1992: Composite Market

     At the beginning of 1992 it was clear that Sega had pulled a coup on Nintendo's highly anticipated launch.  While Super Ghouls n Ghosts was referred to as a "new generation" in Gamepro's August 1991 issue, by February 1992 it was described as "basically an upgrade of the Genesis version" that suffers "from slow-down when there are multiple sprites on screen." 1  Even though Gamepro's description of two entirely different games is wildly inaccurate it does reflect a shift in public opinion based on the SNES' in game performance.  As a result of popular perception and respective sales, longtime NES developer/publishers Acclaim and Gametek only signed on as Genesis licensees after Spring of 1992.2  Validating the fact that Sega's edge in game library, and Nintendo's concern over their own licensees turning multi-platform, Nintendo finally changed the annual limit of game releases for third parties from three to six.3  Nintendo also promised one hundred and fifty SNES games by the end of 1992, which was "a number equal to the current Sega Genesis library."4

     EGM's Steve Harris admitted that the SNES' eventual introduction coincided with "other systems like the Sega Genesis" coming into their own.  The same editor and publisher of EGM also revealed that Sega saw "sell outs across the board" during the critical Christmas season of 1991 and that Sega would enter the Winter Consumer Electronics show on top for the first time.  Harris subsequently told his readers that both Sega and Nintendo would have to create greater quantity and quality of software to compete in 1992.5  Gamepro described retailer reports that the "Genesis outsold the Super NES often two to one over the Christmas season."  Sega themselves cited a potential library of "more than 350 titles ... for the Genesis system by the end of 1992" as the reason why they would "hold more than 55% of the 16-Bit market."6  Perhaps in response, or due to the relatively low sales of TurboGrafx consoles, Namco announced that it would be releasing the sequel to Splatterhouse exclusively on the Genesis.7  BlockBuster Video, though, only reported the top ten 8-bit Nintendo rentals for the month, which indicates that they were still not carrying Genesis titles in all of their stores.8 

     Competition between hardware manufacturers created significant confusion.  Trevor Paton of Nashville Tennessee misunderstood the SNES' highly publicized 32,768 color palette as the system's on screen capability.  The reader subsequently called Genesis players to "give it up" and gloated that "all the great companies like Konami, Capcom and Acclaim" exclusively supported Nintendo. Mark Peters of Phoenix Arizona claimed that the SNES's actual game library made him forget its "overhyped specs" and Mode 7 capabilities to conclude that CD-ROM games were the real future.  EGM responded to correct the SNES' on screen color limit and pointed out that Nintendo sales in 1991 had already caused an SNES price drop.9  By contrast Sega and NEC's 16-bit consoles were not discounted for over one year after their 1989 launch, which was during the NES' most dominant sales years. 

     Yet three quarters of a column on the same page were dedicated to readers requesting information on Nintendo's newest iteration of the Zelda franchise.10  Robert Sorensen of Cedar Park Texas excitedly asked whether popular NES games, or the announced Street Fighter 2 port to SNES, would be released on Genesis.  Acclaim, Data East, Koei, and Vic Tokai were listed in response as new Sega licensees, but Capcom had not announced any intention of releasing games on "other" platforms.11  The SNES adaptation of the ultra violent arcade hit Smash TV meanwhile saw glowing reviews and was described as the "best home translation...on a video game system."  RPM Racing, which is one of the only SNES games to use its "high resolution" mode was panned by EGM reviewers for using an isometric overhead view rather than utilizing Mode 7's pseudo three dimensional effect.12 

     Bullet Proof Software, Capcom, Electronic Arts, Konami, NEC, Renovation, Sega, Square Soft, and Tradewest were the only companies to win Gamepro's Readers Choice Awards.13  Answering Matt Wales of Rhinelander Wisconsin Gamepro stated that the rotation effect in Sonic the Hedgehog's bonus rounds was only technically different from the SNES' Mode 7 rotation because the SNES used a helper chip.  In the same issue Winter Challenge, published by Accolade for the Genesis, was given a perfect graphics score for its excellent "scaling and rotation technologies."14  Matt Wales' question of whether this made the Genesis "equally capable" as the SNES shows how effectively marketed Mode 7 was regardless of whether it was a technically superior effect.15  Sonic the Hedgehog was given the "16-bit Game of The Year" award for its original character, graphics quality and game concept.  Konami's Castlevania IV on Super Nintendo received the "Sound Achievement" award for exemplifying the "one area" the SNES "really makes an impression."  Gamepro also admitted that the Sound award was the "closest race" and Castlevania IV only "edged out Actraiser [SNES] and ToeJam & Earl [Genesis]." 16 

