Black Squirrel, on 16 January 2013 - 02:39 PM, said:
The internet gives the Sega Mega Drive a 1990-11-30 launch date in "Europe". Where does this date come from? I'd like to dispute it because it contradicts quite a bit of what I've read, and I'm trying to put together a list of launch titles (supposedly there might be as many as 22!)
Yes, that's definitely wrong. I got a Mega Drive for Christmas that year (UK). I can remember it officially being in the shops from at least October, prior to that many shops had posters from Virgin warning that grey import machines would not be supported.
UK gaming magazines of the day are really hazy, because obviously having watched the system be delayed for two years, they started talking about import titles, I.e. when were things released in North America or Japan (and priority was still on Amigas/Atari STs). My understanding is that the system was delayed a few times - it was originally penciled in for a Q1/Q2 1990 release (about March/April time, possibly even in 1989 at some point) but was pushed back due to manufacturing problems.
I'd speculate it was more to do with wanting to put a bit of space between the SMS launch (1987) and MD launch. It was in Virgin's interest to attempt to dissuade people from buying grey imports by suggesting that there would soon be an official release. Grey importing for PC Engine and Mega Drive was very popular back then, my friend already had a JP MD, and many specialist shops sold them along with numerous mail order businesses.
Nobody really talked about the system before 1991 because it wasn't a 16-bit computer, but there's a few clues
supposedly the Mega Drive was due to launch in the UK in September, at the "European Computer Entertainment Show" (ECES) which no longer exists and is poorly documented. That year it was held on September 15th-16th, which from what I can see, was a weekend (so sometime between the 17th and 21st? I hear Fridays are big days for gaming in the UK (like Tuesdays in the US)). It's also the same period in which the Game Boy launched, supposedly (Wikipedia says the PAL release for that was the 28th - a Friday)
Yeah, MD officially "launched" at ECES 1990, along with Game Boy, Amstrad GX4000, and C64GS, SNK also showed the Neo Geo. ECES replaced the PCW show which had been run for the previous ten years or so around the same time, and where SMS was launched in 1987. Just prior to the 1991 ECES it was cancelled, which explains why it's not so well documented. SNK had intended to officially launch the Neo Geo at the cancelled 1991 ECES.
The problem with these "launch" dates is that they are not the same as the release dates. Indeed, in the UK consoles didn't really have official release dates until the Super Nintendo (06/06/92). These launches were just the first public showing of the console around the time of release. For example SMS was probably released in August 1987, but didn't "launch" until PCW 1987 (23-27 September 1987). Game Gear was launched at the 1991 Monaco Grand Prix (May 12, 1991), but didn't release in the UK until the first week of July 1991. A good example of this is the CDTV;
Tuesday, April 30th saw the long-awaited UK launch of Commodore's Dynamic Total Vision - CDTV
WHEN YOU CAN BUY:
CBM shipped CDTV units to major High Street retailers such as Dixons, Comet, Alders, and even Harrods, on April 29. Each of these stores will require at least a fortnight to check the stock through their warehouses.
We basically have three different dates;
Not necessarily in that order.
There weren't any street dates back then, retailers just sold them as soon as they received them. Actual release date could theoretically be as early as the same day as shipping date for a small independant store close to the distributor's warehouse, or up to several weeks later for a major national chain.
Fridays have now become the norm for game releases in the UK (but not always consoles), but it wasn't always that way. A very interesting article about that subject here;
There will be 18 different games released on a Tuesday this year, GfK Chart-Track's Dorian Bloch informs me. Last year there were 11, and the year before, eight. But in 2009 there were only two: Modern Warfare 2 and Halo 3: ODST. There were three in 2008: LittleBigPlanet (on a Wednesday!), World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King and Grand Theft Auto 4. And there were two in 2007: Halo 3 (on a Wednesday!) and World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade. But in 2006 there were none. And in 2005 there were also none. And in 2004 there were none again. I mean, I could go on - all the way back to 1993. Nothing, nadda, zilch.
