SEGA Channel was ahead of its time, but it still failed - what went wrong?

The mid-nineties were a wild time for SEGA. They were trying anything and everything to make sure that they were still relevant in the eyes of gamers.

In 1996, alongside the SEGA Saturn, the 32X, the push of new franchises such as Panzer Dragoon and NIGHTS, they decided to launch something that, for once, people didn't really expect.

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They launched a gaming subscription. In 1996. Ahead of its time, but it just didn't take off. Of course, the potential was there, as in 2020, there's a good chance that you're paying for at least one subscription service now; it's a way of life.

With that, here's an insight into the SEGA Channel...

SEGA Channel and Andi Peters

Back in 1996 at 7 years old, I was a reader of 'Sonic the Comic', a series that seems to only now gain the recognition it deserves. In this particular issue was a double-page feature on the launch of SEGA Channel with Andi Peters, the at-the-time co-host of the BBC Saturday morning show, LIVE and Kicking.

I remember being confused; having the ability to 'download' games through a cartridge, and paying a 'monthly fee' every month.

Looking back, it's ridiculous how much it got right. For ten pounds a month, you could download up to twenty-five games, alongside demos and even cheat codes. At one point, you could choose up to fifty games, and there was no limit, apart from space on the cartridge, as to what you could play.

It's launch in America at the end of 1994, followed by other regions in the UK (as shown by Andi Peters) was rushed, as expected by SEGA during this time, and even though it was forward-thinking, everything else was flawed.

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The decline

The downfall was, unfortunately, caused by SEGA itself. Their rush to launch anything during this time lead to a crowded choice, from the Mega Drive, to the 32X, to the launch of the Saturn; customers just didn't know where SEGA would focus their energies on.

By the time 1997 came round, everyone was interested in the PlayStation, Nintendo 64, and to a point, the Saturn, alongside rumours of the 'SEGA Katana/Black Belt', of what would become the Dreamcast. It also didn't help that the service was for a console way past its relevancy, with customers and eventually, SEGA itself wondering just why this service existed in the first place.

By 1998 the service was discontinued, added to the wall of what SEGA launched in a rush, and failed to make it a success. But looking back, it's a great insight into what we use today. The Switch Online Service for NES and SNES games, or Xbox Games Pass, alongside PS Now. It's a service that we use today without thinking, and it opens the possibility into wondering how a new 'SEGA Channel' of its past franchises could work as an app across all platforms.

But for now, we can see just how Andi Peters tried to push the relevancy of the SEGA Channel, at least before his film-debut in Toy Story 2, and wonder just if a service like this could be possible on the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch, iPad and many more.

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