    Coincidentally, Gamepro reported that the Genesis outsold the SNES in the 1991 Christmas season, citing unnamed retailers who "confirmed that the Genesis outsold the Super NES, often two to one, over the Christmas season."  Sega pointed to a potential game library of "more than 350 titles ... for the Genesis system by the end of 1992" as the reason they would "hold more than 55% of the 16-bit market." 17  On the same page Block Buster Video's Top 10 NES Video Game Rentals indicated that the rental chain was still only carrying NES software in most stores.18  Namco nonetheless announced that it would be releasing Splatterhouse 2, the sequel to an earlier TurboGrafx and Arcade game, exclusively on the Genesis.19

     Nintendo was the only console manufacturer with a substantial showing at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show (CES).  According to EGM editor Ed Semrad, SNES licensees were doing "their homework as this new generation of carts have very little slow down or flicker."  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 4 (TMNT 4), Out of This World, Street Fighter 2, Super Battletoads, Contra 3, and Bart's Nightmare were all of the noted examples of such improved SNES software.20  Apparently SNES developers at CES relied heavily, if not exclusively, on sequels, arcade ports or licensed games to impress attendees.  Accordingly, Sega's booth showing only drew remarks about its lack of sequels. 

     Semrad went on to describe why these games were so exemplary.  Pointing to TMNT 4's effect of throwing enemies at the screen as "Mode 7," even though it is actually a simple three frame animation with no scaling, Semrad shows how obsessed EGM had become with the SNES's nuances.  Out of this World was more objectively defined as a game with "extensive use of filled polygon graphics in a story book like adventure." 21  Nintendo apparently emphasized their SNES CD-ROM unit as having more RAM, better Full Motion Video, a special coprocessor and a cheaper price than NEC's or Sega's actual offerings.  Semrad's account of NEC's display claimed "very impressive" titles being brought over from Japan, confirmation of the DUO and Super System Card's U.S. release, and a 32-bit console.  Nintendo, according to Semrad, promised to sell six million SNES consoles in 1992, while not apparently limiting that number to just one region.

     Answering Pablo Ayala of Acapulco Mexico, EGM reported "Nintendo has stated that they sold 2.1 million Super Nintendos in 4 months ... Sega states that they sold out their inventory and that their install base is nearly 2 million systems." 22  A full column on the same page was dedicated to "S-NES Street Fighter 2."  EGM's editor claimed "hundreds of letters each week are pouring in..." for the SNES' "16 meg wonder." 23  EGM continued by promoting SNES Street Fighter II's accuracy to the Arcade original's gameplay.  Conversely, the SNES adaptation of Turtles in Time drew more attention for being two player and that "there is no sign of flicker when the action gets intense."  EGM also incorrectly attributed an effect in Turtles in Time that allows the player to throw enemy characters into the screen as "Mode 7" when it was in fact a simple three frame animation.24 

     One Gabe Pona of Hamilton, Ontario petitioned EGM for pictures and details of the new Battletoads game.  EGM responded by saying "There are new super moves and, of course, it is a two player cooperative game..." and dedicated a "special preview fact-file" to the one level beta they played at CES.  25 Emphasizing revolutionary screen rotation, EGM also assured Paul Kravitz of Fortuna, California with a preview of Equinox, a Sony published game released in early 1993.26 

     Gamepro's March 1992 issue asserted "Nintendo of America jump-started the video game biz back in 1985 with the Nintendo Entertainment System.  Over thirty million consoles and several billion dollars later, NOA launched the Super Nintendo Entertainment System last September."  Gamepro interviewed Bill White, Director of Advertising and Public Relations over "stacks of 'gripe' mail" regarding 8-bit compatibility, slowdown and CD-ROM development. Referring to an NES adapter for the Super Nintendo as "inappropriate," White explained that the supplied RF cables for both consoles would allow them to be hooked up to the same television at the same time.  Gamepro's introduction to the topic described NES owners as "mildly annoyed to furious" at the lack of backward compatibility in the SNES.  Naming Gradius II and Final Fight as examples, Gamepro also pressed Nintendo's Public Relations about why "'slowdown' plagues many SNES games."  White responded that the SNES' "four separate CPUs" could easily best the Genesis and blamed slowdown in SNES games on the quality of the programming.27

