Davids and Goliath
It seems as though Nintendo has the home videogame market sewn up, having sold over 7 million game consoles last year alone. But if Sega and NEC have their way, the hot request this holiday season won't be for more Nintendo cartridges, but for a new 16-bit game system.
Both companies will be introducing game consoles this fall based on 16-bit microprocessors. They'll have to make the advantages of their machines well known, though since the retail prices for both consoles will be around $200—twice that of the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Neither company is taking a chance on an untried system. The Sega 16-bit system, called Genesis, is marketed in Japan as the MegaDrive. And NEC's entry, the TurboGrafx-16, is Nintendo's number 1 competitor in Japan, where it is sold as the PC Engine.
The Sega Genesis system uses a 68000 microprocessor (like the Amiga, Macintosh, and Atari ST). It has stereo sound a palette of over 500 colors, and two independently scrolling game fields to provide a 3-D perspective. An optional Power Base Converterlets Genesis use the over-30 cartridges available for the 8-bit Sega Master System.
The NEC TurboGrafx-16 console uses a 16-bit custom graphics processor with 64K of 16-bit video RAM. Its six-voice stereo sound can be enhanced using the TurboBooster peripheral, which allows you to hook TurboGrafx-16 into your home video and audio equipment.
The biggest marketing advantage of the Sega and NEC systems over the Nintendo may not be the improved speed, graphics, and sound. Both companies are releasing a variety of innovative peripherals to accompany the game consoles that may help them stand out.
Along with the Power Base Converter, Sega is releasing a special modem for its system. The TeleGenesis modem will allow two players to play games against each other on separate systems, connected by phone. For instance, two players in different cities could play Tommy Lasorda Baseball against each other. One player would view the action from the pitcher's mound; the other would see the game from the batter's box.
Peripherals for the TurboGrafx-16 include the TurboTap adapter, which allows up to five players to play a game simultaneously, and the TurboGrafx-CD player. Besides being able to play standard music CDs, the TurboGrafx-CD player also lets users run more elaborate games, complete with CD-quality soundtracks, With a storage capacity of 550 megabytes, the CD player gives programmers storage equal to 2000 game cards, letting them create games with complexity and detail surpassing those available on personal computers.
Will parents pay twice as much for a game machine with better graphics, sound, and expandability, or will Nintendo corner the market again this Christmas? It should be an interesting holiday season, as the first shots of the Second Videogame Warring out.