Sega Visions Part 2: Growing by Leaps and Bounds

Click here for Part 1

Having introduced itself to its fledgling customer base, Sega had effectively opened a channel of communication between creator and consumer. Sega Visions' premiere issue may have been little more than a glorified brochure, but even then one could see the magazine aspired for more. In this part, I take a general overview at issues 2 through 9, published between October 1990 and August 1992. If that number seems low for the two year time-frame it's because Sega Visions was published either bi-monthly or quarterly, though many users today often reminisce on how each issue was sent out at seemingly random intervals. I chose this time-frame as this was the pre-Sonic 2 era of the Genesis. While Sonic The Hedgehog put Sega on the map, I would argue it wasn't until its sequel that Sega had reached the peak of its infrastructure and brand recognition as evidenced in later magazine releases.

The covers for issues 2 and 7 respectively

Content improvements were not readily apparent, the second issue featured higher quality ads from both Sega and third party publishers but was otherwise unremarkable. Perhaps most interesting is how the Genesis was marketing alongside its 8-bit predecessor, the Master System, a move with delighted readers as evidenced by fan mail. Many of the early frequently asked question focused more on the 8-bit system's future instead of its 16-bit successor, not helped by rumors of a CD-Rom adapter in the horizon.

By the second issue, ads had improved significantly

It's obvious the shadow of an impending 16-bit system by Nintendo looms over Sega fans. This is further compounded by mis-information provided by Sega Visions' staff. Perhaps over-zealous in their hype for the recently released Strider, editors had erroneously claimed Genesis cartridges could hold a maximum of 8 Megabits and were now forced to backtrack. For those unaware, the largest commercial cartridge ever released for Sega's system was Super Street Fighter 2 which required 40 Megabits of free space. This barrier was later surpassed in 2010 with the release of Pier Solar and its 64 Megabit cartridge. Presently, it's widely accepted that this is the console's media limit.

The Master System is a prominent recurring topic for readers, as are rumors of the upcoming Super Nintendo and CD adapter for the Genesis.

Most people associate minors as the average console consumer of this era, but surprisingly, many of the letters posted were written by adults. It's not uncommon to see gamers claiming to be software engineers, in their 20s or to have been playing since Atari. 

Sega Visions had unwittingly appealed to an older crowd in its early days

This would be short-lived, as by the following year an influx of new, younger readers became the norm thanks to the success of Sonic The Hedgehog as well as hype regarding its sequel. Soon, the magazine would be redesigned to fit this new audience. Adverts, aesthetics and even tonal differences in content reflected these changes. Even the news section ventured outside gaming and approached topics teen-related interests including Beverly Hills 90210. If one had any doubts the new generation had taken over, you'd need only to read the fan mail. Letters became Genesis-centric as kids migrated from Nintendo to Sega's 16-bit system. They also little understanding of hardware specs; it seemed every new issue had at least someone asking what a bit was, or what are sprites for.

One year later, the average Sega Visions reader was much younger

With a limited number of pages per issue, Sega Visions had to manage promotion for the Genesis, Master System and a newly launched Game Gear. It comes as a surprise to no-one that Sega's 8-bit legacy console saw limited success in the US and with an influx of readers who had never owned a Master System it seemed clear the solution was to sacrifice space previously reserved for the ailing console. Once, each issue promoted a healthy amount of content for this system. Now, it was relegated to 2-3 advertisement pages and once early previews for the Sega CD began, it wouldn't even have that. By the time issue 9 rolled out, the Master System was all but forgotten in favor of Sega's new handheld and their upcoming CD based peripheral

The Game Gear and Sega CD stole what little thunder the ailing Master System had left

In eight short issues Sega Visions grew by leaps and bounds and the best was yet to come. In part 3, I'll be taking a look at how the success of Sonic 2 and Sega's aggressive advertising heralded the magazine's peak and helped shaped up a loyal, dedicated community.

Click here for Part 3

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