What SEGA can learn from Nintendo’s NES Classic Edition

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You are reading the title, dumbfounded that a SEGA fanboy like myself would tell the glamorous SEGA to take notes from Nintendo. You might be more confused after I made a jab at the NES Classic Edition on twitter the other day. While personally, I don’t care about a replica box that only plays a set amount of emulated games, I know there is a huge market for it in the states. These things are the Tiger Electronic toys of our time (maybe that’s too harsh)! But Nintendo has announced a few things with this project that I think SEGA should seriously take a closer look at, especially if they will be taking this whole ‘plug-in-play’ market a bit more seriously. 

So let’s talk about the SEGA’s emulated machines, the NES Classic Edition and what SEGA can do to capitalize on the attention that these devices will receive because Nintendo joined the ranks. 

SEGA already did it, sort of…

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I know, you read the intro to this article and got ready to complain that SEGA already has made emulated consoles with SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive and even Master System titles. I know they licensed it out to 3rd party companies to make on the cheap and I know the emulation is complete crap. But let’s go and look at some of the devices that has bared SEGA’s glorious name:

AtGames Sega Genesis Classic Game Console

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Look at this marvelous piece of garbage. SEGA thought that AtGames would be able to deliver ‘quality’ emulation  with this hunk of crap that included 80 games. While I can’t complain on the amount of games provided by AtGames, one of the drawbacks that this device has is that all the games are centered around SEGA published titles. It has hit games like Sonic the Hedgehog, Ecco the Dolphin, Streets of Rage, and Golden Axe. There is a lot of fun to be had with these titles. The only issue? The emulation is complete crap. The sound is very bad. You can check out a My Life With SEGA’s review of the unit below and tell me if this is ‘quality’:

Though I do want to point out that a genius move by AtGames was to include the ability to use original SEGA Genesis carts. This would have been even better if the system had SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive Model 1 high quality sound and way better emulation. This is probably the most seen SEGA ‘plug and play’ device here in the States. But AtGames has released a ton of crappy units world wide including the Arcade Gamer Portable (released in the states), Arcade Legends SEGA Mega Drive Vol. 3 and many more

Mega Drive 3 (2000)

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What you gonna do when you get a SEGA license to create a ‘plug and play’ console based on the SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis? Scrap the beautiful black retro design and put the whole thing in a terrible controller. This thing looks completely fake, like it is a Chinese bootleg item. But no, its officially licensed under SEGA device. That controller looks exactly like those 3rd party controllers you always had back in the day, the ones that no one wanted to use due to how badly it felt in their hands. 

According to the SEGA Retro wiki entry, the device is prone to melting due to poor heat  sink. Yep, SEGA thought it was a good idea to license this product. Also, why is it using Sonic Adventure art to promote a 16-bit console? 

TecToy’s Mega Drive 4

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Didn’t know that Tectoy, the company that released the SEGA Master System and the SEGA Mega Drive during its heyday in Brazil still has the license? I didn’t think so, but what do I know about what’s going in Brazil? In October of 2009 the company thought it would be a great idea to launch a new Mega Drive, calling this one the Mega Drive 4 (then fans copied the idea with the Dreamcast 2)! The first version of the device came with 87 games, now you are thinking that is an odd number of games to pick. I agree, so they released a second version with a nice even number of 100 titles.

[The system even had an ad advertising its exclusive ‘Guitar Idol’ video game]

Not unexpected some of the 100 titles chosen by the company just happen to be TecToy developed titles. Yes, it seems that TecToy developed its own titles for the SEGA Mega Drive. You know those TecToy hits like Cavalos & PeõesGuerra dos Monstros and the unforgettable Os 12 Trabalhos de Jongo. If that wasn’t enough Tectoy created a new game for the Mega Drive 4, called Guitar Idol which was cashing in on the Guitar Hero craze at the time. They even bundled the console with a sweet controller guitar. Tectoy also decided to port some of EA’s mobile titles like FIFA 2008, Need for Speed Pro Street and The Sims 2. I have no idea if they got permission from EA to do that. The second version of the system also came with a SD card slot, but only allowed you to load up MP3’s from the slot and not roms.

Just a lot of terrible licensed plug-in-play products that SEGA has allowed (and continues to allow) manufactures to create. You can check out the handy SEGA Retro page to find more monstrosities.

PlayPal Plug & Play

PlayPal2Whoa. I made a promise this year that I wouldn’t make any fisting jokes, but AtGames is making it hard with this fantastic SEGA plug and play console they created. They even thought it was a good idea to call it ‘PlayPal’, which just makes it seem the more sex toyish. If you didn’t put it together, this is suppose to be a arcade stick shaped as Sonic the Hedgehog‘s head, with his fist as the joystick. Surprisingly the fact that his arm is colored all white didn’t spark online riots the way that Sonic Boom‘s blue arms did.