"The first notable Tuesday release was Sega's Sonic The Hedgehog 2 for Mega Drive back on 24th November 1992," Dorian Bloch enlightens me - and that day Sega dubbed "Sonic 2sday". "This was followed in 1993 by the first multi-format event release for Acclaim's Mortal Kombat on Mortal Monday (13/09/93) on Mega Drive, SNES, Game Boy, Game Gear and Master System," he goes on. "However, the practice went out of fashion and 'event' titles released outside of Friday in the modern era essentially began again as of 2007 with World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade."
That suggests Fridays had been established by 1992, but looking at release dates in copies of Edge from 1993 many games still released outside of Fridays. Although it's possible that these were just distributor's shipping dates, and retailers were not meant to sell them until Friday (many probably still sold them as soon as they received them though).
Anyway things I know
- £189.99 would get you a console with Altered Beast. That makes Altered Beast a launch title, obviously
- Games were released in October and November - there are only 30 days in November, so if the internet is right, that makes all of them launch titles. That's why I think the internet is wrong
- Space Harrier II and Super Thunder Blade were sold as "budget" games for about £10 less than normal, on the basis that they were older (1988 in Japan)
Yes, my MD came with Altered Beast, and I remember it being £189.99 (My first choice was an Amiga, but at £399.99 it was too expensive). I also got Forgotten Worlds with it, so that definitely released in 1990, I can't say whether or not it was a day and date launch title though.
the other issue is that obviously "Europe" as a region isn't very... precise (or at least, it wasn't in 1990). The United Kingdom release was likely different than the French or German or Spanish one - different distributors, language barriers, logistical issues etc. This is certainly the case with the Master System - I'm curious to know if it affects the Mega Drive significantly too.
By the time MD released Europe had become pretty consolidated, Virgin was the main distributor for UK, France, Germany, and Spain.
Sega-16: Mastertronic was Sega's major distributor in England, Germany, and France, which helped the Master System greatly. Was this the reason why Sega bought the company in 1991?
Nick Alexander: In 1987 we bought a minority stake in Mastertronic. They needed to raise some cash to pay for the LCs for their first order of Master Systems and we wanted to be in the budget computer game business, which Mastertronic dominated. Sega delivered the shipment too late for Christmas so retailers cancelled their orders, and Mastertronic was tipped into a cash crisis which was resolved by our acquiring the rest of Mastertronic and merging it with Virgin Games to become Virgin Mastertronic, of which I was again Managing Director.
Sega had done the same thing to their other European distributors pushing the French one into financial crisis and the German one, part of Bertelsmann, to decide they did not want to work with Sega anymore. Sega asked us if we would take on these two territories as well, and as by now Nintendo's first successful Christmas in the U.S. was clear, we agreed and did so from mid '88. As Virgin we decided to market the Master System at an older, cooler, teenage user. Nintendo's marketing was aimed more at a family audience with pre-teen kids.
Sega-16: The market in Europe is much different than that of the U.S., and each country is almost like its own territory, with hardware and software experiencing different levels of success in each one. How challenging was it for Sega to broaden the appeal of the Mega Drive throughout Europe?
Nick Alexander: That was probably the most important decision that we took. When the Genesis launched in the U.S., they decided to take the same route, and I believe that was why they drew ahead of a very well established Nintendo in the 16-bit war. It was also how Sony positioned the Playstation when it eventually emerged.
We had one marketing strategy for all Europe but execution varied by territory. Overtime we increasingly centralised our ads and materials. We added Spain in 1990, and in 1991 Sega decided that it would like to have control of their European distribution and they bought the sales, marketing and distribution parts of our business, which I went to run as CEO of Sega Europe. The deal made sense from all points of view. As a third party distributor, it made no sense for Virgin to invest in marketing or product to the extent that Sega Japan (SOJ) wanted. The degree of competitive price pressure also meant that the margins were increasingly unattractive for Virgin.
