Why Sega Channel Was Ahead Of Its Time

When the first at-home video game console was released in 1972, people weren’t entirely sure what to think. However, in the coming years, video game consoles became increasingly popular. By the late 1980s, Nintendo had established itself as the leading video game company. However, Sega, the new kid on the block, entered the industry with something to prove. The Sega Genesis was released in the United States in the summer of 1989, and it quickly became a fierce competitor for Nintendo. By the 90s, business was booming for Sega, and the company was on the cutting edge of technology. In 1994, Sega released something called Sega Channel which they hoped would completely revolutionize the video game world. Even though Sega Channel didn’t have that impact at the time, it is now considered the grandfather of online gaming. Keep reading to learn all about how Sega Channel was ahead of its time.

What Was Sega Channel?

First things first, if you didn’t have Sega Channel back in the day, you missed out on something great. Released in the winter of 1994, Sega Channel was a pay-to-play online game service. Users could access the system through a Sega Genesis cartridge that had cable output. When the console was powered on, it would power the Sega Channel cartridge and provide access to the system. Each game users played would be temporarily downloaded until the console was turned off. With a monthly subscription fee, users gained access to a variety of games (usually 50) and cheat codes. Titles were initially rotated on a monthly basis. However, this was eventually changed to two weeks. According to the Sega Channel website from 1997, “Every two weeks we bombard you with a mix of 40 Genesis games for your thumb-blistering pleasure. The action-packed, the puzzling, the classics, the speedsters and the exclusive games are all available to you, your Genesis and your TV all the livelong day.” As someone who has Sega Channel, I can say that there was nothing more exciting than seeing which new games were posted every few weeks. No matter what kind of games you liked, Sega Channel had something for you. Unfortunately, though, the service was abruptly discontinued in 1998.

How It Was Ahead Of Its Time

Even though Sega Channel wasn’t actually the first time video games and the internet crossed paths, it was definitely the most memorable attempt and successful attempt from that time period. Here are some of the ways the world simply wasn’t ready for it.

High Monthly Price

These days, paying subscription fees is par for course. However, that wasn’t exactly the case during the 1990s. Needless to say, the thought of paying a monthly subscription fee for video games didn’t sit well with a lot of people. This is especially true because Sega Channel was targeted at young gamers who, more than likely, didn’t have any money of their own. During its run, Sega Channel cost about $15 with an initial $25 activation fee. For many people at the time, that was simply too high.

People Weren’t Ready for What Sega Channel Had to Offer

Most people would agree that they love technology, but the sad truth is that they don’t always understand it. This can make it difficult for companies to roll out new things, because people often resist things they don’t understand. Unfortunately for Sega, this created a problem for Sega Channel. The internet as a whole wasn’t an everyday concept at the time, so the thought of using the internet to play video games

The Concept Should’ve Been Released Earlier In The Console’s Life Cycle

When Sega Channel was released, Sega Genesis had already been out for five years and Sega Saturn had already been released. Even though Sega Genesis was still popular, that popularity was starting to wane. Had Sega Channel been released a few years earlier, it would’ve given people more time to get used to it while the console was still in its heyday. This point may seem a little contradictory, but being even more ahead of its time may have actually helped.

How Sega Channel Paved The Way For Online Gaming

Having the ability to play online is now a normal part of the gaming experience. Many of today’s gamers don’t even realize that Sega played a big role in making that possible. Thanks to the company’s innovation, Sega showed some of the great things that could be done when video games and the internet worked together. On top of that, Sega Channel also helped companies see the need for faster internet. According to IGN, “Many cable operators had to clean their broadcast signal and equipment to ensure the SEGA Channel could be received, so the very fact that you’re enjoying broadband internet right now could well be thanks to SEGA.” Even though it’s been almost 25 years since Sega Channel’s last update, its memory continues to live on in the hearts of old-school gamers everywhere.


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