Added 26th September 2018
Back in April 2018, Sega of Japan made the announcement that they would be releasing a Mega Drive Mini - a teeny tiny replica of their 16-Bit nineties mega hit - sometime towards the end of the year. The news was greeting with joy and jubilation the world over, until the following day when ATGames tweeted that the console would be based on their technology.
Officially licensed replica Mega Drives, or Genesisisises for our American fan, are nothing new. Companies like ATGames have been knocking them out regularly for many years now, but have a reputation of never quite cracking it, despite coming up with some relatively interesting ideas. Their attempts tend to look and feel cheap, and contain badly implemented features like wireless controllers that work (sometimes) through infrared, user interfaces that appear to have been designed by somebody who has never used an interface previously, sound emulation that offends the ears, and overall game emulation which suffers from jerkiness and frame skippiness. That said, their more recent releases do contain cartridge slots which allow original Mega Drive games to be played on them, which is more than can be said for Nintendo and Sony’s miniature consoles. But, what good is that if the console itself is naff?
Recently though Sega have made another announcement to say that the Mega Drive Mini will be getting delayed until 2019 and will now be getting a release in the west. It was kind of assumed that a western release would be happening when the original announcement was made, but reading between the lines, it now looks like Sega’s April announcement was simply that the ATGames Mega Drive was coming to Japan, but in a new plastic shell that resembles the original hardware. Basically a cheap cash grab following the success of Nintendo’s miniature consoles.
However it looks like the delay is actually as a result of somebody at Sega paying attention to the world’s reaction to their original announcement. What they presumably discovered is that gamers do want a small version of the Mega Drive, but they don’t want anything like the ones that already exist. They want Sega to put the same love and affection into a Mega Drive Mini that Nintendo did with their NES and SNES Mini. So, to ensure that the console meets the expectations of their user base, it seems that development is going to be done domestically. Either that means in house, or by a Japanese hardware company (Nintendo perhaps?). Why they never thought to try out an ATGames console themselves and look at the damage that the company have been doing to their brand over the last decade by releasing shoddy products time and time again, is another matter. Sega never officially announced that they were partnering with ATGames on the Mega Drive Mini, and ATGames deleted their tweet a day or so after originally publishing it, so it’s uncertain how involved the company actually were with it.
Whether or not the Mega Drive Mini is going to be a success is a little uncertain. Unlike the small versions of the NES, SNES and the forthcoming PlayStation, a shrunken down version of a Mega Drive is nothing new. A lot will be down to how Sega promote the device, to ensure they make it clear that it’s an official quality piece of hardware, not to be confused with the cheaper earlier attempts. Obviously they also need to ensure that it is actually a quality piece of hardware, looking, feeling and playing like the original. This includes making sure the controllers are spot-on replicas of the originals too.
Another potential issue might be that Sega have already oversaturated the market with revivals of their Mega Drive games. Obviously aware that the console was their biggest global success, they regularly milk it for all its worth. A compilation of Mega Drive games has recently been released for PS4, Xbox One, PC and soon for the Switch. And similar compilations or individual releases were available for previous generations too. In comparison, Nintendo and Sony rarely release compilations of their old games, with their mini consoles being the first time that such a collection of titles has been available. And each time Sega release a compilation, its games are from the same roster of first party titles. Alex Kidd, Alien Storm, Altered Beast, etc. all the way through to Vectorman and Vectorman 2. And although that roster contains some gems, it’s been done over and over again and players are yearning for some of the other games that made the Mega Drive great. Unfortunately, a lot of those are third party titles or make use of licenses that Sega probably no longer hold. So unless Sega can pull some miracles, it’s looking likely that the same games will appear yet again. Maybe Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles will make their return following their absence on the recent compilations. Yes, that'll sell it. Assuming that Sega can sort out whatever issue prevented their own bloody games from appearing on their own bloody compilation.
Sega could attempt to differentiate their console from Nintendo and Sony’s though. Genesis could actually do what Nintendo didn't do. No, that's wrong. Nintendidn't. Yes, Genesis does what Nintendidn't. Maybe enable it to play original media or allow it to go online to access a download service. Maybe. They probably won't, but it'll be nice. And why do they keep ignoring the Master System? It was huge in Europe (bigger than Nintendo!), and still is in Brazil. In lieu of releasing a Master System Mini, perhaps they could extend the capabilities of the Mega Drive Mini to include games from the Master System library. Don't forget, the original Mega Drive actually contained Master System hardware. Perhaps Mega-CD and 32X games could make an appearance, seeing as they were all reliant on the Mega Drive being there. Or go the whole hog and slap some arcade and Saturn games on it too. Yes, make it the ultimate Sega console. I might buy one of them. And then with the money they make, release a Dreamcast 2. Now there really are no limits (some of you may get that reference). Ok, I'm getting a bit excited now. More than likely, it'll just end up being a plug and play console that plays the usual selection of Mega Drive games. And I'll end up with yet another copy of Alex Kidd and his pissing Enchanted Castle which I'll never explore. We shall see. Sometime in 2019.NEWS: HONEY I'VE SHRUNK THE PLAYSTATION X X