It shouldn’t come as a surprise in any way shape or form that we heart SEGA. For some of us, our affection was born early, as we grew up with those legendary Master System and Mega Drive/Genesis consoles and games. Others have become fans thanks to recent developments like the release of the brilliant Sonic Mania on the Nintendo Switch. Either way, the love is real and deep. But for all the marvelous highs SEGA has given us, there are some epic fails along the way, too. No gaming giant is ever exempt from making a mistake here and there, and in today’s post, we’ll look back at those legendary facepalm moments from our favorite gaming corp.
SEGA Introduces a Social Casino
Last year, SEGA decided to try and get involved with the booming mobile gambling industry with the release of its “social casino” app SEGA Slots. Featuring everyone’s favorite spiky blue hero and a host of other recognizable characters, the alleged intention of the app is to pay homage to the gaming giant’s early days as a manufacturer of slot machines. However, in a market saturated with gambling apps that feature games from iGaming specialists, SEGA Slots was doomed to fail from the start.
What was especially bizarre about this app was that even though players couldn’t win any real money or prizes playing the games, they could spend it on in-app purchases. Yep, Apple allowed a maximum spend at one time of under £50 on coins and shy of £100 on gems while over in Google Play, a maximum one-time, in-app purchase was at an eye-watering £179.99 (around $230). However, things got even more baffling when it became apparent was that this social-casino app, which any player could spend over $200 in, received a rating of PEGI 12 in both app marketplaces despite only being suitable for players aged 18 and up. Given that most of the characters featured in the app were on kids’ radars thanks to Cartoon Network shows like Sonic Boom, we were left scratching our heads at this misguided attempt to break into a new market.
SEGA’s Tries to Release a CD-ROM
Back in the halcyon days of the 90s, before all these newfangled apps and streaming nonsense, the Mega Drive/Genesis was our top gaming console of choice. In a series of “what were they thinking” releases, SEGA went and almost spoiled all that by unleashing the SEGA CD (Mega CD outside North America) on us. That attempt to integrate the then-burgeoning CD-ROM technology into what was arguably the most popular SEGA console of all time was, to no surprise, a complete fail.
Not only did the SEGA CD feature one of the smallest game lineups (most of which were FMV “interactive movies”) but this CD drive add-on was also surprisingly expensive. It wouldn’t be long until the release of the 32X, which was a brand-new console with new tech, so few people purchased one, and those who did, soon discovered that it was a bit, well, pointless. The device was not designed with a CD-ROM, as most fans expected. Instead, it utilized a run-of-the-mill consumer-grade CD drive, which caused several problems during the run-up to its launch (including some units overheating and bursting into flames!). Excluding those awful FMVs, the only other games it had were updates of existing Genesis classics despite being marketed as a gaming console that could play CD-quality music.
The 32X Sets the Facepalms in Motion
And that brings us to our final epic SEGA fail, or rather the first in a series of unfortunate events that brought about the corporation’s withdrawal from the console market. The seeds of misfortune had already been planted and sewn with the SEGA CD, but it was the poor 32X that set the facepalms in motion further. Taking a new turn for the company, the 32X was a response to Atari’s upcoming 64-bit Jaguar, so the competition was high, with not every SEGA fan convinced. It was a rushed release, and that was evident in its quality, but the gamers who had parted with cash to purchase it barely had time to explore before they had to buy the Saturn instead.
Ah, the Saturn: was there ever a tale of more woe? Once again, SEGA was in competition with another giant, this time, Sony, in the form of its PlayStation. It featured some key improvements when compared to the 32X, but in many ways, it was too little, too late. One of its key failures was that its internal architecture couldn’t get to grips with 3D, generating a weak gameplay performance. Compared to the dazzling new PlayStation, it looked like poor competition. Plus, when you add in the fact that despite building a huge support infrastructure for Saturn developers, SEGA couldn’t go the extra mile that Sony did when it came time to support those third-party developers. So, come launch day, Sony’s lineup of games totally trumped the Saturn’s. The console managed to last for four years until the arrival of the Dreamcast in 1998, aka the final nail in the coffin.
That was the console that could’ve changed it all: it had a cool controller with LCD memory cards, was compatible with the internet and had one of the best launch game lineups, which it maintained with the library that followed. The Dreamcast preempted the trend for a new generation of high-tech console, but it was no match for the PlayStation 2, and sales began to plummet. The Dreamcast may have been an excellent console for its time, but all those fails that went before it sentenced it to death before it even had a chance to thrive. Sniff!