C: \ B_retro \ Issue_70 \: Sega Game Gear

As a handheld game console of the 4th generation, the Sega Game Gear competed against the Nintendo Game Boy and the Atari Lynx from 1990 onwards. Although technically and graphically superior to the worldwide success of Nintendo, which has sold almost 120 million times, the Game Gear, as a portable master system, clearly lost out in favor of gamers.

C: \ B_retro \ Ausgabe_70 \ Sega_Game_Gear

Based largely on the technology of the stationary Sega Master System , the Japanese manufacturer Sega released the Sega Game Gear on October 6, 1990 as a portable game console of the 4th generation.

Intended as a direct counter to the Nintendo Game Boy, the Sega Game Gear was able to convince primarily with its graphic capabilities and its extensive range of accessories.

The history

After Nintendo presented the portable game console Game Boy on April 21, 1989, which as a result became a constant companion for many gamers and forever changed mobile gaming, the competitor Sega also started thinking about making its current generation of consoles mobile.

In the summer of 1989, under the code name “Project Mercury”, the development of a portable game console began, with the aim of being able to offer a product on the market that would probably be superior to the Nintendo Game Boy from 1990 onwards.

Atari Lynx
Atari Lynx (Image: Evan Amos, public domain)

The Atari Lynx , which appeared on November 26, 1989, was also considered as a competitor. However, due to the too high price, too short battery life, the comparatively voluminous dimensions and, last but not least, the poor marketing on the part of Atari, this did not even begin to reach the later sales figures of the competition from Sega and especially Nintendo.

Technically, based on the 8-bit processor Zilog Z80 , which was published in its original form in March 1976, a miniaturization of the Sega Master System was implemented.

On October 6, 1990, Sega finally released Game Gear in Japan, before the portable game console was introduced in January 1991 in the USA and shortly afterwards in Europe.

In Germany, the Sega Game Gear was available in stores for 299 DM and was therefore around twice as expensive as the Nintendo Game Boy. In addition to the sales price, which was set too high, the comparative advertising, which denounced the widespread and very popular Game Boy as technically simple and its users as simple-minded, alienated a large number of potential customers.

The YouTube channel ” RGTV ” has kindly archived some of these commercials for posterity.

The hardware

Technically, the Game Gear was clearly superior to the Game Boy in almost all respects, and was even years ahead of the game in terms of backlighting and color display. For example, the Sega Game Gear was able to simultaneously display 32 out of a total of 4,096 colors on its 3.2 large color display and had backlighting using CCFL .

The first portable game console from Sega was based on the following hardware.

  • Zilog Z80 8-bit CMOS microprocessor running at 3.58 MHz
  • 8 KB RAM
  • 3.2 inch display with 160 × 144 pixels and 4,096 colors
  • 16 KByte video memory for a maximum of 64 sprites
  • Four channel audio playback
  • Power supply: 6 AA batteries, battery pack or 9 V mains plug
  • Dimensions: 200 × 110 × 34 mm (W × L × D)
  • Weight: 400 grams

With its 32 simultaneously displayed colors and a total of 64 sprites, the Game Gear graphically played in a league of its own and made both the Game Boy and the Atari Lynx look literally old.

The accessories

In addition to its technical and resulting graphical advantages, the Sega Game Gear was also able to convince with its extensive range of accessories, from which the TV tuner stands out, which was able to display the TV program with full 4,096 colors on the 8.1 cm display of the game console .

Sega Game Gear with optional TV tuner
Sega Game Gear with optional TV tuner (Image: Evan Amos, public domain)

In addition, Sega released an FM tuner for analog radio reception via the Game Gear, a screen magnifier, the Gear2Gear cable for playing games together and various battery packs.

The games

The Sega Game Gear was delivered in a bundle with the game Columns , an arcade game that, not by chance, has certain similarities with the million-dollar success Tetris on the Game Boy.

In total, more than 360 games appeared for the Game Gear, a large number of which were ports from other Sega consoles such as the Sega Master System and Sega Mega Drive .