In May 1989 Virgin signed a 5 year deal with Sega for European distribution of SMS and MD.
I don't know if that meant they also distributed to other European distributors (Giochi Preziosi - Italy, Atoll - Benelux, Brio - Scandinavia) or if they still dealt directly with Sega. Still, Virgin were the main European distributor, and they were based in the UK, so it probably wasn't released earlier elsewhere in Europe, and it seems that it was released in all major EU markets for Christmas 1990.
it's difficult to find concrete answers - it was a world dominated by Amigas and Atari STs. Dedicated consoles were seen as niche systems for kids - real men messed around with 329343289342 floppy disks and broken cassettes, so this stuff just wasn't covered. Or at least, not until Sonic turned up.
The main problem is that monthly magazines were too out of date by the time the next issue released, we need access to weekly magazines. For UK MD launch there were two weekly consumer magazines, "Popular Computing Weekly", and "New Computer Express". Both are available on World of Spectrum, but no issues from around the MD launch, in fact it seems that the very last issue of Popular Computing Weekly was the one reporting on ECES 1990. New Computer Express continued until October 1991. In the mean time Games-X (some issues available on Amiga Magazine Rack) started in April 1991 and lasted until March 1992 (fortunately I have a full set of these). After that there are no more consumer weekly magazines in the UK. Anyway, here's some dates from Games-X (along with some of Sega's competitors);
??/04/91 Price drop: Lynx >£79 (no accessories) 
01/05/91 Price drop: MD + Altered Beast £189>£149, SMS+ £99>£79, SMS £79>£59 
01-07/07/91 Release: GG £99.99 
??/09/91 Release: SMS2 £59.99 
??/09/91 Price drop: MD+ Altered Beast £149>£129 
??/09/91 Release: Lynx2 
??/10/91 Release: GG TV Tuner 
06/06/92 Release: SNES £150 
There were also weekly trade magazines though, the main one being CTW (Computer Trade Weekly) which ran from 1984-2002, unfortunately no one seems to have bothered keeping these, there are no scans online, and none ever show up on Ebay. Copies are stored at the British Library in London, so I'd like to visit there some time. As it was mainly a magazine for retailers there should be weekly release date lists in it, along with the weekly Gallup sales charts which might show the first week that Mega Drive games started to be sold (if they sold enough to make the chart, they show up in the Gallup charts from early 1991 published in Games-X at least). They almost certainly would have news articles about it too.
Actually it might be an idea to try to contact Dorian Bloch from GfK Chart-Track (formerly Gallup) featured in the article about Friday releases, they should have data about when official MD games first started being sold in the UK, and which games they were. He seems to know release dates going all the way back to NES launch in May 1987.
In this new regular segment with insight from leading stat-trackers, Chart-Track director Dorian Bloch reveals the Top Five best-selling video games brands in the UK...
Chart-Track is proud to announce the development of Brand Analysis as part of our CUBE data warehouse solution.
We've looked at all games sold from 1996 to the present day to work out the Top 30 brands. This week, we're starting with the all-time Top Five.
FIFA is the overall winner both for units and revenue. It is also the only brand within the Top Five from outside the games industry.
The brand's Title Count includes two PC compilations – therefore the total number of actual FIFA games (including management titles) is 34, ever since the first to launch in the UK (FIFA International Soccer on Mega Drive, December 1993).
The first FIFA game to count from launch sales was FIFA Soccer '96, which is the third in the series. The top seller is the latest release , FIFA 12 which took £96m in sales.
Mario is No.2 in units and No.3 by revenue. The huge title count of 70 includes every Mario game all the way back to Super Mario Bros on the NES in May 1987. The top seller is 2008's Mario Kart Wii with 3.65m units – it recently overtook Dr Kawashima on DS as the biggest selling single format title in the UK.
This post has been edited by Pirate Dragon: 28 February 2013 - 06:10 AM