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Why Did The Sega Genesis Fail? (5 Reasons Why)

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The Sega Genesis Sega is a 16-Bit third-generation video game console developed by Sega in 1988 after its Master System, which was the third major console of Sega that used cartridges.

Although the Sega Gensis was a fun console to play on some people still consider it to be a failure, but is that a true representation?

So did the Sega Genesis fail? If so, why?

Although the Sega Genesis sold almost 31 million consoles it is considered a failure by many people since its counterpart of that era (the NES) sold almost 62 million consoles. Although selling 31 million products wouldn’t be considered a failure for many companies, when compared with the NES many people consider it one.

So whether you consider the Sega Genesis a failure because it didn’t have as many sales as the NES or the SNES (which sold 50 million consoles) or whether you feel like the Genesis wasn’t as bad of a failure as some people, why did it not have as many sales as Nintendo’s consoles from that era?

The main reason why the Genesis didn’t have as many sales as the NES and SNES and is considered a failure by some is largly because of the characters that Nintendo has. Although Sega had some popular games and characters (like Sonic) Nintendo has many other characters and games that are incredibly popular.

Some of these most popular characters that Nintendo had on the NES & SNES are:

  • Bowser
  • Captain Falcon
  • Donkey Kong
  • Fox
  • Kirby
  • Link
  • Luigi
  • Mario
  • Mega Man
  • Mr. Game and Watch
  • Ness
  • Princess Peach
  • Samus
  • Toad
  • Yoshi
  • Zelda

If you would like to know more about why The Sega Genesis failed, please keep reading this article. You can also check out this video to learn all about the Sega Genesis. 

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Sega Genesis Mini - Genesis

If you love Sega then you will want to check out this Sega Genesis Mini console. It comes with two controllers and even comes preloaded with 42 Games!

Enjoy these classic Sega Genesis games without having to purchase a single game cartridge!

1. Sega Genesis Failed Because Of Bad Marketing

Sega was not good at the process of effective marketing. It had advertised Sega Genesis to a large extent and created a good demand, but it could have been better.

During that time, arcades were popular among people and they loved to go out and play the games at local arcade stores or gaming houses. Consumers did not feel a need to have a home-based arcade game console. Sega wanted to change that way of thinking.

So, Sega presented its console Sega Genesis as a house friendly, easy-to-use console. It also presented Genesis as a more mature and high-end console for professional gamers.

During its marketing, Sega taunted Nintendo by talking badly about Nintendo’s gamers. It wanted gamers to believe that Nintendo was for kids and not for serious gamers.

It sparked a fire in gamers as Sega was indirectly insulting them. This marketing tactic resulted in doing more harm rather than good to Sega.

2. Sega Genesis Failed Because Of A Dispute Between Branches

Sega was headquartered in Japan. They actually ended up splitting it into two branches, mainly, the Japanese branch and the American branch. The American branch surprised the Japanese branch by the sale outcome of Genesis in North America.

It amazed them to see how well the console sold compared with the Japanese market. This started an internal dispute between both branches. In reaction, Japan made a poor decision and packed the Genesis for the American market with Altered Beast instead of the popular game Sonic the Hedgehog.

Because of this dispute, Yuji Naka, leader of Sonic, got tired and went to the US to finish the development.

Japan did not value the American branch. In return, America’s former president of Sega, Bernie Stolar, played counterpart by saying that the Japanese games would not sell on the Sega Saturn in America.

This is how Sega was on its way to failure because of an increase in disputes between both branches.

3. Sega Genesis Failed Because Of Add-Ons

The Sega Genesis was a popular console and to maintain its popularity among the gamers, Sega launched various add-ons. Sega CD and Sega 32X were among these. Add-ons helped the Genesis to increase its abilities, and it added more storage and graphics to the interface.

With these add-ons, the Genesis was an ultimate console.

The price introduced by Sega for these add-ons was way higher than expected. The Sega Genesis was launched at a budget price of $199, on the other side, Sega CD, which was just an add-on, was launched at a price of $299.

It was hard to imagine an add-on which would be more expensive than the console itself. This led to confusion among the consumers and a fall in sales.

4. Sega Genesis Failed Because Of Their Three And Six Button Controllers

With the release of the Sega Genesis, Sega came out with a three-button controller. These controllers were large and bulky.

After introducing more complex games, Sega further introduced a six-button controller. Not only did this have more buttons, but the size was also smaller. It seemed cramped and messed up.

Although these buttons were beneficial while playing arcade games, mimicking the buttons on arcade machines, and were provided with longer cords, they were not favorable with older games. 

The mode buttons on the controller set it to a three-button configuration. Unfortunately, this was not guaranteed. This caused some compatibility issues which Sega left unsolved. This caused a poor impression of the Genesis and led to a crucial role in its failure.

5. Sega Genesis Failed Because Of Quantity Over Quality

Sega was doing well with the Genesis in the gaming market and to continue to be on the top, it introduced several add-ons and other handheld consoles simultaneously. This caused an increase in the number of products and now Sega needed to focus on a wider concept.

At which Sega failed.

Rather than introducing more devices, it should have been focusing on Genesis. With introducing Sega CD and Sega 32X, it distracted Sega from the main target and led to the downfall. It was continuously introducing new devices.

Sega also announced a sudden launch of Sega Saturn in the market while Sega CD was doing well. This behavior confused the consumers, and they shifted from Sega which caused losses.

Sega Genesis History

The Sega Genesis had a library of 900 games designed by Sega and a wide range from third-party developers as well. Sega released several add-ons for the Sega Genesis, such as Sega CD and Sega 32X, which could increase its capabilities.

They released the Sega Genesis in different versions, some developed by third parties. Because of its competitors like Nintendo’s Super Famicom, Genesis failed in Japan, but it gained success in parts of Europe, North America, and Brazil. It was famous for its library of arcade games and for Sonic the Hedgehog which became the most popular game by Sega during that time. 

Sega used lots of advertising and campaigns to create the audience for their console. It presented Sega Genesis as a cool and high-end game console for mature and expert gamers and not for kids.

It had a blasting sale by selling 30.75 million units by Sega itself as the first-party producer. With the addition of Tec Toy, a third party producer, who sold 3 million variants in Brazil licensed by Tec Toy. Third-party developers continued to work on the console and by the year 2010, they were still selling it.

It was an amazing console by Sega, but faced failure and was discontinued because of succession by the Sega Saturn in 1994.


The Sega Genesis was an amazing device with third party access. They released it in various variants and were able to grab the attention of gamers in the beginning. With its add-ons, it was an incredible gaming console, but the poor management, aggressive marketing, and many add-ons led to the downfall of the Sega Genesis.

It could have been a success if controlled properly but instead was turned into a failure. Because of this, Sega discontinued Genesis in 1997.

Even though there were all of these issues with the Sega Genesis, while it was sold here in the United States, it was extremely popular. The Sega Genesis was highly sought after and many people even today will still play it on a daily basis.

There are also other people today that collect the Genesis and keep it in perfect working condition. This is because they know that there are no more of these consoles being released and that the value of them will only continue to go up.