     According to Steve Harris, Capcom was aware that millions of people were anticipating the 16-Megabit Street Fighter II SNES cartridge adaptation that represented just as big of a technological leap as CD-ROM.  2 MegaBytes, or 16-Megabits, of ROM made Street Fighter II for SNES incomparable to any prior Arcade conversion in Harris' estimation.  Prior to Street Fighter II's home release the most critically acclaimed Arcade conversion was Sega's 8 Megabit adaptation of Capcom's Strider, half the size of Capcom's upcoming Street Fighter II conversion.  Ballistic's Star Control for Sega Genesis was the largest cartridge ROM at the time at 12 Megabits.  Harris continued "there have only been three other companies strongly committed to delivering new game formats to the market (a trend that doesn't seem to be changing much outside of CD-ROM)." 28

     Rubin Alanis of McAllen Texas wrote to EGM to say "we gamers use your ratings to see what games to buy and what to avoid." 29  Alanis went on to ask why Spiderman and Stormlord for Genesis, released in 1991 and 1990 respectively, were never reviewed.  EGM responded "there are a lot of bad games" and that "because our review crew is so honest some companies have stopped sending us review copies of their games."30  The editor went on to promote EGM's reviews with speculation about how their review scores affect game sales and how the reviewers each represent different genre preferences.  Finally, EGM admitted that some games "do fall through the cracks" due to release dates or sheer volumes of games to be reviewed.31  Missed release dates failed to to cause any shortage of coverage for The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, which received a full column dedicated to questions about its release date slipping by several months.

     Jake Thompson of Louisville Kentucky wrote EGM of his appreciation for the improvements to the magazine over the years, but pointed out that the NEO GEO coverage was lacking.  EGM replied that one page on NEO GEO game Soccer Brawl, which was tucked between Game Gear and Gameboy reviews, was superior coverage.32  Another column was dedicated simply to clarify which developers made popular shooter franchises Darius and Gradius, which would be Taito and Konami respectively.  Following that was two columns bent on exploits and glitches in the Arcade version of Street Fighter II.33  Two columns were dedicated to EGM's international coverage, and how readers could "play games for a living," followed by arguments for and against the Mega CD's regional lock out.  Street Fighter II Championship Edition rumors and more self promotion for having correspondents in Japanese trade shows took up the rest of the page.34 

     Reader letters about SNES Street Fighter II took up nearly one and two thirds columns in the May issue's "Interface: Letter's To The Editor," and the last quarter displayed positive reader letters about the SNES CD.35  On the next page Michael Andrejasik of Alberta Canada complained "I am sick of always hearing about the Sega Genesis.  What about the Super NES.  When Genesis first came out it hardly had any games and it was terrible."36  Andrejasik's letter was set on asking EGM to cover the SNES more, claiming that if they "give the S-NES a year or two" it would be the clear winner.37 

     Conversely Ronnie Boles of Winston-Salem North Carolina complained that some comments from EGM's March issue were too critical of Sega.  Claiming that the magazine forecast better futures for Nintendo and NEC, Boles confessed "I do believe that the Mega CD will leave the rest in the dust."38  Boles went on to question why the SNES coverage was greater than Genesis coverage the previous month.  EGM reminded its readers that Sega traditionally did not show much during the January CES, claiming "we ran pictures of everything that was there." 39  

     Gamepro's May 1992 issue opened up with a stark comparison of the Genesis and SNES game libraries in relation to Sega's recent Christmas sales victory:

"Retailers and gamers acknowledge that the biggest advantage Sega had over Nintendo in their recent 16-bit Christmas skirmish was a huge, diverse library of software - over 150 titles compared to 24 for the SNES."40

The rest of the article advocated better communication within the industry to ensure third parties could accurately predict how many games made in which genres would actually sell.41  So slim was the SNES library at that point that Gamepro considered it significant news that Innovation, a US based company, had apparently completed an adapter to play NES games on the Super NES.  The adapter was dubbed "The Super Eight Converter," and was expected to be released in the Summer of 1992.42 

     Any such converter for playing NES games on the SNES would have to be an NES in a cartridge.  The SNES' backwards compatibility was scrapped before its release and will never function like the adapters for Master System games on the Game Gear or Genesis, which rely mostly on compatible hardware in each base system.  Following that, Gamepro found it fit to print that yet another long time NES third party licensee had "announced plans to develop software for the Sega Genesis in the second half of 1992," Software Toolworks.43

