Genesis 32X

Lifespan: 1994-1995  
CPUs: Two 23 MHz 32-bit RISC
Hitachi SH-2s 3
Co-Processors (Genesis): 4 7.67 MHz Motorola 68000 5
3.58 MHz Z80  6
Texas Instruments 76489
PSG Audio: 4 Channels 7
Yamaha 2612
FM Audio:8
6 Channels 9
10 Audio Channels plus
SH-2 PWM or MOD Player

Tile and Sprite HW Engine,
Four 15 Color Palettes of 9-bit Palette
Hardware Shadow and Lighting 11
RAM: 256 KB Main RAM 12
Two 128KB Frame Buffers 13
Genesis and/or Sega CD RAM
POLYGONS: 25,000 texture mapped per second
50,000 theoretical (box specs)
Colors On Screen: 256 in Mode 1 & 3
32,768 in Mode 2
Color Palette: 32,768
Storage: Cart 16 Mbits to 32 Mbits, or 1X CD-ROM
Marketing performance: 23 MIPS per SH-2


The only other Sega add on, the 32X, features twin 23Mhz SH-2's, making the Genesis 32X combined with the Sega CD from two years prior arguably more powerful than the much more expensive 3DO. The Genesis 32X alone is certainly more capable of high color 2D and 3D gaming in absolutely every respect to the SNES even with its on cartridge processors like the DSP or Super FX 1+2 chips that were used in games like Pilot Wings, Super Mario Kart, Star Fox, Yoshi's Island, Stunt Race FX and others.

When the 32X add on launched the following months brought titles like Virtua Racing Deluxe, Shadow Squadron, T-Mek, the first near perfect arcade ports of Space Harrier and After Burner, NBA Jam, arguably the best home conversion of Mortal Kombat II, Knuckles Chaotix, Star Wars Arcade, and a good version of Doom from the PC. The total library added notable titles like Virtua Fighter, Kolibri, and a little over one dozen others in its 1 year life span. Despite its launch library being technically superior to what was available on 16-bit systems that Fall, the 32X sold less than 250,000 units total, with only 500,000 shipped to retailers in the first place.

The 32X add on was actually an answer to public and media demand, but was rejected by the public first, arguably in favor of a single game on the SNES, Donkey Kong Country(9). Software developers then began canceling their announced projects. Konami canceled their highly anticipated port of the Turbo Duo version of Castlevania Rondo of Blood, and Capcom canceled a highly anticipated port of Super Street Fighter 2. Only after all 3rd party software developers had abandoned the 32X add on did Sega cease to manufacture and support it.

At this point Sega of Japan allegedly began to panic from declining Genesis sales world wide and the impending arrival of stand alone 3D game consoles. Sega of America's practice of overspending on marketing under Tom Kalinske, to overtake Nintendo's public mindshare, might have paid off if the Genesis were allowed to sell in to 1997. Less than 10 months after the 32X's release, Sega of Japan took over management and focused all resources on the Sega Saturn. Kalinske and his management team, who are regarded by media generated histories as being responsible for the Genesis' success in the States, subsequently resigned from their positions in Sega's American branch. This left Sega as a whole in financial debt and without a seasoned management team in America going into the next generation. Without the momentum of popular support from the Genesis to propel the Saturn into marketing success, or sufficient marketing dollars and experience in the US, Sega was ill prepared to defend its position not only against Nintendo, but against 3DO and Sony as well. Marketing dollars were, and are, particularly important in staving off harsh criticism from the video game media. An overview of Electronic Gaming Monthly and Gamepro from summer of 1994 through 1995 shows a concurrent decline of Sega related advertising and a steep increase in editorials that painted Sega in a negative light.

Regardless of public opinion of the add-on, the 32X was a cost effective and powerful expansion to the Genesis with more games available in its launch months than the Genesis or SNES enjoyed. One of the 150,000 people who bought a 32X at $160 might have also bought all twelve of the critically acclaimed games listed above and thus divided the cost of the add-on. Since 32X cartridges were all $50 each when they first launched, though they quickly dropped to less than $20 a game, each game would have cost $63.33 with the price of the 32X divided among them. That might seem like a lot for a game, but it is still less than the technically inferior SNES chipped games which were near $70 or more not including any hardware. With each additional purchase of a SNES FX chipped game the Super FX hardware was purchased again. So the actual cost per Super FX game would not go down as the library increased. Because the price per game did go down for 32X games, the argument for or against either format being a "rip off" could go either way. These facts failed to prevent gaming magazines from using the 32X to further sully Sega's reputation just prior to the launch of the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation.

  1. 1.
  2. 2. Dr. DevSter's Guide to The Sega 32x, ">>ALMOST<< Everything you wanted to know, that you never knew, and that you're going to know about the 32x" Joseph Norman - pimp,
  3. 3. Speed rating is a multiple of the Genesis CPU.  One SH-2 can be dedicated to PWM or MOD Audio Playback.  SH-2s can be used as Master/Slave, with the Slave only processing main code when the Master is working or stalled.
  4. 4. Sega CD Sub-CPU, Graphics Co Processor and Ricoh Audio chip are not listed here due to their lack of use in 32X CD games.
  5. 5. Frequently used as an Audio driver and/or for game logic. 68K DAC playback works better in 32X software than i nGenesis games due to less need for the CPU being dedicated only to Audio.
  6. 6. Typically used for Audio.  Can write to VRAM
  7. 7. 3 tone generators and 1 white noise, "Nemesis," GENESIS Technical Overview 1.00, (accessed April 1, 2010),  119.
  8. 8. Frequency Modulation is synthesized audio like PSG but considerably more complex
  9. 9. Nemesis,"GENESIS Technical Overview 1.00, 92.
  10. 10. Charles MacDonald,  E-mail || Homepage, Sega Genesis VDP documentation Version 1.5f (genvdp.txt)  $01 - Mode Set Register No. 2, (August 10, 2000, accessed March 11, 2010), available from; internet
  11. 11. MacDonald,  genvdp.txt, 16.) Shadow / Hilight mode.
  12. 12. 16-bit bus, hard wired for "burst" mode.
  13. 13. Enough for double buffered 320x204 resolution frame buffer 15-bit color.