View Full Version : Master System, Game Gear priority years

06-23-2010, 07:54 PM
This is going to be a long boring post for most people LOL

I've been thinking about when the Game Gear became more important than Master System and would be happy if people checked for flaws in my argument. -

It seems to be taken for granted on most forums that the Master System greatly benefited from sharing hardware with the Game Gear, its often said that the Game Gear effectively kept the Master System on life support long after it should've died, and that the shared hardware is one of the main reasons for its larger European library (ie we got a bunch of "Game Gear ports")

Most people seem to believe that from around 1990 the Master System was basically over, however I've seen some posts around the internet with the idea that 1992 was the last Master System year, and 1993 was when the Game Gear gained priority, Basically I'll start with the idea I saw as the first point -


1. The feel/polish of the gameplay

Games made during 1992 or earlier virtually always seem to play better on Master System than Game Gear (a lot of the Game Gear versions seem to speed up and slow down for no reason), then, from 1993 onwards there is a sudden change and the Master System versions play worse, and feel less polished, there tends to be a lot more slowdown and more areas of empty space.

The biggest examples for this would be Sega's big hitter releases, with all those coming in 1993 (Deep Duck Trouble, Asterix and the Secret Mission, and Sonic the Hedgehog Chaos) playing less polished than their earlier predecessors, and also playing much better on Game Gear.

So anyway I ran with that idea and thought about it

2. Market Share

I have yearly sales data for Britain and unlike what many seem to think, in Britain the Master System sales had a very slow incline over many years, they were still steadily growing at the turn of the ninetees and actually hit their absolute peak in 1992, during 1993 Master System sales in Britain nosedived.

Game Gear yearly sales in Britain were far less than Master System in 1992, and actually dropped to nearly equal amounts as the Master System during 1993.

If other European countries followed any kind of similar pattern (and from what I've heard France, Italy, and Spain did follow a similar pattern) then you've got the European Master System market being far stronger in 1992 than the European Game Gear market.

The Game Gear doesn't seem to have sold well in Japan, so basically the only market that could offset the European Master System sales lead (thereby making the Game Gear market the priority) is the US. It does seem feasible that the Game Gear could be popular enough in the US to make its overall market far greater, but this would still only be talking about current sales, and wouldn't be taking into account that in 1992 the Master System already had a huge installed userbase in Europe and Australia which was still growing.

3. Differences in Game library

Seeing as the two machines were very similar, porting between them is extremely easy, however companies like Taito were actually still releasing games for Master System (Sagaia 1992, Rainbow Islands 1993), without even bothering to port to Game Gear, so its clear Master System was still at least Taito's main priority out of the two even as late as 1993!

Something else I just noticed (which started me making this thread) is that many multiformat games run with glitches on 60hz Master Systems, logically that means that all these games were designed first for Master System, as there's no such thing as a 50hz Game Gear, and if they were designed for 60hz Game Gear and ported to Master System logically they should run perfectly at 60hz (as opposed to porting from MS to Game Gear, finding the glitches and then removing them for Game Gear release afterwards)

games which glitch on 60hz Master System (therefore possibly indicating an earlier build for MS) -

Prince of Persia (1992)
Bram Stoker's Dracula (1993)

Game Gear exclusives

You would imagine that a new up and coming console such as the Game Gear would have a lot of exclusives, mainly because of the many American and Japanese companies un-aware of the European Master System market, as well as the multitude who wouldn't have the ability to properly market and distribute in a foreign country well enough to make porting worthwhile. But this isn't really the case, only a small percentage of the early 90s Game Gear releases are exclusive, mainly from Sega (possibly to placate the many Europeans saying the Game Gear has no original games and is a worthless port machine?)

Earlier Releases

Some very big releases, such as Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992), were released exclusively for Master System in Europe, before the worldwide releases of the Game Gear version, which also indicates the the European Master System market may have been bigger the the worldwide Game Gear market.


Of course whilst all this rules out the Master System living off the Game Gear for years, it doesn't rule out a more likely co-dependent relationship between the two machines during 1992.

Realistically looking at the releases for Game Gear during 1991, and the fact that many of these were ports from Master System games created years before the Game Gear was even created, I tend to think it was the Game Gear which got the most out of the shared hardware.

Anyway thats the gist of my pointless thoughts on the subject :D

06-24-2010, 05:36 AM
Thats an interesting post, and I agree with all that you have said. Theres also Brazil, South Korea etc where the Master System was popular, and the gamegear wasn't. Brazil was an important market for the SMS way earlier than people seem to think (as its later games like Street Fighter 2 that get peoples attention). Sonic 2 was released first for Master System in Brazil, and before Sonic 2 was even released for Megadrive, let alone GameGear.

Like you said, around 93 some games were obviously tailored for Gamegear, and have smaller character sprites etc. But its only a few games at that point, sms was still getting games that played better, or exclusives like its own Power Strike II. It was from 94 onwards when GG started taking all the focus, and the exclusive games it got noticeably took advantage of the larger colour pallette, which rarely happened before.

The sms is often wrongly considered a failure, which simply isn't the case. And when you factor in sales of the Gamegear, which essentially is the same platform (if not in the minds of players, at least in the costs of development), the combined sales were massive. The two systems helped support each other, the SMS gave the gamegear a big library of games, and the gamegear gave Sega sales in areas like the US and Japan where the sms had faltered.

Lastly, I think Sega did something daft around 1993 that helped kill the Euro SMS market. Maybe they put up the prices of cart manufacturing, or cost of distribution. But games were selling massively, and loads were in development, then all of a sudden they get cancelled and games that are released are done so in way smaller numbers (despite major shops still stocking sms games).

Oh and care to share the sales numbers you have? :D

kool kitty89
06-24-2010, 06:01 AM
Thenewguy, your from the UK, aren't you? (maybe I'm rememebring wrong)

Anyway, it makes prefect sense that the SMS was supported as long as it was, in fact, I'm surprised some games like Sonic Triple Trouble didn't make it to the SMS. The console was rather popular in Europe (especially the UK), so it made sense, especially with the Game Gear architecture so similar. (and many games ended up superior on SMS due to the higher resolution -in spite of the limited palette- and that's not including the advantages of a TV vs GG screen)
Particularly significant given the relatively limited popularity of the GG in Europe (even UK iirc -I've heard comments that the Lynx actually was more common though both were far behind the GB, more so than North America or Japan)

Then there's other cases like South America and parts of Asia as already mentioned above.

I honestly wouldn't have been surprised if SMS games were still being released in 1995 in Europe. (and I'm sure some were released later in South America -even if published by Tectoy)