Sega My Card (1985 – 1987)

The Sega My Card was a ROM card for several models of Sega video game console, initially released in Japan in 1985 as a cheaper means of game distribution than cartridges.

The original My Card was for use on the Sega SG-1000 game console (and SC-3000 computer), where it needed an optional accessory called the Card Catcher as they were released before the My Card was released.

A second version was labled as the My Card Mark III and was for use on the Japan-only Sega Mark III console released in 1985. By 1986, Sega began to move to cartridges as the primary format and by 1987 had stopped releasing games on the My Card Mark III format. The Sega Mark III can read the original My Card version.

Outside of Japan, there was a third version released in 1986 and marketed as the Sega Card for use on the Sega Master System, the international version of the Mark III.

The My Card and My Card Mark III had a limited capacity of up to 32 KB.

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Sega SG-1000 / SC-3000 (1983 – 1985)

The SG-1000 was Sega’s first home video game console introduced in 1983 in response to a downturn in arcades. It provided the basis for its more successful successor, the Sega Master System.

A version of the SG-1000 with a keyboard was released as the Sega Computer 3000 (SC-3000). Later, a revised version of the SG-1000, the SG-1000 II was released with improvements such as detachable controllers and the ability to use Sega Card games (an optional accessory was available for the original SG-1000 to accept cards).

68 cartridges were released for the SG-1000, and 29 Sega My Cards. 26 of the cartridges require the use of either the accessory keyboard or the SC-3000. All of the games will also work on the Master System.

The SG-1000 was not a great commercial success, partly due to competition from the Nintendo Famicom, released in Japan on the same day as the SG-1000, but it did sell 2 million units worldwide before being discontinued in 1985.

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Sega Visual Memory Unit (VMU) (1999 – 2001)

The Sega Visual Memory Unit or VMU was used in the Sega Dreamcast. The Dreamcast was the first sixth-generation video game console, preceding the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube, and was initially successful in the US. However, interest declined as hype around the launch of the PlayStation 2 increased, and Sega suffered significant losses, discontinuing the Dreamcast in 2001 and withdrawing from the video game console market.

The Visual Memory Unit was a 128 KB memory card that plugged into the controller. Unlike other memory cards for game consoles, the Visual Memory Unit contained a small LCD screen, speaker and control buttons so it could be used as a minimal handheld console separately from the Dreamcast. It could also convey secret gameplay information to the player via the controller.

The Visual Memory Unit also had file manager capabilities, a clock and calendar. They could be connected to another Visual Memory Unit for multiplayer gaming or transfer of files.

The standard Visual Memory Unit colour was white, but many other colours were released, and some branded Visual Memory Units were released in Japan, such as Sonic Team and Hello Kitty.

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Sega Game Gear (1991 – 1997)

Sega Game GearThe Sega Game Gear was a handheld game console introduced by Sega in 1990 (subsequently launched in Europe in 1991).

It was a fourth-generation, 8-bit device, and primarily competed with the Nintendo Game Boy, Atari Lynx and the NEC TurboExpress. With an adaptor (the Master System Converter) the Game Gear could play titles from the Sega Master System.

Containing a full-colour backlit screen with a landscape format, Sega positioned the Game Gear as technologically superior to the Nintendo Game Boy. However, due to issues with its short battery life, lack of original titles and weak support from Sega, the Game Gear was unable to surpass the Game Boy, selling approximately 11 million units.

Over 300 games were released for the Game Gear (compared with over 1000 for the Nintendo Game Boy), although at the time of its launch, there were only six software titles available. The casings were moulded black plastic with a rounded front to aid removal.

The Sega Game Gear was discontinued in 1997.

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Sega Card (1987 – 1989)

The Sega Card was a ROM card for the Sega Master System, a third-generation video game console released in 1987 in Europe. The Master System was a redesigned version of the Japan-only Sega Mark III, which also used ROM cards, marketed as My Card Mark III.

The Master System was designed to play both cartridges and and the credit card-sized Sega Card, which was intended as as a cheaper means of game distribution for smaller games (Sega Cards had a storage capacity limited to 32 KB).

Sega phased out the Sega Card format in 1989 due due to limited popularity with consumers, and with the release of the redesigned Master System II, the Sega Card slot was removed. However, the Sega Mega Drive (known in North America as the Sega Genesis) could use an accessory called the Master System Converter (Power Base Converter in the US) to play Master System games, and this retained a card slot until redesigned in 1993.

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Sega Master System (1985 – 1996)

The Master System was a third-generation video game console made by Sega, and was a redesign of the Sega Mark III, first available in Japan in 1985.

The Master System could play both cartridges and the credit card-sized ‘Sega Cards‘, which retailed for less than cartridges but had lower storage capacity. Master System game cartridges released outside Japan had a different shape and pin configuration from the Japanese Master System/Mark III cartridges.

It competed with the Nintendo Entertainment System, but failed to overturn its significant market share advantage in Japan and North America. However in other markets such as Europe, it outsold the NES.

In 1990, Sega released the Master System II, a low-cost Master System that lacked several of the original’s features, including the Sega Card slot.

It was supported in Europe until 1996, and the last title released was The Smurfs: Travel the World.

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Sega 32X (1994 – 1995)

The Sega 32X was not a console in itself, but a short-lived add-on introduced in 1994 for the Sega Mega Drive. It allowed users to play 32-bit games on the 16-bit Mega Drive, to extend the life of the Mega Drive system whilst the user base of the Sega Saturn grew.

Sega 32X cartridges are plugged into the 32X unit, and Mega Drive cartridges can also be used in the 32X, allowing it to be permanently attached to the Mega Drive.

32X cartridges are fundamentally the same as Mega Drive cartridges with some small differences in the plastic casing.

The last games for the 32X were released in 1996, but the system itself was cancelled in 1995 so Sega could concentrate its efforts on the Saturn.

Sega Mega Drive (1990 – 1998)

Released in 1990 in Europe, the Sega Mega Drive was also know as the Sega Genesis in North America. It was the successor to the Sega Master System, and Master System cartridges could be used on the Mega Drive by using a Power Base Converter.

Several add-ons were available, such as the Sega Mega-CD/Sega CD and Sega 32X which extended the Mega Drive’s capabilities.

Sega created the first content rating system for video games, the Videogame Rating Council (later to become the Entertainment Software Rating Board), due to the controversy over the content of games such as Mortal Kombat.

The last new licensed game was released in 2002 in Brazil, but support for the console in Europe had ended by 1998.