by Dark Watcher
It was the winter of 1994, and new more powerful consoles were entering the videogame market. Gamers were enjoying new 3D arcade
games, and the 16-bit Genesis / Mega Drive seemed to be feeling its age. It was January 8th 1994 when Sega CEO Hayao Nakayama directed
his company to produce a 32-bit cartridge-based console to be in stores by Christmas 1994. The project, dubbed Jupiter,
was given to 'Sega of America' while their Japan sector worked on a CD-Based console. Not happy with the idea of developing a simple
console that had a 32-bit processor and more colors, Joe Miller of Sega of America chose to make the project an add on for the Genesis
/ Mega Drive. Sega of America began development on the add on called project Mars without any knowledge of the 32-bit CD console being
developed by their Japanese counterparts.
Sega began their marketing campaign for project Mars and called the device Sega 32X to emphasis its 32-bit capabilities. The device, which connected through the Genesis / Mega Drive cartridge port, combined its 32-bit processor with the consoles existing processor. Gamers could play 32-bit cartridge games, use the 32X slot as a pass through to play Genesis / Mega Drive games and even play enhanced 32-bit CD games if the Sega CD was attached. The 32X was released in mid-November 1994 in America for the US. Japan got the console in December (Super 32X) and Europe and Australia received it in January 1995 (Mega 32X). With the added power, Sega was able to port their 3D arcade titles for console users and other third party developers began jumping aboard.
|All was not good with planet Mars. The 32X was off to a bad start from the beginning. The 32X was launched with no games initially available. Although it was marketed at a decent price it was not packaged with a pack in game, but came with 10 coupons toward the purchase of 32X software (coupons....meh!). Retailers submitted a demand for over 1 million units, but only half of the amount was made available. In there efforts to meet demand, Sega produced 32X units with various defects. Customers reported incompatibilities with their Genesis / Mega Drive models or TVs. Once again Sega began to scramble to create adapters to alleviate the compatibility problems. They also began to develop an all in one unit combining both the Genesis / Mega Drive and the 32X and dubbed it project 'Neptune'.|
By 1995 news of a 32-bit CD-based Sega Saturn began stirring from Japan. Developers lost interest in 32X and abandoned
development for 32X carts for a more favorable 32-bit CD format. Gamers also caught wind of the news and quickly began losing
interest in the Sega 32X.
By 1996 the 32X saw a total of 31 cart based games and five 32X enhanced Sega CD games. Most of the games were developed by Sega themselves or were color enhanced versions of existing Genesis titles. Sega ceased all support for 32X that year in order to focus on the Sega Saturn. It would seem that the 32X was merely meant to fill the time gap for its CD based counterpart. 32X would also be Sega's final attempt at add on enhancing devices.
FACT: The 32X appeared to be the downturn of Sega. The lack of developer support, device incompatibilities and defects, and the sheer abandonment of support for 32X owners was enough to damage Sega's reputation. This mistake could possibly have contributed to problems in Sega's later years.
A year prior, Sega fell into issues with congress over a game called "Night Trap". The game that stirred up the hornets nest over videogame violence was pulled off retail shelves. This prompted much curiosity and interest in gamers that never got the opportunity to play it. Sega wisely seized an opportunity to cash in by releasing a 32X enhanced version of Night Trap. A major cash in on an otherwise mediocre game.