A Sonic high-speed fiber optic internet cable line is installed at Miguel Rodriguez's Sunset District home in San Francisco, Calif. on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018. (Photo By Paul Chinn/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)
Gaming - News
The Interesting Story Behind Sega Genesis' Online Capabilities
In the early '90s, the Sega Genesis and Nintendo SNES vied for the throne of gaming systems, and both had ports that allowed players to attach game-converters and other add-ons to the consoles. One of these attachments turned the Sega Genesis into the first console to connect to the internet, and what follows are fascinating details about its online history.
First On The Net
Sega released the Mega Modem in Japan in November 1990, which plugged into the DE-9 port located on the back of the console, thereby making it the first console with the ability to access the World Wide Web. Sega itself was the internet service provider for these modems, but the connection speed was incredibly slow, only offering a transmission speed of 1200bps.
Not Many Games
Only 13 Genesis cartridges used the network capabilities of the Mega Modem, including the turn-based strategy title "Advanced Daisenryaku: Deutsch Dengeki Sakusen," the futuristic football game "Cyberball," and the automated baseball game "Tel-Tel Stadium." A few software cartridges also allowed users to manage banking and life insurance with the modem.
Not In The U.S.
A variation of the Mega Modem, rebranded as the TeleGenesis Modem, was intended for a U.S. release, but it never happened. Ken Horowitz of Sega-16 explained, “Back in the 1980s, this was unknown territory, and most thought that the prospect of [Long Distance Gaming] was years off, at best." A nationwide gaming internet service for the U.S. was too ambitious for Sega.
There were two different models of the original Japanese Mega Modem, and each of them had their own method of connecting to the internet — one had an outlet where a user could attach a normal phone line, while the other had a built-in RS232C cable. Two modem attachments that followed in 1994 were the Catapult X-Band and the Sega Channel Cartridge.
Powerful Modems
Released in 1995 in the West, SNES’ X-Band rivaled the Sega Genesis and catalyzed true online gaming. Major titles like "Madden NFL '95," "NBA Jam," "Primal Rage," "Super Street Fighter 2: The New Challengers," and the three original "Mortal Kombat" games all had online capability through the X-Band — but it’s important to remember that Sega Genesis started it all.