I’ve been a long time Sega fan going back to the Master System days. I had an SMS and loved it. It had some amazing games like Phantasy Star, Alex Kidd in Miracle World, Zillion, Spellcaster, R-Type, and Shinobi. It had many technical advantages as well over the NES but was hobbled by Nintendo’s monopolistic licensing practices which pretty much guaranteed no third party support.
With the Genesis, Sega seemed to do everything right. They came out first, got some big name publishers and titles, and jumped on the “XTREME” bandwagon of the 1990s by trying to out-cool Nintendo. The SNES was by far the superior console technologically but the Genesis was the cooler one. I mean you could play Mortal Kombat with all the gore! Then Sega started chasing the next big thing.
The SegaCD was a pricey flop that had some really good titles but was a product in search of a market. Most of its titles were really low effort FMV shovelware titles that were more tech demos than real games. For all the “controversy” behind Night Trap, the only real controversy should have been that it was a pretty shit game that would barely rate a PG rating if it were an actual movie. The 32X was another pricey flop that attempted to bridge the console generation gap but was soon undercut by Sega themselves with the Saturn. (Not to mention how ridiculous all the cabling became if you had both a 32X and a SegaCD with its 3 power bricks, and Inception levels of interconnect cables on top of interconnect cables.)
The Saturn came out with little warning, surprising retailers and gamers and having basically no launch lineup of note. The Saturn was also notoriously difficult to develop for and didn’t have true 3D capabilities. The Nintendo 64 and PlayStation came out no long afterward and largely relegated the Saturn to an afterthought for many. Yes, it had some really good games but nobody was buying it.
Finally we had the Dreamcast. It’s hard to say Sega didn’t go balls to the wall with it. Interesting hardware, forward thinking things like a modem (and later a LAN adapter), a web browser, keyboard and mouse support, and all kinds of weird and wonderful ideas. The VMU thingy that nobody ever really knew what to do with but Sony still ended up copying with its JP-only PocketStation. Bizarre ideas like the Seaman game. Phantasy Star Online was a really good and innovative console MMO at a time when those were a PC-only thing. It had some really high quality titles, like Sonic Adventure 1 and 2, Crazy Taxi, and others. But history repeated itself yet again, Sega just couldn’t catch up with Sony at this point despite having superior hardware. Sony had all the top tier publishers locked in, and by the time the PlayStation 2 came out it was game over for Dreamcast. It also didn’t help that Sega’s past mistakes burned a lot of goodwill amongst gamers.
Sega may not be making consoles anymore, but what a console legacy. I’m perfectly happy with Sega as a publisher. Even if Sega can’t get out of its own way with some of its IP like Sonic the Hedgehog, their Altus and Ryu ga Gotoku studios are pumping some absolute out god tier games.
Fun aside: while the Sega Master System flopped in America it was pretty popular in Europe. It was also absolute smash success in Brazil selling like crazy. As far as I know, it’s still sold in Brazil to this day. (@bakaneko or @lanika can keep me honest here if I’m wrong about this.)