Games As A Service: Sega Channel and Satellaview

With the price of game cartridges starting to drive manufacturers to favor disc-based systems, Sega has been hard at work deliberating a plan of their own. The Saturn may be confirmed to use game discs instead of carts, but what will happen to Genesis? Back in our September '93 issue of PPM, we broke the news of Sega Channel: A state-of-the-art service that enables players to download game data from television signals. What was once fiction is now reality thanks to a partnership between Sega of America, Time Warner, and TCI. After a bit of beta testing last year, Sega Channel has made its official launch in over 70 cities. Local cable companies that offer Sega Channel provide the adapter to plug-in to the Genesis and establish the monthly fee. From there, you connect it to your cable feed and will be all set to begin!

Once players boot up the system and move past the intro screen, they will be greeted by an interactive menu with a plethora of selections to choose from. The highlight is, of course, the ability to pull titles straight from cable. Games will rotate on a monthly basis, and on-screen are categorized by genre. After choosing either a classic hit like Earthworm Jim or an exclusive as such Mega Man: Wily Wars, access to the game will continue indefinitely without interruption or extra fees. The only thing that removes access is shutting down the unit or selecting a new title. The main menu also provides game advice via "Video Hints" as well as a quick-and-easy news screen. Oh, and parental controls are available for those who want it, too. With a service like this, moving beyond cartridges may not be too scary a thought after all.

satellite      segachannellogo      satellaview

                   Sega Channel: Coming to a Living Room Near You!                            

As Sega marches ahead with their plan to boost access to games for its 15 million Genesis owners (while simultaneously building anticipation for the next-gen Saturn), Nintendo has an entirely different strategy up its sleeve. Super Nintendo owners have long-since suffered from exuberantly high game prices, in some cases even more severely than on the Sega side. Though word is mum on a true pricing solution, Nintendo of Japan has unveiled a broadcasting service of their own. Meet the Satellaview. This add-on device for the Super Famicom (the Japanese SNES) will, much like Sega Channel, allow subscribers to download and play games without needing to plug-in individual cartridges. During a daily 3-hour broadcast period courtesy of WOWOW Inc., availability will open up to new games, various programming blocks, and magazine articles.

According to Nintendo's official press release for their latest product, there are no plans yet to release Satellaview outside of Japan. This may be for several reasons, the most obvious among them being its satellite-ownership prerequisite. That's right - Unless you already own a digital satellite dish and a commercial decoder, this will be a no-go. To constrain its audience even further, reports as of last month say this device will only be sold via mail order to Japanese consumers. Although we hate to judge something prior to its wide release, Satellaview seems nowhere near as accessible nor easy-to-use as Sega Channel. We will see whether Nintendo decides to renovate its prototype service in the months ahead, and if its satellite-only titles are worth the $150 admission fee, but it isn't too promising just yet. Put that R&D into Ultra 64!


[Article from the May 1995 Issue of PPM]


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