     EGM's Steve Harris briefly described the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), in his June issue, as "the definitive showcase for everything new in video games." 44  CES provided over one hundred booths, the opportunity to play test new games, and the chance to take the first pictures of games that would be released later on.  Summer CES of 1992 was apparently the first one to be opened to the public.  "Hot hits like Street Fighter 2, Turtles 4, Batman Returns and Sonic 2," Harris opined, would be the prime attraction for "the game player."45  "Special screenings" for new hardware, including the Sega CD, GameBoy Game Genie, Sony Play Station and TTI's Turbo DUO were listed along side the promise of never before seen "softs and hardware previews".46  Harris also promised an EGM booth with free samples of the July issues, a Street Fighter 2 tournament with an Arcade machine and "Super NES carts as prizes."47  For those who could not attend the Summer CES, Harris promised a special 32-page collector's magazine that highlights everything video games have to offer in the months to come!"48
     EGM printed a full page, three columns, on Street Fighter II in its June issue with only one negative letter in the bunch.  Naturally the only letter available was from a Sega fan, John Mulin of Bayport New York, who petitioned EGM to "spend your time on other stuff like the Genesis not the S-NES." 49  EGM simply explained "we really had to sarch long and hard through the mailbag to find a negative letter like John's."50  A letter from one Michael Owens, of Walls, MS, represented the only positive published letter about the Genesis or its upcoming games.  Owens was confident that Technosoft's "master pieces will be released in America," but wanted to know why Elemental Master had not been localized by then.  EGM replied that Elemental Master was released in Japan at a time when "everybody was bringing out a new shooter and Technosoft just didn't think it would do very well in the U.S."51  Thunder Force 4 being "very new" while "still to (sic) early to tell if it is going to live up to the Thunder Force tradition" was the editor's only other comment before promoting EGM's Summer CES coverage again.52




