Feature Articles

WAR! - Nintendo Vs. Sega

When Nintendo first introduced it's 8-bit home system, it took the market by storm. The term NES quickly became a household word. By 1989, over 20 million people owned a Nintendo Entertainment System. More children were able to recognize Mario than could identify Mickey Mouse. Nintendo dominated the video game industry.

Then, the era of 16-bit machines began. While the Turbografx-16 even today seems to loom in the shadows, the advent of "Sonic The Hedgehog" brought new followers by the millions to the Sega Genesis. Sega quickly became a true competitor.

Sales began to wane for Nintendo as people lost interest in the 8-bit market. Then Nintendo -- after years of eager anticipation by consumers -- finally released it's own 16-bit system, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Meanwhile, however, many had decided that they couldn't wait. Sega had proved themselves worthy, and sales skyrocketed in the lag time before the American release of the SNES that many had begun to wonder if would ever be available.

The SNES still sold millions upon it's arrival in the U.S. But Nintendo now faces a situation completely unlike anything it has ever faced before -- competition.

The stats on the SNES console itself blow the Sega Genesis out of the water. (see chart below). There is no comparison. In Fact, the only distinct advantage the Genesis has over the SNES is processor speed. Admittedly, this is an important function; however, it does not make up for the many other superior qualities of the SNES console.

Process 68000 65816 Custom
Speed 7.6 MHz 3.6 MHz
Colors 512 32768
On Screen 64 256
Resolution 320 x 224 512 x 448
Sprites 80 128
Size 32 x 64 64 x 64
Sound 10 Channels 8 Channels
Feature   Scaling & Rotation

A good console does not a good game make, however. The best machinery in the world is worthless if the game isn't any fun to play. The key lies in the software. This is where the battle truly begins.

Sega without a doubt has the one-up on programming experience and title base, but Nintendo is catching up fast. Initially, Sega was using a negative advertising campaign with the theme that "The others just don't stack up"; in other words, stating that Super Nintendo just didn't have the number of titles. That is quickly changing. The most recent Chips & Bits mailorder sheet included 207 Genesis titles. The Super NES listing included 110 titles -- and the SNES has only been available in the United States for less than a year.

In addition, the quality of the new games must also be considered. Many of the new games coming out on the Super Nintendo have been phenomenal, and some of the arcade translations are so close they are virtually pixel for pixel copies. The new games presented at CES, apparently, overcome the flicker and slowdown problems that are a result of the slower processor.

Not that Sega hasn't had any triumphs of their own. Titles such as "Madden Football" and "Gaiares" have been very successful.

Additional competition between Nintendo and Sega has arisen in the up-coming CD-ROM market. NEC has been in the CD-ROM market for quite some time with it's Turbografx-16 CD-ROM, and, has been tolerably successful. However, since the Turbografx is not really a mainstream machine and appeals to a much different segment of the gaming population, it is not really in direct competition. The struggle for the lionshare of the mainstream CD-ROM market definitely seems to be exclusively between Sega and Nintendo.

The Sega MegaDrive CD-ROM was recently released in Japan. While it is not compatible, unlike the Turbo-CD, with games that will be released in the United States, the basic specifications should be the same. The MegaDrive CD-ROM boasts an .8 sec. access time, 6 Mb RAM, and 18 channel stereo sound. It costs around $380.

Not much is verifiable about Nintendo's proposed CD-ROM unit. The rumored stats state that it will have about a .75 sec. access time and 8 Mb of RAM. It will also supposedly be able to operate in conjunction with Phillips CD-I technology. It should cost less than $200.

Both systems should be capable of full-motion video.

What will the future hold? Sega has really been sinking in its teeth and putting in an effort lately, but Nintendo is fast recovering from any losses they may have had from the delay in the release of the SNES. Nintendo has really been showing the world what their made of lately. To quote Ed Semrad, editor of Electronic Gaming Monthly, on the Winter CES, "Overall the show belonged to Nintendo. They had the carts, the technology, and the wherewithal to open the R&D doors a crack to show everyone what was coming out in the future... ...I can't wait to see what they will have in June!"


Originally appeared Vol 1, Iss 1 (04-05/92)

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