The Mega Drive has Launched!

The following is a translation of an interview from the January 1989 issue of Beep! magazine concerning the launch of the Mega Drive and news of the promised add-ons. Given time required to publish, the interview was likely conducted in November, shortly after the Mega Drive’s release. The original scans can be found at the bottom.

The Clash Begins! The New Game Console War!

Sold Out! The Ambitions of the Mega Drive

The Mega Drive debuted on October 29 as the first 16-bit home console. It’s going to be packed with add-ons!

The Mega Adapter is Finally Here! Ten New Third-Parties!

Since its release, the Mega Drive has been continuously sold out, and rumors are floating about that it still has not even been released in certain areas.

To follow up on the status of the add-on equipment that was promised at the time of the Mega Drive’s announcement, Beep visited the familiar main office of Sega in Ōtorii.

We interviewed Kamata on the business side and Sato on the development side, but we have consolidated their responses into one.

Left: Hideki Sato of hardware R&D, the father of the Mega Drive. Right: Shigeo Kamata of home video sales, who also appeared in the November issue.

Sorry for Being Sold Out!

Beep: The Mega Drive is incredibly popular, isn’t it?

Sega: Well, we still can’t release accurate numbers, but it seems to be doing well compared to the PC Engine, which was released around the same time last year.

Beep: It seems like the supply hasn’t caught up with the demand yet.

Sega: It’s now becoming available at most major stores, but anyhow, the problem was related to the memory shortage that’s been going on. The Mega Drive uses a large amount of memory, so the shortage created huge problems for us. We’ve even made these recently…

Beep: They’re posters and banners apologizing for being sold out. We should make these gifts for our readers.

Sega: At any rate, we prohibit our employees from using their status to acquire units for family and friends and other such preferential treatment, so we urge all of the readers out there to also be patient for a little while longer.

Backward Compatibility Adapter to be Released in December

Beep: Moving on to the main topic of the Mega Drive’s add-ons, we received many more requests for the Mega Adapter than we had predicted…

Sega: We were also surprised by the results of our own survey, which showed the same demand. Due to the memory shortage that we just mentioned, we’ve only released two Mega Drive games so far, and there are also an unexpected number of new users who don’t already have a Master System or Mark III. It’s only natural that they want to try out the previous games. At present, we’ve made it our number one priority to get the adapter ready, and here is a mockup of it. You insert it into the cartridge slot like this and secure it with a screw on the back. It also has a separate Sega Card slot.

The Mega Adapter. Its design matches seamlessly with the Mega Drive. It supports both cartridges and cards.

Beep: Somehow, the Mega Drive looks even cooler with the adapter.

Sega: We put some effort into that…

Beep: Do you have any information on the release date and the cost?

Sega: It will be released between December 10 and 15 and will cost about 4000 yen.

Beep: Together with the Mega Drive that comes to 25,000 yen. That’s quite nice.

Sega: We don’t intend to make a profit on this. It’s like a complimentary gift.

Beep: Does the adapter output the signal?

Sega: No, the cartridge slot is connected to the bus so the Mega Drive can handle the output.

Many Add-ons Next Year

Beep: How is the floppy disk drive coming along?

Sega: As we showed you before, we have a prototype ready, but the problem is the cost. We want to make it at the same level as the main console, but that’s going to cost a lot of money for children. They’d be able to buy four games for the same price, so we have a big responsibility to make the right decision.

The two-inch floppy disk drive is built to be highly reliable. Its design also smoothly matches that of the Mega Drive. Unlike the Famicom’s Quick Disk system, it is a “true” floppy disk system.

Beep: But you could stop relying on ROM chips for games, so there are some good points.

Sega: Basically, we’re hoping that the memory shortage ends soon, but either way, we will absolutely release the FDD around next spring, once the market settles back down.

Beep: We’re looking forward to it. Next, the CD-ROM drive…

Sega: We’re also going to release that. However, more than just accepting everyone’s money, we want to release some great games together with the CD-ROM drive. We’re researching it now, and it looks like we will be able to release it in or after next summer.

Beep: How is the price looking?

Sega: Including the interface, we want it to be lower than 49,800 yen. If possible, we’d like to get it into the 30,000 yen range.

