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Sega Genesis Sales

The Genesis was easily the most commercially successful console produced by Sega. Worldwide system sales amounted to nearly 29 million. Although the Super NES sold considerably more in total (around 49 million), Sega's system did distinctly better than Nintendo's in certain regional markets, such as those of Europe and Brazil. Although it never did well in Japan, where it was originally released, it was an extremely strong competitor to the Super NES in North America, and for a time retained the upper hand in popularity.

Note: For reasons of consistency, Sega's system will be referred to below as the Genesis, even though it was called the Mega Drive originally as well as everywhere outside North America.


Like its predecessor, the 8-bit Sega Master System, the Genesis did not succeed in the Japanese market. Nintendo continued to reign supreme, having held over 90% of the game console market share at the time of the Genesis's launch and then keeping much of that share long afterward. In Japan, the Genesis was even behind the NEC PC Engine (known in NA as the Turbografx-16), a console with relatively little popularity worldwide.

North America

The Genesis dominated the North American console market during part of the early '90s, only beginning to lose its lead in 1993. It originally had had some difficulty contending with Nintendo's 8-bit NES, which had been an immense commercial success in past years and had easily outsold Sega's previous console, the Master System, in North America. However, this changed when Sega introduced Sonic the Hedgehog, one of the Genesis's most popular game series. Sega gained a gradually larger market share until it held 55%, at which time Nintendo finally released the Super NES in 1991 (1990 in Japan). The competition between the two systems continued for years, with neither clearly dominating the other; much of the intensity of the conflict resulted from advertising campaigns such as Sega's famous "Genesis Does What Nintendon't," as well as the contrast between Nintendo's more family-friendly image versus Sega's more "cool" and "edgy" one.

Eventually, it appeared to many that the Super NES was ultimately victorious. Many say, however, that it was the advent of the next (fifth) generation of game systems that was the main factor in the Genesis's eventual downfall, since the public's attention was shifting in that direction, and Sega had begun to devote more resources to the development of enhancements to the Genesis in the form of expensive accessories (the Sega CD and 32X) which ended up failing, as well as to its own next-gen console, the Saturn. Meanwhile, Nintendo had kept concentrating more on improvement of the Super NES's library and capabilities. All in all, the competition in North America seems to have been very well-matched.


The Genesis easily dominated the console market in Europe, where the Sega Master System had previously rivaled Nintendo's NES. Nintendo had never been particularly strong in Europe, and realizing that its popularity there was already critically low after the Genesis's successful release (Nintendo's European market share was possibly as low as 10% by the time the Super NES was released), it did not bother to attempt the formidable task of concentrating operations there in order to gain supremacy. Thus, in comparison to other regions, Europe saw very little challenge offered to the Genesis.


The situation in Brazil was similar in some ways to the one in Europe. The Sega Master System had previously enjoyed much success in Brazil, so the generally more popular Genesis, unsurprisingly, became a hit there as well, with 3/4 of the market share. The system remained popular for a particularly long time in Brazil; it was there that the last licensed game for it came out - as recently as 2002.

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