  1. 1. "The Mail, School Me on Ghouls," Gamepro, February 1992, 12.
  2. 2. "PRO Report News, Acclaim Becomes Sega Licensee...Gametek Joins Sega Too," Gamepro, February 1992, 130.
  3. 3. "PRO Report News, Nintendo OK's More SNES Games," Gamepro, February 1992, 130.
  4. 4. "PRO Report News, Here Comes Super Famicom (SNES?) Software!," Gamepro, February 1992, 130.
  5. 5. Steve Harris, "insert coin, It's That Time of Year Again...," Electronic Gaming Monthly, February 1992, 10.
  6. 6. "Pro News Report, Genesis Scores A Big Xmas," Gamepro, March 1992, 90.
  7. 7. "Pro News Report, Splatterhouse Cuts into the Genesis," Gamepro, March 1992, 92.
  8. 8. "Pro News Report, BlockBuster Video Top 10 NES Video Game Rentals March 1992," Gamepro, March 1992, 90.
  9. 9. "Interface: Letters To The Editor, System Wars... Part 2," Electronic Gaming Monthly, February 1992, 14.
  10. 10. "Interface: Letters To The Editor, More Zelda 3...!," Electronic Gaming Monthly, February 1992, 14.
  11. 11. "Interface: Letters To The Editor, More Sega Licensees...!," Electronic Gaming Monthly, February 1992, 16.
  12. 12. "Review Crew," Electronic Gaming Monthly, February 1992, 20.
  13. 13. "The Gamepros," "The Forecast: A Good Year for Games," Gamepro, March 1992, 8.
  14. 14. "Genesis Pro Review," Gamepro, March 1992, 42.
  15. 15. "The Mail: Busy Getting Dizzy," Gamepro, March 1992, 10.
  16. 16. "Team Gamepro," "1991 Reader's Choice Awards," Gamepro, March 1992, 18.
  17. 17. "Pro Report News, Genesis Scores a Big Xmas," Gamepro, March 1992, 90.
  18. 18. "Block Buster Video: Top 10 NES Video Game Rentals March 1992," Gamepro, March 1992, 90.
  19. 19. "Pro Report News, Splatterhouse Cuts into the Genesis," Gamepro, March 1992, 92.
  20. 20. Ed Semrad, "insert coin, CES Impressions...," Electronic Gaming Monthly, March 1992, 8.
  21. 21. Ed Semrad, "insert coin, CES Impressions...," Electronic Gaming Monthly, March 1992, 8.
  22. 22. "Interface: Letters To The Editor, 16-Bit Wars..." Electronic Gaming Monthly, March 1992, 16.
  23. 23. "Interface: Letters To The Editor, S-NES Street Fighter 2," Electronic Gaming Monthly, March 1992, 16.
  24. 24. "Interface: Letters To The Editor, Turtles 4...?" Electronic Gaming Monthly, March 1992, 18.
  25. 25. "Interface: Letters To The Editor, Super Battletoads...?" Electronic Gaming Monthly, March 1992, 18.
  26. 26. "Interface: Letters To The Editor, Where is Solstice 2...?" Electronic Gaming Monthly, March 1992, 18.
  27. 27. "Nintendo Answers Your Questions," "The Gamepros," Gamepro, April 1992, 8.
  28. 28. Steve Harris, "Insert Coin, What Shape Will The Future Take?," Electronic Gaming Monthly, April 1992, 7.
  29. 29. "Interface: Letters To The Editor, 'Missing Reviews,'" Electronic Gaming Monthly, April 1992, 12.
  30. 30. "Interface: Letters To The Editor, 'Missing Reviews,'" Electronic Gaming Monthly, April 1992, 12.
  31. 31. "Interface: Letters To The Editor, 'Missing Reviews,'" Electronic Gaming Monthly, April 1992, 12.
  32. 32. "Interface: Letters To The Editor, 'More Neo-Geo,'" Electronic Gaming Monthly, April 1992, 16.
  33. 33. "Interface: Letters To The Editor, 'More Neo-Geo,'" Electronic Gaming Monthly, April 1992, 16.
  34. 34. "Interface: Letters To The Editor" Electronic Gaming Monthly, April 1992, 18.
  35. 35. "Interface: Letters To The Editor" Electronic Gaming Monthly, May 1992, 12.
  36. 36. "Interface: Letters To The Editor, 'Too Much Genesis Coverage,'" Electronic Gaming Monthly, May 1992, 16.
  37. 37. "Interface: Letters To The Editor, 'Too Much Genesis Coverage,'" Electronic Gaming Monthly, May 1992, 16.
  38. 38. "Interface: Letters To The Editor, 'Not Enough Genesis Coverage,'" Electronic Gaming Monthly, May 1992, 16.
  39. 39. "Interface: Letters To The Editor, 'Not Enough Genesis Coverage,'" Electronic Gaming Monthly, May 1992, 16.
  40. 40. "31 Flavors of Vanilla," "The Gamepros," Gamepro, May 1992, 4.
  41. 41. "31 Flavors of Vanilla," "The Gamepros," Gamepro, May 1992,4.
  42. 42. "Pro News Report, 'NES to SNES converter,'" Gamepro, May 1992, 98.
  43. 43. "Pro News Report, 'Software Toolworks Does the Genesis,'" Gamepro, May 1992, 98.
  44. 44. Steve Harris, "insert coin, 'Something Funny Happened On My Way To The Consumer Electronics Show...,'" Electronic Gaming Monthly, June 1992, 8.
  45. 45. Steve Harris, "insert coin, 'Something Funny Happened On My Way To The Consumer Electronics Show...,'" Electronic Gaming Monthly, June 1992, 8.
  46. 46. Steve Harris, "insert coin, 'Something Funny Happened On My Way To The Consumer Electronics Show...,'" Electronic Gaming Monthly, June 1992, 8.
  47. 47. Steve Harris, "insert coin, 'Something Funny Happened On My Way To The Consumer Electronics Show...,'" Electronic Gaming Monthly, June 1992, 8.
  48. 48. Steve Harris, "insert coin, 'Something Funny Happened On My Way To The Consumer Electronics Show...,'" Electronic Gaming Monthly, June 1992, 8.
  49. 49. "Interface: Letters To The Editor, 'Street Fighter 2 Feedback...,'" Electronic Gaming Monthly, June 1992, 12.
  50. 50. "Interface: Letters To The Editor, 'Street Fighter 2 Feedback...,'" Electronic Gaming Monthly, June 1992, 12.
  51. 51. "Interface: Letters To The Editor, 'Where Is?,'" Electronic Gaming Monthly, June 1992, 18.
  52. 52. "Interface: Letters To The Editor, 'Where Is?,'" Electronic Gaming Monthly, June 1992, 18.