A brief demo video showing off the SEGA Channel service, for the SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis. The actual service is no longer available, but thanks to the wonders of emulation , archived ROM files can be downloaded and played. It can even be run on an Everdrive!
SEGA Channel Start-Up:
SEGA Channel 1995 Commercial "Stop Just Watching TV" - North America:
The content available depends on the actual timeframe, as games available changed from a monthly o bi-weekly basis. Some features don't appear on certain downloads (Sonic Mania an example here), but the common features were: 'Test Drives', Express Games' and 'Info Pit'.
Test Drives allowed the player to play demo versions of unreleased games for a limited timespan at any one time. This was to encourage future sales of games without giving away demo cartridges, which would have been too expensive. Simply pick the game, and it downloads to your modem to play.
Express Games is akin to a Blockbusters (remember them?) rental at an additional small price for a couple of days, or depending when you downloaded it. This section was reserved for recently released games that essentially allows for online rental.
Info Pit was a newsboard which allowed users access to cheats, promotionals for future big games and movies, as well as a bulletin for all sorts of miscellaneous information, such as new cities the SEGA Channel is available in. The ROM is a little glitched here, so staying in this area (and Test Drives) for too long, makes it seemingly impossible to exit without resetting.
The SEGA Channel would get a release across many countries and continents with various levels of success, but it's most notable success was in America with the SEGA Genesis, as shown by the number of commercials promoting the service. The system lasted from December 1994 - June 1998, with a peak subscriber count of around 250'000. Impressive number for a time before broadband internet.
The timing off the SEGA Channel however, is a source of criticism. While the concept was revolutionary and well ahead of it's time, critics of the SEGA Channel claim it came far too late in the lifespan of the SEGA Genesis, as SEGA was already planning ahead with new hardware such as the SEGA Saturn, for it to be viable in the long-term. Strangely, a similar service was never put into production for the Saturn, despite the positive feedback of the service.
The way the SEGA Channel worked was a team at SEGA based in America would compile a list of fifty Genesis games to CD-ROM, and send it to Denver, where a Satellite would transmit a signal to the designated cable providers, allowing the consumer to work and download content to the Genesis system, although all data was lost once the console was switched off. The system lasted from December 1994 - June 1998, with a peak subscriber count of around 250'000. Impressive number for a time before broadband internet.
The SEGA Channel has been described retrospectively as the 'Netflix' of it's time, but I would say it's more akin to the Blockbusters' of it's time, as it was essentially an download service provided by cable rather the internet. SEGA also enjoyed a working relationship with Blockbusters at this time as well. We all know what happened to them.
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