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Super Nintendo Sales

At first Nintendo did not see a particular need to release a new system in the immediate future, since they were still comfortably on top of the gaming market due to the immense success of the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). However, Sega's release of their cutting-edge Genesis console in North America spurred Nintendo to action, especially after Sega's most popular game series, Sonic the Hedgehog, took off, causing Sega to start to gain a strong regional advantage. The Super NES, already in the works but much delayed, was finally finished and released. Thus began the "console war."

In the end, approximately 49 million Super NES systems were sold worldwide, in comparison to around 29 million Genesis systems.

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.


Japan had long been Nintendo's stronghold, and Sega's new console failed to take off properly, since the NES, although technically well below the Genesis, was still very popular. The Genesis contended directly with the NEC PC Engine (a.k.a the Turbografx-16) until the Super NES (known in Japan as the Super Famicom) arrived on the scene in 1990, easily becoming the favorite of the already highly Nintendo-friendly gaming population.

North America

Nintendo's success was much more limited in North America due to the Genesis's great popularity there. The Genesis, having been released earlier (in 1989, whereas the SNES was released in 1991 in NA), already had great third-party support (a thing which by itself did much to make the Genesis more popular than the older Sega Master System), a lower price, and a decent-sized library of games. The Genesis had numerous fans all over NA, and the Super NES had a lot to measure up to. However, the heavy advertising engaged in by Nintendo, the technical superiorities of the system in terms of graphics and sound, and the selection of fantastic games which expanded as time went on caused the Super NES to pose an immense challenge to the Genesis.

Even in the face of challenges such as a relatively "uncool" image among older gamers and adverse publicity resulting from Nintendo's censorship of games like Mortal Kombat, the Super NES continued to grow in popularity until it eventually surpassed the Genesis. However, this "victory" appears to have been largely due to gamers looking forward to the 32-bit generation of video gaming, which the SNES eventually emulated with some success through the use of expansion chips in software, while Sega failed in similar efforts with the Sega CD and 32X add-ons for the Genesis. Sega's active concentration on its next console also probably contributed to the change in its current console's success.

Europe and Brazil

Nintendo had failed spectactularly in Europe during the NES era, and it would have been bad business for them to devote too many resources toward the rebuilding of their market there when they could have been devoting them to making greater profits in their primary markets. As a result, Nintendo did not do much to stop the Genesis from gaining popularity in Europe, instead preferring to try for a comfortable, minor market share of around 25% after releasing the SNES there (earlier it had been as low as 10%). Thus the Genesis was clearly dominant in this region.

Things were much the same in Brazil as in Europe. Sega had previously enjoyed great popularity in Brazil due to the Master System. Nintendo's market share was very low compared to Sega's there during the SNES/Genesis era, as Sega's Brazilian market share then totaled approximately 75%.

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