Gen-e-SIS DOES! What Nintendon’t.
Four words changed everything about video game advertising forever. Before those four words, it was all about the games. Show a clever ad, show gameplay at the end, profit. But Sega had other plans. Sega wanted us to know that they were cool and Nintendo wasn’t. And speaking for myself, it worked. I just didn’t know it at the time.
As I write this, I can’t help but wonder how it would have been received if we were adults back then. Adult gamers love attitude in their gaming, and these commercials were full of it. The fight for our gaming allegiance was serious business, but only Sega marketed it as a war. In a present gaming landscape where the Big 3 (Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony) regularly take digs at one another, it’s only right we respect the architect.
Looking at these commercials now, they were beautifully executed. The whole commercial basically screamed “This is the superior product.” Whether that was true or not is irrelevant. It made you BELIEVE it. That’s how I know it worked. I distinctly remember owning a SNES and always wishing I could play my step dad’s Genesis. We had a few of the same games, but I still wanted to play them on his system. Even the damn controller looked cooler.
When I dive into the numbers, it gets even more interesting. The NES sold about 33.5 million consoles in America, as there was really no viable alternative. Yeah, Sega had the Master System, but no. However, the SNES only sold 22.8 million in America. That’s a roughly 33 percent decrease. Meanwhile, the Genesis sold about 17 million in America. Sega almost overthrew Nintendo in America just that quick. I’m almost certain Sony took a look at what Sega did when deciding how to market the PlayStation in America. Sega pretty much created the blueprint on how to attract the American gaming community. Just position your product as a must have item, whether it is the better option or not. It worked like a freaking charm for the 360 if you think about it.
So I know by now you might be wondering how this relates to hip hop. Well, think about how competitive, brash, and flashy hip hop was and continues to be. As we were growing up right alongside the hip hop culture, Sega advertised their product in a manner that replicated what we were living. If someone was a threat, you challenged them. You trash all opposition. You talk smack until your opponent surrenders. You convince yourself that you are untouchable. You never acknowledge competition’s strengths. Battling is a way of life in hip hop, and Sega seemed to embrace that line of thinking when deciding how to market the Genesis.
Check back for part 3 when I’ll break down the differences in game libraries between the Genesis and SNES. See you soon.