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Platform / SG-1000

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The SG-1000 and SC-3000 were Sega's first 8-bit gaming platforms, both released in July 1983. The SG-1000 was sold as a dedicated gaming console and came with a single hardwired joystick and a port for an additional controller or peripherals, while the more expensive SC-3000 was primarily marketed as a microcomputer and came equipped with an integrated keyboard. The two platforms were otherwise functionally identical; a separate keyboard (the SK-1100) could be purchased for the SG-1000 in order to run programming and educational software created for the SC-3000, while the SC-3000 had two joystick ports for playing SG-1000 games. They were primarily designed for the Japanese market, although the SC-3000 had limited releases in parts of Europe and Australia.

Sega and Coleco had a close relationship in the early 80's. Sega licensed to Coleco a number of their most popular arcade titles, such as Zaxxon, for ports to the ColecoVision, which led to them striking a deal with Coleco to distribute the console in Japan. The Great Video Game Crash of 1983 would put a stop to this particular deal, but Sega would ultimately adapt the technology to their own console. The SG-1000's hardware specifications are very similar to the ColecoVision, using most of the same chips. A dozen or so SG-1000 games ended up being ported to the MSX, which also had nigh-interchangeable specs (both officially and unofficially).

Sega decided to make a dedicated gaming console as a result of a soft arcade sales year in 1982, in part because they caught wind that rival arcade game manufacturer Nintendo were going to make their own game console, the Famicom. The decision to make a microcomputer version was prompted in large part by uncertainty of the direction the market would take, as computers following the MSX standard were introduced the same year to much fanfare, and Sega wanted to play to both potential outcomes.

In 1984 Sega released the SG-1000 II, a revised version of the console that changed the exterior shell and made other form factor changes in response to feedback. Instead of a hardwired-joystick, it came with two detachable joypads that could be stored on the side of the unit when they were not in use.

At first, the SG-1000 was relatively competitive with the Famicom due to having a larger and more varied launch year lineup. Eventually, though, the SG-1000 would be undone by two glaring weaknesses. The SG-1000's inferior graphical capabilities to the Famicom became more and more apparent as the latter's games became more advanced graphically. Worse, Sega saw third-party developers as competition for their own games, and insisted that they publish most of the SG-1000's library themselves. Nintendo was not only more welcoming to third party developers, but signed the biggest publishers to exclusivity deals. This would give the Famicom's game library a lead over the SG-1000 that would prove unsurmountable.

While the SG-1000 only sold about 160,000 units in its lifetime, this actually exceeded Sega's initial projections of 50,000. This small but significant win was enough to convince them to commit to video game console development. The Sega Mark III was released in 1985, and featured a Visual Display Processor that allowed for exclusive games with better graphics. The Mark III became the basis for the Sega Master System, their first internationally-released game console.


  • Zilog Z80 CPU, 3.58 MHz (actually, a clone from NEC, µPD780-1A)
  • 1 KB RAM
  • 256x192 resolution
  • 16 colors
  • Up to 32 on-screen sprites
  • Three square wave channels and one noise generator