[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Sega Channel

September 2nd, 2013 by Benj Edwards

Sega Genesis Sega Channel advertisement - 1995“Get hooked in.”

Since its debut in late 1994, the Sega Channel remains one of the most fascinating footnotes of video game history. Essentially, the system had two components: a hardware cartridge that a customer plugged into his or her Sega Genesis, and a premium subscription cable TV service (usually $14.95 a month) that provided a selection of games the customer could download.

Games, when downloaded, were saved temporarily to DRAM in the cartridge (which lost its contents when the system was powered off), and the customer could download up to 50 games a month. The service also provided news about video game releases in the form of text displayed on the screen. The information transfer was one-way, however, so Sega Channel could not provide truly interactive online content.

When news of the Sega Channel first hit, I called my local cable company as the ad suggests. Unfortunately, we never received Sega Channel service in our area, so I didn’t get to try it out myself.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, September 1995, p.39 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you ever subscribe to Sega Channel? Tell us about your experiences.

6 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Sega Channel”

  1. technotreegrass Says:

    Twas a beautiful thing. It was always 50 games per month, but you could play them as often as you wanted. The available games would change on a monthly basis, complete with a whole new theme for the menu and sub-menus. I don’t remember any download limitations on games, but there were restrictions on recently released and coming soon games, such as modes removed, can’t get past a certain point, limited available characters for fighting games, or a severe time trial that automaticly shut you out of the game and asked you to buy the full release in stores. Games were split up into genre sub-menus: action-adventure, sports, puzzles, and others that I’m forgetting.

    Sometimes it was tough for the system to connect. I quickly learned that if the menu doesn’t pop up 30 seconds after turning it on, there was a good chance an error screen would pop up, but once the menu loaded, games would load just fine, though it might seem like forever. While waiting for games to load, a text screen would pop up, encouraging you to check out other games, or posting in-game cheats and passwords and tips and tricks for games available. I always had my code book and pencil at the ready to jot down whatever when I loaded a game.

    It was extremely rare for my Sega Channel to be removed so I could play the carts I owned, that’s how hooked I was on it.

  2. Alexander Says:

    While I was too young to remember this service, and didn’t get a Genesis until the early 00’s, I have heard of one game that I wish I could buy that was exclusive (for USA consumers) to the Sega Channel: Megaman: The Wily Wars.

    Its an up-graphics version of Megaman 1 2 & 3 with some extras, like a save feature. One day I’ll find a ported US copy.

  3. Eagles409 Says:

    I had the Sega channel for about a year when it first came out. It did have 50 games a month, some of which rotated in and out. I remember a lot of the games were shovel ware and crap no one would play, but for $15 it saved a lot of money buying and renting games.

  4. Dave Says:

    I had this service when I lived in Upstate New York. I remember that we never asked for this service, my father just went ahead and subscribed for it and surprised us. The service was great and I don’t remember having any technical issues with it. For 1994, it seemed mind boggling that you could download on demand content through a cable wire.

    I remember back then the big thing was trading NES and Sega Games with friends. That way you didn’t have to buy the game, just know somebody who was willing to trade a game for a while. The Sega Channel gave us a ton of new games to play all the time. Great post Benj.

  5. Ryan Collins Says:

    Alexander, if you can find the AT Games portable Genesis, The Wily Wars is on it:

    I lucked out and picked one up last year on black Friday for $25. 🙂

  6. MARperor Says:

    I never had it but my brother & sister worked for cable company at the time & sold/installed it. They still have their Sega Channel hats.

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