge format, it was available on Sega Channel in that region.

The Sega Channel service (also known as "Sega On The Line") hosted up to 50 Genesis games at any one time. Titles would rotate monthly; [14] however, some updates happened on a weekly basis. In 1997, Sega changed the number of games hosted at a time to 70 and the update frequency to biweekly. [15] Games for the service included titles developed by Sega, such as Sonic & Knuckles , Eternal Champions , and Space Harrier II ; as well as titles developed by licensees of Sega, such as Bubsy 2 and Aladdin . Some of these games had reduced content compared to their cartridge release so that they could fit the adapter's memory, such as Super Street Fighter II . [14] Sega Channel also hosted games in some regions that would not receive a cartridge release, such as Pulseman , Mega Man: The Wily Wars , and Alien Soldier , which were hosted on the service in North America. [16] The service also offered demos of upcoming games, such as Primal Rage . [7] Though games and demos rotated on a regular basis, categories into which games were placed remained static and did not change. With parental controls in mind, all games for the service received a rating from the Videogame Rating Council. The service also contained a lockout system which would allow parents to set a passcode in order to access mature rated content. [6]

In addition to games and demos, Sega Channel also hosted other features. Cheat codes were directly accessible from the network, as well as game hints. [14] [17] The service also hosted contests, such as a promotion with Electronic Arts' Triple Play '96 , and a 1995 event where players who completed Primal Rage during a brief 24-hour period where the full game was accessible were given a phone number to call, making them eligible to win prizes. [6]

Reception and legacy

During its lifetime, Sega Channel won one of Popular Science's "Best of What's New" award for the year 1994. Likewise, in August 1995, a survey conducted by Sports Illustrated found that children between 9 and 13 years old were five times more likely to subscribe to Sega Channel than to purchase a Sega Saturn or the upcoming Nintendo 64 or PlayStation. [6] The service would go on to garner as many as 250,000 subscribers; [11] however, Sega had anticipated having over one million subscribers by the end of its first year, and had made the service available to over 20 million households. [6]

Retrospective reception of Sega Channel praises its innovation and role in the development of online gaming, but criticizes its high subscription fees and timing into the market. IGN writer Adam Redsell notes how Sega Channel caused many cable companies to clean their broadcast signal and its role in the development of high-speed internet, stating "...the very fact that you’re enjoying broadband internet right now could well be thanks to SEGA." [11] Levi Buchanan, also writing for IGN, credits Sega Channel with its role in the development of modern gaming and content delivery services, such as Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, stating "SEGA and the entire industry learned important lessons from the SEGA Channel. SEGA was still committed to the idea of downloads and online, as evidenced by the Dreamcast's SegaNet... You can also see the DNA of early services like the SEGA Channel in modern portals like XBLA and PSN, where demos are now a staple." [7] The staff of UGO Networks also credits Sega Channel with being an important step in the development of both services. [17]

Ken Horowitz of Sega-16 criticizes Sega's poor timing of the launch of Sega Channel and the subscription's high price. According to Horowitz, "Who would spend $13 a month to play games for a dying system? This horrendous blunder (one of many by Sega Enterprises) caused retailers to dump their inventory of systems, thereby sealing the fate of the Sega Channel once and for all." [6] Buchanan echoes the same sentiments, stating, "Perhaps if the SEGA Channel had been released earlier in the console's lifecycle—the Genesis launched in 1989 in America—things might have turned out differently. After all, the service did gain notice for its advancement of gaming and technology." [7] UGO also notes the potential Sega Channel could have had with some more development time in the field of competitive multiplayer, stating, "If the Sega Channel had come a little earlier in the life of the Genesis it would have seen much more exposure, and maybe online play would have been feasible for games that could have been developed directly for the service." [17]

See also

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