Everything old is new again. Originally announced as the Mega Drive Mini back in the spring of 2018, presumably as a tie-in to the 30th anniversary of the original Sega Mega Drive’s release in Japan, it was later announced that the system would be put on hold until 2019. This naturally caused some skepticism as to the mini-console’s quality, but it was revealed by Sega that the delay was due to the company wanting "to review the console’s design and hardware." They also announced their intent to release the North American version of the mini-console under the Sega Genesis name, with the rest of the world receiving it with the Mega Drive title intact.
The Sega Genesis Mini is finally coming to stores Sept. 19, 2019. Beyond Sega’s insistence on focusing on quality over rushing to meet a 30th anniversary street date, there are plenty of other reasons to be excited for the console’s arrival. Let’s take a look at what comes with this neat little machine, what kind of work is going into making it, and some of the gaming industry‘s previous attempts at appealing to the nostalgic sweet spots of gamers everywhere.
The Genesis of nostalgia
For a certain generation of gamers, the Sega Genesis immediately encourages excited nostalgia. A lot of that likely has to do with the mindset surrounding the console’s hype back in the day. Its early marketing embraced the rebellious nature of the late ’80s and early ’90s, proudly proclaiming, "Genesis does what Ninten-don’t" — maybe one of the all-time best (and most hilariously aggressive) console slogans. The lineup of games somehow seemed cooler than Nintendo’s: the likes of Altered Beast and Sonic the Hedgehog seemingly embraced a harder, more "radical" edge than Nintendo’s cutesy Ice Climbers and the like. When the Super Nintendo released a bloodless version of Mortal Kombat, the Genesis became the only console where you could see the gory finishing moves in the comfort of your own bean bag chair. Heck, even the music on the Genesis sounded completely distinct from what could be heard on the NES and Super NES.
There are a lot of fond memories working in the Sega Genesis Mini’s favor. In an age where Nintendo’s own Classic Edition consoles can sell millions of units, it certainly seems that there’s a market for this kind of deep dive into a gamer’s virtual upbringing. But could it be that people are growing tired of this kind of console? There may be evidence pointing to that, as well.
Classic successes and failures
Of course, the Sega Genesis Mini is far from the first high-profile "classic" console to be released. Nintendo put out their NES Classic Edition during the holiday season of 2016, and it was the item to get, selling over 1.5 million units within its first few months of sales. Stores could barely keep it on the shelves. Nintendo followed that success with the Super NES Classic Edition, which likewise was a massive success, selling over 5 million units in its first six months.
While these sales figures would seem to prove that there’s a hungry market for this kind of retro gaming, Sony’s release later of the PlayStation Classic was a pretty big flop. Sales figures were lower than expected, resulting in large price drops from retailers like Walmart. The slate of games included in the PlayStation Classic has been criticized when compared to the major classics that were on Nintendo’s Classic Edition consoles. In stark contrast to Nintendo’s heavy-hitters like The Legend of Zelda, Star Fox, and Metroid, which were present and accounted for in their collections, many of PlayStation’s big "mascot" characters, like Crash Bandicoot or Spyro the Dragon, were nowhere to be seen. Adding on the M rating given to the PlayStation Classic likely dissuaded many potential buyers, who may not have considered it to be "family friendly" enough.
With this in mind, it may be the lineup of games that decides whether or not the Sega Genesis Mini succeeds.