This beautiful piece of art came with 20 built-in games with fan favorites like Astro Warrior, Altered Beast, Psycho Fox, and Penguin Land. Oh yeah, of course it also had some Sonic the Hedgehog games. You can check out more information and pictures on the SEGA Retro wiki.

What Nintendo did better

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Just reading what I wrote on top, what ‘Nintendo did better’ than SEGA. Ugh, makes me sick. Why did I write that? Well, if SEGA wants to be competitive in all markets, they will have to see what the competition is doing and at least match that. Frankly I think one of the top things that Nintendo did right with the NES Classic Edition out of the gate was not licensing it to another manufacture. They decided that they would take the time and care to design a real NES Classic Edition. As in, it looks like a Nintendo Entertainment System. Not some weird sex controller with Sonic the Hedgehog‘s fist as the joystick.

originalTeaming up with 3rd party companies to include key games was also a big move, especially for someone like Nintendo that seems to be a bit weird about sharing the spotlight at times. While some SEGA plug and play consoles did that, it was very rare for that to happen in the states. It isn’t the end of the world for either Nintendo or SEGA to stick with 1st party releases when it comes to these plug and play devices but I think adding 3rd party titles really broadens the reach of the audience. Believe it or not, there are gamers that enjoy some consoles purely on 3rd party games. For example, when I was in middle school there was a kid that would strictly only play Konami games. That’s it. Didn’t care about anything else. If it had Konami support, he owned the console.

Can we talk about that nice ass looking NES pad? While I find the controller to be too limited outside of NES games (and a few other select titles), its pretty awesome that Nintendo is sticking with its original form factor. Not only that, they are making the controller compatible with the Wii and Wii U. I know what you’re saying, but how can SEGA compete since they don’t have their own consoles anymore? That’s true, but it doesn’t mean they couldn’t make it bluetooth compatible to use on PCs or other gaming consoles. Also want to add that the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive six button controller is one of the nicest controllers for 2D games, period. Right up there with the SEGA Saturn controller. I think many people would buy one of these machines just to be able to use the controller on other machines. I know I would.

What SEGA can improve over Nintendo’s concept

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One thing that has always bothered me about Nintendo’s efforts with emulation is that they just make it work good enough and call it quits. While SEGA’s 3D Classics have shown that SEGA can excel over Nintendo even on their own handheld. Games like 3D OutRun, 3D Fantasy Zone II and others have added new features to existing games that makes them worth buying again. While Nintendo’s games are just the same old roms, not that its a bad thing but as a consumer that has played Super Mario Bros 3 over a million times, tell me it wouldn’t be cool to have extra set of levels in this re-release? If SEGA had to pick a team to lead the titles emulated on a new plug and play console, it should be the folks over at M2. I mean they slaved away making some of the best SEGA Ages PlayStation 2 releases and SEGA 3D Classics are the best emulated titles on the Nintendo e-shop. I recommend everyone giving their official SEGA translated interviews a gander, these guys have a true passion for making emulation as authentic as possible (on the right budget).

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One of the issues right away with the NES Classic Edition is that it won’t have  internet compatibility. This would mean that if you get bored of the said games on the system, then its pretty much useless. You can’t go on the e-shop and pick up a few more NES games. You would think that if they sell enough, allowing users to spend more money to download games onto the system’s memory would be a pretty neat idea. I mean, considering its an extra feature that isn’t forced on the user and the fact that NES games are so tiny. If SEGA ever made their own in-house plug and play console I would love for them to at least (bare minimum) have an online shop to buy new games.

This last idea is pretty wild, considering how rare shelve spacing is for retailers but if they did replica packages of old titles and it had the roms on some sort of proprietary system that lets you simulate the ritual of inserting a cartridge into the console. Let’s say you want to get a copy of Mega Man 3 for your NES Classic Edition at the store, you go and pay a set amount ($12 bucks let’s say) to you get a full replica packing emulating the packaging the original Nintendo Entertainment System games had. That seems like a great idea on paper, but if Nintendo didn’t try to pull it off there was a reason. It would be cool because the packaging on SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive games where always way better.

But if we are going down that path, they can at least put a working SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive cartridge slot like some of the AtGames consoles. I mean, throw us a bone.

So basically 

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While these types of products aren’t aimed at me personally, its nice to see Nintendo build their own plug-in-play style device themselves and trying to capture the NES look with the NES Classic Edition. While it has its drawbacks, at $60 dollars and those nostalgic aesthetics, i’ll be surprised if they don’t fly off the shelves. While we are a SEGA fan site, we should be blunt when competition does something right. Like I said, these types of products don’t interest me personally, but if you are going to do it, make sure you do it correctly.

