Sega Game Gear
Work began on the console in 1989 under the codename "Project Mercury", and the system was released in Japan on October 6, 1990. It was released in North America and Europe in 1991 and in Australia in 1992.
Design and technical features
The Game Gear was basically a pocket Master System, but allowed a larger color palette, and therefore potentially better-looking graphics. Unlike the Game Boy, the system is held in a "landscape" position, with the controls at the sides, making it less cramped to hold. One of the more famous and unusual peripherals for the Game Gear was the "TV Tuner Adapter", a device that plugged into the system's cartridge slot, and allowed you to watch TV on the Game Gear's screen. Other addons included a magnifying glass to compensate the relatively small size of the GG's screen.
Sega had taken a similar approach when developing the Mega Drive/Genesis, basing it on Sega's 16-bit arcade hardware. This enabled direct conversion of popular games. Likewise, because of the similarities between the Master System and the Game Gear, it was possible for Master System games to be written directly onto ROMs in Game Gear cartridges. Similarly, an adapter called the "Master Gear" allowed Master System cartridges to be plugged in and played on the Game Gear. The reverse (playing a Game Gear game on a Master System console) was impossible due to the Game Gear's aforementioned larger color palette.
The Game Gear was not very popular in Japan, where it was released to a generally apathetic audience. It immediately earned a reputation as a bit of a junker, with build quality issues plaguing it through its entire lifespan. The liquid crystal screen would discolour when flexed, and pushing the directional-pad or buttons on the Game Gear would often cause enough flex to create ripples of discoloration at the screen edges. Another serious problem was dust, which would get inside the screen where it couldn't be cleaned out, perhaps because the rubber seal around the screen wasn't thick enough or because of excessive flex creating gaps dust could squeeze through. The screen was of poor quality, typical of LCDs at the time, with poor saturation and terrible off-axis viewing.
Sales history and Game Boy rivalry
When first launched in America, a memorable TV advertising campaign was used to promote the system as superior to the Game Boy. One commercial featured a dog looking back and forth at both portables, with a narrator saying, "If you were colorblind and had an IQ of less than twelve, then you wouldn't care which portable you had. Of course, you wouldn't care if you drank from the toilet, either." An advertisement was shown in black and white, with players milling about aimlessly in a dark void, playing Game Boys. A lone rebel appears with a Game Gear, cueing the narrator's comment of "The Sega Game Gear: Seperates the men from the boys." Another showed a gamer hitting himself in the head with a rigid, dead squirrel in order to see color on his Game Boy. When the Game Boy began to appear in different colours, Sega's ad ridiculed it by showing the Game Boy disguised in loaves of bread. Another ad from that era featured a professor explaining that though the Game Boy now was available in bright colors, the graphics were still monochrome, and therefore Game Gear was still superior. Although Sega was rather proud of these original marketing campaigns, it may have backfired since many gamers - loyal to their existing Nintendo handhelds - saw the ads as condescending or even patronising. Negative advertising may have been also been detrimental since it implied that the Game Gear was in second place.
Although its color backlit screen and ergonomic design made it technically superior to the Game Boy, the Game Gear did not manage to take over a significant share of the market. This can be blamed partly on the perception that it was too bulky, and on its poor battery performance: the device required six AA batteries, and the backlit screen consumed these in three to five hours. External and rechargeable battery packs were sold to extend the devices' battery life. However, Sega's biggest problem was that it failed to enlist as many key software developers as Nintendo, so the Game Gear was perceived as lacking quality games. Indeed, the Game Gear did suffer from the same key problems that plagued a similar handheld released earlier, the Atari Lynx.
The blue Game Gear sports edition, identical to the standard Game Gear, except in body color, was released in 1993, with the game World Series Baseball. Another specialty edition was a red Coca-Cola-themed Game Gear unit, released to the Japanese market, which came with a game entitled Coca-Cola Kid.
Although it was a moderate success, the Game Gear did not manage to achieve the commercial success that Game Boy did, in that when it went off the market it was not replaced by a next-generation successor. The Game Gear, however, did better than other portable systems that tried to compete with the Game Boy, such as the preceding Atari Lynx. Support ended in 1997, but Majesco released a core version of the Game Gear in 2000 for a reduced price. A short-lived successor, the Genesis-based Sega Nomad, was even less successful, and was never released outside the USA and Canada.
The Majesco Core Game Gear differed slightly from the original Game Gear in that it was black, rather than dark grey, the logo on the front of the unit was no longer in color, and it did not support the television tuner accessory. It was part of Majesco's strategy of eking profits from products with margins too slim for the original manufacturer to pursue, and was accompanied by Majesco's licensed reissue of several classic Game Gear cartridges. Majesco-reissued cartridges are distinguished by having no plastic case, and a Majesco Sales logo on the label, as well as the current games ratings system, which differs slightly from the one formerly used by Sega. The Majesco logo was not prominent, and these were marketed under the Sega name.
- A Game Gear can be seen in the U2 video clip "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)".
- In the movie "Wayne's World," the character Garth's desk includes a Game Gear, complete with the TV tuner accessory.
- A black lady was playing a Game Gear in the movie Airheads.
- Main processor: Zilog Z80 (8 bit)
- Processor speed: 3.58 MHz (same as NTSC dot clock)
- Resolution: 160 x 144 pixels
- Colors available: 4,096
- Colors on screen: 32
- Maximum sprites: 64
- Sprite size: 8x8 or 8x16
- Screen size: 3.2 inches (81 mm)
- Audio: 4 channel tone generator
- RAM: 8 KiB