Mega Drive, European Launch

Discussion in 'General Sega Discussion' started by Black Squirrel, Jan 16, 2013.

  1. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    this is what KLF is about Wiki Sysop
    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!)

    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.

    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)

    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)

    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.

    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.
  2. Overlord


    Now playable in Smash Bros Ultimate Moderator
    Berkshire, England
    Learning Cymraeg
    Had an idea and typed in "Daily Express archive" into Google (simply as it was the first one I thought of) - surely newspapers of the time would cover a launch even if it's a minor system? Anyway, this has brought up . Got in thanks to some credentials I found on the web (if you want them, hop on IRC, I don't want someone logging on and changing it. Might be you can just register an account with no real problems and not have to pay for it but I couldn't be arsed finding out) and doing a search on "sega AND mega AND drive" brought up a TOYS R US advert from Thu 13 Dec 1990. I can't make the tiny picture bigger without feeding in money but it certainly appears to be a Mega Drive.

  3. NiktheGreek


    Grumpy old bastard Oldbie
    Writing for the best video game magazine in the world
    The best source for info here is likely to be S: The Sega Magazine, given that it was pretty much the only dedicated Sega magazine at the time. Seems like scans are going to be hard (if not impossible) to find, so we may need to do some hunting and possibly acquire our own copies.
  4. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    this is what KLF is about Wiki Sysop
    This is what I thought - supposedly issue #10 devotes itself to the Mega Drive launch, but the only scans I've seen are three pages from issue #8, currently hosted on SMS Power.
  5. Meat Miracle

    Meat Miracle

    For what it's worth, the earliest PAL MD1 I saw was dated 1991 march.
  6. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    this is what KLF is about Wiki Sysop
    So out of interest I started hunting down other launch dates to see if they're accurate. Info on the Game Gear is pointlessly hard to come by, but the Mega CD

    April 2nd 1993 for the UK launch... as opposed to April 19th 1993. An improvement, but still wrong. Maybe. There's no sources to back up what Wikipedia have been saying and it's not unusual to see things delayed at the last minute.
  7. SpeedStarTMQ


    Here for The Hedgehog. Member
    Have you contacted SEGA to see if they can give you the dates?
  8. Scarred Sun

    Scarred Sun

    Be who you needed when you were younger Administrator
    Tower 8 ️
    Welp, this.
    FUN FACT: Sega Europe doesn't have historical records (or anything of value) before 2003 or so. It's kind of a dead end.
  9. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    this is what KLF is about Wiki Sysop
    The other thing is that unlike Wikipedia, I'm confident that the UK launch =/= the "European" launch.

    so the Mega CD launch for example - UK and Italy got the first (and second) model, France and Spain only got the second. That would only happen if there was different release dates for each country and since there were different distributors, each with their own ideas... yeah. Not like modern times where you have companies covering continents.
  10. Scarred Sun

    Scarred Sun

    Be who you needed when you were younger Administrator
    Tower 8 ️
    Welp, this.
    Stuuuupid question, but it bears asking: do we know who distributed in mainland Europe? Virgin Mastertronic distributed in the UK, but I would have no idea of the others.
  11. steveswede


    Ask my hand
    Fighting against the Unitary State of Europe
    Toys'R'Us and Argos first come to mind. Other than that there were a fair amount of independent stores back then that used to sell them. I don't ever remember Virgin Megastore selling them.
  12. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    this is what KLF is about Wiki Sysop
    There's a semi-complete picture of distributors and the like on the wiki in this a category although a lot of it is sketchy

    basically, each country was different, although Sega made efforts to uh... "normalise" things at some point in the 90s once they bought the Mastertronic bit of Virgin Mastertronic
  13. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    this is what KLF is about Wiki Sysop
    Just going to keep derailing this topic I guess

    why don't we have any scans of Edge
    Edge Magazine was (and still is) at the higher end of the UK games press. What I didn't realise is that, from the looks of things, they had lists of UK release dates - this became far more common in magazines towards the end of the decade, but this is the oldest magazine I've seen which has them. The publication started in October 1993 (so it won't cover the Mega Drive's launch) but it could still prove helpful.

    also note Edge's release dates for other video game magazines

    we ought to get a magazine scanning marathon up and running at some point - these things answer so many questions, it's just a shame they're so awkward to preserve
  14. Andlabs


    「いっきまーす」 Wiki Sysop
    Writing my own MD/Genesis sound driver :D
    I never rresponded to the Edge thing on the wiki when you asked but I did start going through the issues at one point looking to piece out what Sega-related information was in each issue. (I also stated doing the same with GamePro but I have to re-download all that.) Underground Gamer is a good source of western gaming magazines (some people have also started uploading pack-in CDs as well), and there are people starting a small project with Japanese mgazines (the arcade-oriented Arcadia, for instance).

    I'm not sure if we should start putting up the geneal-puspose magazines on the wiki but I do think it would be a good idea to put up these articles and ads; I'm just not sure how that would be organized at this point.
  15. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    this is what KLF is about Wiki Sysop
    It's totally understandable that Sega Retro shouldn't have 3829043284 scans of things we don't need, but having only a few pages of a magazine scanned part of the reason I'm struggling. Those Edge scans I just posted came from a PC Engine forum who only scanned the PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16-related stuff, and that means I have to do another search to find the rest of the magazine, if it's even online

    Also we never know when we might need the non-Sega information. If a SNES release of a game turned up a few months before the Mega Drive one, that might end up being relevant at some point in the future.

    as for storage, I sort-of wish more people supported's system

    design wise, the site is pretty poor, but if you needed to cite PAGE 44/45 OF OFFICIAL SEGA SATURN MAGAZINE #34 it generates URLs
    and you can search, and there's no huge PDF downloads or forced use of comic book readers - just javascript trickery
  16. ICEknight


    Researcher Researcher
    Great quality scans with no watermarks or any bullshit? That's so awesome, insta-add to favorites.
  17. dsrb


    >scans of OSSM
    >clickable links for Panzer Dragoon Saga
    >I had the issues containing most of these articles

    Holy shit, I'm about to enter the world's most perfect nostalgiasphere
  18. Scarred Sun

    Scarred Sun

    Be who you needed when you were younger Administrator
    Tower 8 ️
    Welp, this.
    If/when I move back to SF, I'll be working with a non-profit to do just this—and yeah, I think just pushing everyone to is the best bet in this situation.
  19. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    this is what KLF is about Wiki Sysop

    32X - 4th December 1994, not 14th November. In its defense, I think this was a last minute delay, but still notable.
  20. Pirate Dragon

    Pirate Dragon

    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.

    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.

    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


    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;

    Ship date
    Launch date
    Release date

    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;

    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).

    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.

    By the time MD released Europe had become pretty consolidated, Virgin was the main distributor for UK, France, Germany, and Spain.

    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.

    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) [00]
    01/05/91 Price drop: MD + Altered Beast £189>£149, SMS+ £99>£79, SMS £79>£59 [01]
    01-07/07/91 Release: GG £99.99 [12]
    ??/09/91 Release: SMS2 £59.99 [18]
    ??/09/91 Price drop: MD+ Altered Beast £149>£129 [20]
    ??/09/91 Release: Lynx2 [21]
    ??/10/91 Release: GG TV Tuner [24]
    06/06/92 Release: SNES £150 [48]

    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.