What isn’t correct is licensing out your IPs to companies that don’t care. I think its insulting for people that actually experienced the SEGA Genesis when it came out or to young kids that will play a SEGA Genesis for the first with that terrible AtGames console sound. The AtGames SEGA Genesis console that I see at every other shop is blasphemous, the terrible emulation does nothing but wear down on SEGA’s branding. Nintendo showed some key moves on how they chose to handle the NES Classic Edition and SEGA should be taking notes. Let’s be honest, while they left the console business, they still create plenty of hardware in Japan in form of arcades. With the SEGA 3D Classics line of games SEGA showed that they could do proper emulation, offer new features in pre-existing roms and out due the competition (including Nintendo) in terms of release quality. If SEGA did their own plug-in-play with the support of M2 and hardware designed by their in-house amusement division people, we could have a pretty badass plug-in-play machine. Or a fanboy can dream.

13 responses to “What SEGA can learn from Nintendo’s NES Classic Edition

  1. Centrale says:

    I think everything about it looks great. They’ve even recreated the original packaging style… they know there’s going to be a significant collector market for these things. But the sound quality is a big unknown. If it’s as bad as the atGames consoles, or the video output is as disappointing as the NeoGeo remake, forget it. With only 30 games, it’s got to get the emulation right.

    As for your other points, yep… it would make a world of difference if Sega made their own throwback consoles.

  2. Gamma says:

    I don’t get ‘Sega at times like this, why can’t they for once just produce their own hardware with bundled software instead of outsourcing and licencing their own hardware devices and brand names to other companies?

    If ‘Sega did it themselves, which they should be more than capable of, then it would be far more collectible and could be more superior in design, people would be pleased to get another Sega home hardware release for the first time in years.

  3. Barry the Nomad says:

    I understand that the design of the mini NES is meant to be literally a mini NES, but I do not understand why they included the cartridge door when it seemingly doesn’t actually open or do anything. It’s like they are treating a functional piece of the console as an aesthetic, which is kind of stupid. I’d have done away with the indent of the cartridge door and just had it be flat gray on the front.

    • Centrale says:

      Hmm, I have to disagree. It was both functional and part of the aesthetic. It’s what people expect to see. It would look stranger without it.

      But they should have at least let it open so people could keep their stash in there, even if it can’t accept a memory card.

  4. Why Sega keep viewing old stuff

  5. Lenno says:

    If Nintendo can do this so easily, why can’t Sega? Nintendo doesn’t rely on third party companies to licence it’s own products too, that shows that Nintendo respects it’s own products unlike Sega, because if Sega did, they would have done this with their own consoles a long time ago.

    • George says:

      I think because for a long time every single company that made these plug and play units outsourced them. I think there have been a few Nintendo ones outsourced outside of America before, so its not new even for the big N.

      But I think Nintendo making the move of handling the product themselves, have put the bar a bit higher than everyone else. That is, if they deliver solid emulation and built product which I think they can more than do.

  6. Dennis Livingston says:

    I remember getting one of those outsourced Genesis plug and play units as a Christmas gift.

    Sshhhhhh, I returned it to the store for cash.

    It was such a cheap poorly made, piece of dookie. If SEGA produced one themselves, I’d buy it in a heartbeat. I’ll probably get this as well.

  7. Dja says:

    Tbh great article george.

  8. Joseph says:

    What about the Majesco Genesis 3?

  9. ChocoLand says:

    It would be nice if Sega’s new quality initiative extended to their plug and play business. Chances are they’ll feel it’s too late to u-turn that business with the Genesis branding. Stupid AT Games

  10. Marcelo says:

    About Tec Toy, yes, they did have the license from EA to release the games, back then EA had offices here in Brazil.
    Also, this isn’t the only version of the Mega Drive released by Tec Toy, check this:
    http://tecnoblog.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/mdplay_580px1.jpg
    It’s like a new Nomad, with 20 games but without the cartridge slot.
    Last month, Tec Toy asked in their Facebook page what console would we like to see coming back to market: Mega Drive or Master System.
    let’s see what they have in mind after this Nintendo mini.

  11. Stephen says:

    I’m looking forward to Nintendo’s efforts here. I’m a bigger fan of Nintendo than Sega, but it’s not 1989 around the school cafeteria lunch table, we needn’t be all in for one without appreciating the other(s). I want this to be a smashing success for N, because if they do it right, then we could maybe see a Classic NES v.2.0 with mini carts, or a memory card port for more emulated games – even a market for that SMB3 with new levels. As technology gets less expensive, I’d like to see what Nintendo could do to its classic titles.

    Even a team that worked strictly to improve the limitations of the color palette (adding more than 3+1 colors to an active sprite) and some of the flashing flaws of cheaply created games would go a long, long way without advanced engineering. Also I know Nintendo isn’t ready for it yet, but I think downloadable user-created content, even through an official approval process (or even a pseudo-official flagging process that could create approved game designers) would transform these old systems in a public way, the way Mario Maker, Little Big Planet and MineCraft put game design and level creation in the hands of the public. And these emulation systems could be the way to go – the game code is out there, Nintendo could set the rulebook, increase the system limitations without exceeding its look & feel into the next generation of consoles, and if done right, creates a new market, new product, and a path forward for Sega to emulate.

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