The most famous titles and series for the Sega Game Gear were:

  • Castle of Illusion – Starring Mickey Mouse
  • Columns
  • Micro Machines
  • NBA Jam
  • Power Strike II
  • Road rash
  • The GG Shinobi II
  • Sonic the Hedgehog
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2
  • Sonic the Hedgehog Chaos
  • Sonic the Hedgehog Triple Trouble
  • Sonic Blast
  • Streets of Rage
  • Wonder Boy

The YouTube channel ” Virtual Gaming Library – VGL “, known for its extensive game archives and retro reports, has summarized all 365 titles for the Sega Game Gear in one video.

The Heritage

Due to the overly high sales price and the poor advertising, the Sega Game Gear sold “only” around 11 million times, despite superior technology and good games, while the Nintendo Game Boy, with almost 120 million units sold, was the most successful game console in history to date advanced.

In 1995, Sega tried the Sega Nomad , a mobile offshoot of the Sega Mega Drive developed under the code name “Venus”, for the last time on a portable game console, which, however, only appeared in the USA due to extremely poor sales and is now a collector’s value Has.

Sega Nomad
Sega Nomad (Image: Evan Amos, public domain)

In addition to its main processor of the Motorola 68000 type with 7.67 MHz, the Sega Nomad also had a Zilog Z80a as a co-processor, which enabled the playback of games for the Sega Game Gear.

C: \ B_retro \ Ausgabe_68 \ Game consoles_bei_C: \ B_retro \

In the meantime, C: \ B_retro \ has already reported on many retro game consoles and home computers from the 1970s, 80s, 90s and early 2000s, high time for a small overview:

Well-known game consoles and home computers from 1977 until today
console vintage C: \ B_retro
Atari 2600 1977 C: \ B_retro \ Issue_10 \
Nintendo Game Boy 1989 C: \ B_retro \ Issue_11 \
Super Nintendo Entertainment System 1990 C: \ B_retro \ Issue_15 \
Nintendo Virtual Boy 1995 C: \ B_retro \ Issue_18 \
Sega Mega Drive 1988 C: \ B_retro \ Issue_20 \
Nintendo 64 1996 C: \ B_retro \ Ausgabe_24 \
Sony PlayStation 2 2000 C: \ B_retro \ Issue_32 \
Sega Dreamcast 1998 C: \ B_retro \ Issue_39 \
Sony PlayStation 1994 C: \ B_retro \ Issue_41 \
Microsoft Xbox 360 2005 C: \ B_retro \ Issue_53 \
Commodore 64 1982 C: \ B_retro \ Issue_56 \
Amiga 500 1987 C: \ B_retro \ Ausgabe_61 \
Sega Saturn 1994 C: \ B_retro \ Issue_66 \
Nintendo Entertainment System 1983 C: \ B_retro \ Issue_68 \

C: \ B_retro \ Feedback \

Feedback is always welcome

The editors are happy to receive constructive criticism, praise, and suggestions, in order to be able to align the series even more closely to the wishes of the readership in the future. With this reading material in your luggage, the editorial team wishes you a relaxing Sunday.

C: \ B_retro \ Review \

The last ten issues at a glance

The last ten topics of the previous editions of C: \ B_retro \ can be found here:

  • C: \ B_retro \ Issue_69 \: The Legend of Zelda
  • C: \ B_retro \ Issue_68 \: The Nintendo Entertainment System
  • C: \ B_retro \ Ausgabe_67 \: Microsoft Windows 98
  • C: \ B_retro \ Ausgabe_66 \: The Sega Saturn
  • C: \ B_retro \ Issue_65 \: Duke Nukem 3D
  • C: \ B_retro \ Ausgabe_64 \: ComputerBase takes a look at Windows Vista
  • C: \ B_retro \ Issue_63 \: Nvidia GeForce 2 Ultra
  • C: \ B_retro \ Ausgabe_62 \: The perfect gaming PC for 2006
  • C: \ B_retro \ Ausgabe_61 \: The Amiga 500
  • C: \ B_retro \ Issue_60 \: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
  • C: \ B_retro \ Ausgabe_59 \: D-VHS put HDTV on the tape by bits
  • C: \ B_retro \ Issue_58 \: The Apple Macintosh
  • C: \ B_retro \ Issue_57 \: AMD’s long journey back to Hawaii
  • C: \ B_retro \ Ausgabe_56 \: The Commodore 64

Even more content of this kind and many more reports and anecdotes can be found in the retro corner in the ComputerBase forum as well as in the subject areas C: \ B_retro \ and Retro .



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