As part of its 60th anniversary celebration, SEGA opened up the vaults and hosted an online history lesson going through its hardware lineage, including one prototype never before seen outside of its offices. SEGA was once the top dog in the gaming industry, challenging Nintendo at its most dominant. From the birth of the Master System to the brief but bountiful life of the Dreamcast, SEGA’s titles and franchises have inspired a fanbase that perseveres to this day.
However, SEGA’s history is perhaps the most complicated out of any platform holder when it comes to its hardware. The company was at one point in the 1990s supporting the Genesis, Game Gear, Sega CD, 32X, Saturn, and even the Pico, a console aimed at children that sold poorly outside of Japan. There have been many books written about the history, particularly centered on this period of turmoil where the American and Japanese divisions of the company had their own ideas of where things should be headed, all while the heads of the company encouraged both sides to develop projects that competed directly with each other.
It was amidst all this confusion that the Sega Nomad came out, a portable Genesis that was codenamed the “Venus” and played almost all of the games from the system’s impressive library. In the middle of a twenty-minute video history lesson going through all of SEGA’s various consoles and internal projects that never saw the light of day, longtime SEGA manager and executive Hiroyuki Miyazaki pulled a version of the Nomad out that still bore the Venus codename. The console was recognizable as a Nomad, but its design was very much inspired by the Japanese side of the company. The Nomad itself was never released outside of North America, so this prototype is a peek into what the console may have looked like if SEGA was willing to give it a wider release outside of the US.
The rest of the video goes into intriguing detail about consoles that released, codenames used for projects that never saw the light of day, and even a few codenames that were only rumored to have existed behind the scenes. Particularly, Miyazaki-san could not offer any insight into the Pluto codename, which has long been rumored to be an online capable version of the Sega Saturn. He could instead only offer speculation that this was likely an idea on the table at some point, but no serious wor was put into it. The entire video features English subtitles and is well worth a watch for anyone interested in video game history.
This public unveiling of SEGA‘s Japanese Nomad prototype should be way less special than it is. Gaming companies are very secretive, even about technology that’s decades out of date. On top of that, many of them are poor stewards of their own history, leading to situations where the rights to games are so tangled amidst acquisitions and corporate red tape that they fade into obscurity. Organizations like the Video Game History Foundation are starting the hard work of documenting the industry in the now, but more companies should be willing to put out consumer-friendly deep dives into the good and the bad of what’s come before.