The Sega Game Gear is more than a big “1-up” to the Nintendo GameBoy
April 1989: Nintendo released its handheld video game titan into the world… The Nintendo GameBoy. Sega couldn’t just sit on the sidelines and watch its overwhelming success. So, addressing the many problems that users had with the GameBoy, Sega developed the Game Gear.
The Game Gear was a hybrid of Sega’s previous home console, the Master System, and as such shares many of its parts. It has a two button controller with one start button and a d-pad. Gamers could also, for the first time, purchase an adaptor to allow their Game Gear to play Master System games. Only a small number of games were not playable on the device.
Users of the GameBoy were often found complaining about lack of colour and visual clarity while playing games, as well as their hands cramping during use. Sega developed the Game Gear with these exact problems in mind. It featured a full colour, back lit screen. It also had high fidelity audio and a bulky landscape format to prevent hand cramps in long play sessions.
There was also a fairly sizeable library of games for the system. It totalled around 383 in all regions.
Sega chose a similar marketing campaign for the Game Gear as they did for the Sega Genesis. Blasting the Nintendo GameBoy at almost every turn, mocking its limited colours and games. In this particular ad featuring Ethan Suplee, Sega is telling users they shouldn’t have to smack themselves with a dead squirrel in order to see colour, simply grab yourself a Game Gear!
Unfortunately, Sega simply couldn’t keep up. The Game Gear sold around 10.5 million units compared to the GameBoy’s chart, topping 118 million units sold. Due to the slow first party support, the poor handheld suffered and the line was discontinued in order for Sega to support its home console, the Genesis, as well as the 32X, the Sega CD and the upcoming Sega Saturn.
Still, 383 games is nothing to sneeze at and many of them are great games. This along with support for Master System titles via an additional and cheap adaptor, makes the Sega Game Gear one of the best handhelds of all time in my opinion. Now you can find Game Gears for purchase on your NINTENDO 3DS Virtual Console. How funny is that?