Sega Game Gear

Sega Game Gear

Infobox CVG system
title = Sega Game Gear

manufacturer = Sega
type = Handheld game console
generation = Fourth generation
lifespan = vgrelease|JP=October 6 1990vgrelease|EU / NA|vgy|1991
discontinue = 1997
CPU = Zilog Z80
media = Cartridge
units sold = 11 millioncite web |url= |title=The 10 Worst-Selling Handhelds of All Time |accessdate=2008-01-17 |author=Blake Snow | |date=2007-07-30]
onlineservice =
topgame =
The Sega Game Gear is a handheld game console which was Sega's response to Nintendo's Game Boy. It was the third commercially available color handheld console, after the Atari Lynx and the Turbo Express.

Work began on the console in vgy|1989 under the codename "Project Mercury", following Sega's policy at the time of codenaming their systems after planets. The system was released in Japan on October 6 1990, North America, Europe and Brazil in vgy|1991, and Australia in 1992. The launch price was US$150. Sega dropped support for the Game Gear in early vgy|1997.



The Game Gear was basically a portable Master System with a lower resolution screen, but allowed for a larger color palette. In addition, it could also produce stereo sound (through headphones) as opposed to the Master System's monaural output, though very few games made use of the stereo capabilities. Unlike the original Game Boy, the system was held in a "landscape" position, with the controls at the sides, making it less cramped to hold.

Because of the similarities between the Master System and the Game Gear, it was fairly easy for Master System games to be ported to Game Gear cartridges. Alternately, the Master Gear Converter was released during the system's lifetime which allowed original Master System games to be played on the Game Gear.


The blue Game Gear sports edition, identical to the standard Game Gear, except in body color, was released in 1993, with the game "World Series Baseball". Another specialty edition was a red Coca-Cola themed Game Gear unit, released to the Japanese market in 1994, which came with a game entitled " [ Coca-Cola Kid] ". Another limited edition released in Japan only was the white Game Gear, with only 10,000 units sold.cite web |url= |title=Sega Game Gear |accessdate=2008-01-17 |publisher=Play-Asia |format=PDF] Sega also introduced Kids Gear, a packaging of the Game Gear system in a different color case. Another limited edition Game Gear was the red Magic Knight Rayearth and light blue Ninku Blue version, featuring the game and a small miniature of one of the game's characters. Software advertised for Kids Gear focused more on children's game titles. Kids Gear was also only released in Japan.


Sonic the Hedgehog" (1991) for Game Gear

300 titles were released for the Game Gear, although at the time of the console's launch there were only six software titles available. Sega made sure that a wide variety of video game genres were represented on the system, in order to give it a broad appeal. Prices for game cartridges initially ranged from $24.99 to $29.99 each.Fact|date=January 2008 They were molded black plastic with a rounded front for convenient removal. The original Game Gear pack-in title was "Columns", which was similar to the Tetris cartridge that Nintendo had included when it launched the Game Boy.

Popular titles included Sega's own series, notably "Sonic the Hedgehog", Disney movie extensions, such as "The Lion King", and 3rd-party developer games like "Mortal Kombat".

In an unusual step for Sega (but also practiced by rival Nintendo on their Game Boy handhelds), Sega decided not to region encode Game Gear cartridges, meaning that any system could play any games regardless of the country they were released in. This practice helped to make the console popular among import gamers.

Sales and competition

The Game Gear was not very popular in Japan, where it was released to a generally apathetic audience, with build quality issues plaguing it early in its service life. Another problem was battery life; while better than earlier color backlit systems, its 5 hour battery life (using 6 alkaline batteries) still wasn't as good as the Game Boy (due to that system's monochrome screen, lack of a backlight, and less powerful hardware). Battery life was a much bigger issue before handheld systems had built-in rechargeable batteries; gamers needed either a constant supply of six AA batteries, or a rechargeable Ni-Cd battery pack that was sold separately and added significant weight.

The Game Gear was more expensive than the Game Boy ($149.99, versus $109.99 for the Game Boy). The significantly larger price tag contributed to driving away potential Game Gear buyers.

When first launched in America, a TV advertising campaign was used to promote the system as superior to the Game Boy. One commercial featured Creamed Spinach Color: Game Gear vs. Game Boy. An advertisement was shown in black and white, with players milling about aimlessly in a dark void, playing Game Boys. A lone rebel appears with a Game Gear, cuing the narrator's comment of "The Sega Game Gear: Separates the men from the boys." Another showed a gamer, played by future actor Ethan Suplee, hitting himself in the head with a rigid, dead squirrel in order to see color on his Game Boy. [ [ YouTube - Game Gear Squirrel Commercial ] ] When the Game Boy began to appear in different colors, Sega's ad ridiculed it by showing the Game Boy disguised in loaves of bread. Another ad from that era featured a professor explaining that though the Game Boy now was available in bright colors, the graphics were still monochrome, and therefore Game Gear was still superior. Still another memorable ad compared the Game Boy's "creamed spinach color" to Game Gear's "BRIGHT BEAUTIFUL COLOR".