Beep: The PC Engine’s CD-ROM2 system uses a proprietary format. How will that be in Sega’s case?

Sega: We’re also going to use a proprietary format, but text data and such will be able to be read, depending on the game. Actually, in regards to the format, we’re working with a certain company to develop a standard. We still can’t say much about it, though.

Beep: Aside from games, what other kinds of software are you thinking of for the CD-ROM?

Sega: Education-related software. For example, for preschool children, we could have a CD-ROM with a zoo in it. Either way, the quality of the sound and graphics will be the deciding factor.

Network Games are Coming Soon

Beep: You previously said that Sega was putting a lot of focus on network games…

Sega: That’s right. We’re doing that as well. Here is a mockup of the modem and some sketches of the phone line splitter. There are two splitters drawn, but we haven’t decided which one to go with yet.

The design plans of the modem have been finished. It will attach to the expansion control port in the back of the Mega Drive. It will be small in size and have a low price, but it is a genuine modem that runs at 1200 bps. Three games will be included with it.

Beep: This also connects nicely with the Mega Drive.

Sega: It attaches to the back using a screw like we just talked about with the Mega Adapter. It connects to the expansion control port.

Beep: It seems like you’ll be able to release this soon, but are there any problems?

Sega: We’re actually developing and testing a baseball game, but because this is such a new field, small problems keep popping up. Basically, because you’re playing a game across a phone line, what happens if your opponent doesn’t make a move? If you were playing side-by-side, you could just say, “Hey, hurry up and play!” So we have to figure out these small problems.

Beep: I see. Are you only working on a baseball game?

Sega: We’re thinking about two others as well. One of those is a driving game. In addition, so that you can play some games by just buying the modem, we’re going to include Othello, shogi, and go as pack-in titles. We want to make the modem for children to have fun with, not for adult things such as buying stocks.

Beep: How will the price be?

Sega: Less than 10,000 yen. If possible, around 8,000 yen. We will release it once we’ve taken care of the various problems. Please stay tuned for more info.

The Mega Drive Becomes a Computer

Beep: You need a keyboard for network-related things, right?

Sega: We’re basically making it so that everything can be done with the controller, but it would certainly be more convenient to have a keyboard, so we’ve made this prototype.

The keyboard has a more straight-lined design compared to the Mega Drive, but it has an appealing simplicity to it. It will be released at the same time as the modem and FDD and will cost 5,000 yen.

Beep: It has keys for changing between kana and kanji [different Japanese scripts].

Sega: The labels are just preliminary. We are planning on releasing the keyboard at the same time as the modem and FDD. When you connect these three to the Mega Drive, it will become a complete computer.

Beep: How’s the price for the keyboard?

Sega: About 5,000 yen.

Beep: How about other add-ons?

Sega: Let’s see. We’re preparing a graphic tablet and a standard joystick. The joystick is being developed jointly with another company, so that will depend on when they finish it, but we expect it to come out around March.

There’s also going to be a graphic tablet which will plug into the controller port. Input is done by drawing on it with a hard-tipped object. The tablet portion is clear, so you can place it over a sketch or picture to trace.

Third-Parties and Ports

Beep: Finally, our readers are very interested in third-party developers…

Sega: We have about ten third-party developers now. However, it takes about nine months of development to get to the point where we’re burning ROMs, so we don’t expect their games to hit the market until at least next July.

Beep: How about the upcoming game lineup?

Sega: Sega will release 25 games next year, and the third-party games will be a nice extra to this.

Beep: What is the breakdown of the Sega games?

Sega: Naturally, we’re focusing on ports of our arcade games, so there will be a lot of the shooting-action that we excel at. As for titles that are currently in development, there is Super Hang-On, which I’ve heard has arcade-perfect programming. Of course, we’re increasing the number of stages to make it even more enjoyable than the arcade version. We also have plans for Outrun and Power Drift. These will really show the power of the Mega Drive.

 

As you can see, Sega has a lot of confidence that it can win the third game console war. Up until now, Sega has almost entirely been on its own, but the announcement that ten third-party allies have joined is sure to turn the tide in Sega’s favor.

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