Although its color backlit screen and ergonomic design made it arguably superior to the Game Boy, the Game Gear managed just a small share of the market. This can be blamed partly on the perception that it was too bulky, and on its somewhat low battery performance: the device required six AA batteries, and the backlit screen consumed these in approximately five hours (six on the later versions), compared to 10-14 hours of four-AA battery lifespan for the Game Boy (though still better than the Atari Lynx and Turbo Express). External and rechargeable battery packs were sold to extend the devices' battery life. However, Sega's biggest problem was that it failed to enlist as many key software developers as Nintendo, so the Game Gear was perceived as lacking as many games. Although it was a decent success, the Game Gear did not manage to achieve the commercial success that Game Boy did, in that when it went off the market it was not replaced by an immediate successor. The Game Gear, however, did better than other portable systems that tried to compete with the Game Boy, such as the preceding Atari Lynx. The Game Gear did suffer from some of the same key problems that plagued the similar Lynx, though Sega did somewhat better than Atari due to more titles and a stronger marketing campaign, as well as fixing many of the durability and build quality issues. In the end, the Game Gear gained most of its sales by pushing the Lynx out of the market rather than eating into the Game Boy's dominant share.

Technical specifications

* Main processor: Zilog Z80 (8-bit)cite web |url= |title=Game Gear Home |accessdate=2008-01-17 |]
* Processor speed: 3.58 MHz (same as NTSC dot clock)
* Resolution: 160 x 144 pixels
* Colors available: 4,096
* Colors on screen: 32
* Maximum sprites: 64
* Sprite size: 8x8 or 8x16
* Screen size: 3.2 inches (81 mm)
* Audio: 3 square wave generators, 1 noise generator, the system has a mono speaker, but stereo sound can be had via headphone input
* RAM: 8 KB
* Video RAM: 16KB
* Power:
** internal: 6 AA batteries
** external: 9V DC, 300mA, 3W [ [ Sega Gamegear ] ]

* Physical:
** Width: 209mm
** Height: 111mm
** Depth: 37mm
** weight: ~400g


Several accessories for the Game Gear were also produced by Sega:
*The Game Gear TV Tuner plugged into the system's cartridge slot, and allowed one to watch TV on the Game Gear's screen. However, later versions of the Game Gear and the cost-reduced Majesco Core Game Gear hardware (see below) is incompatible with the unit, as it lacks the video passthrough. These units can output sound from the Tuner.
*The Super Wide Gear was an accessory that magnified the Game Gear screen to compensate for its relatively small size.
*The Car Gear adapter plugged into car cigarette lighters to power the system while travelling.
*An adapter called the MasterGear Converter allowed for Sega Master System cartridges to be plugged in and played on the Game Gear. The reverse though, of playing a Game Gear game on a Master System console, was not possible due to the Game Gear's larger color palette.
*The Gear-to-Gear Cable was an accessory that established a data connection between two Game Gears using the same multi-player game and let users play against each other.

Remakes and emulation

Support ended in 1997, but Majesco released a core version of the Game Gear in 2000 for a reduced price. The Majesco Core Game Gear differed slightly from the original Game Gear in that it was black and had a purple start button rather than dark grey and a blue start button, the logo on the front of the unit was no longer in color, and it did not support the television tuner accessory. Its screen had shorter response time than the original model. It also had a somewhat better speaker that did not get distorted as much when played loudly. It was part of Majesco's strategy of eking profits from products with margins too slim for the original manufacturer to pursue, and was accompanied by Majesco's licensed reissue of several classic Game Gear cartridges. Majesco-reissued cartridges are distinguished by having no plastic case, and a Majesco Sales logo on the label, as well as the current games ratings system, which differs slightly from the one formerly used by Sega. The Majesco logo was not prominent, and these were marketed under the Sega name.

The Game Gear was reincarnated in a smaller handheld form factor in late 2006. This small handheld device was powered by 3 AAA batteries, had a brighter active matrix screen, and contained 20 Game Gear and Sega Master System games.cite web|url=|title = PlayPal portable player|accessdate=2006-11-03] It was released under several brands including Coleco and PlayPal.

As of 2006, software emulators for Game Gear have been made for a number of devices such as the GP2X, GP32, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, Symbian, Windows Mobile, iPod, PC, Palm OS, and the PlayStation Portable, many of which use less power, fewer batteries and come in smaller form factors than the Game Gear. Some PC emulators such as Kega Fusion can also play Game Gear ROMs.

Though its sales success as a non-Nintendo handheld has been surpassedFact|date=June 2008 by the PlayStation Portable (PSP), the Game Gear still stands as the longest supported handheld console not made by Nintendo. Furthermore, it was also the most successful competitor to the Game Boy, selling 11 million units.Fact|date=January 2008

Game Gear games have been added to the Wii's Virtual Console under the label of the Sega Master System.cite web|url=|title=セガ、「マスターシステム」のソフトをバーチャルコンソールへ提供|publisher=+D Games|language=Japanese|accessdate=2008-01-25]


External links

* [ Official Sega support information]

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