Sega Visions Part 4: A Shifting Market

Click here for part 3

It was clear Sega was enjoying its success. Articles dedicated to developers or publishers signing on for the 16-bit system were but a distant memory as for over two years now there was simply no need for them. The Genesis was selling well and third party software houses wanted to get in on the action. Sega had a large flow of new releases every month and it got to the point where Sega Visions could not cover them all even with the increase in page size. Regardless, times were changing and issue 18, launched a mere two months after the previous one heralded several new developments, not all of which promising.

A Genesis 32-bit upgrade was on the horizon

The cover focused prominently on 32-bit gameplay for existing Genesis owners, this of course, refers to what would eventually become the 32x. Ironically, despite it being the center piece of this issue's cover, very little information was provided, readers were only given half a page of text and scant few details. Interestingly enough, the article mentioned "CD-quality audio" something which the hardware was not capable of without a Sega CD add-on.

Regardless of what the flashy cover would have you believe, the 32x was not this issue's focal point, that honor went to videogame censorship. As mentioned on part 3, by the time issue 17 launched, the US senate hearings which led to the ESRB's creation were already underway and Sega was feeling the impact with Night Trap being pulled from store shelves.

The 'Say What?' section was entirely dedicated to the ESRB

For the first time ever, the 'Say What' section focused on solely one topic; The ESRB. The writing takes an apparent neutral stance on this whole situation, but upon closer inspection it seems to paint the picture that every major software house wanted a rating system. It mentions how Sega, Nintendo, Atari, 3DO, Phillips, Acclaim and Electronic Arts created a special committee for this and how Sega was at the forefront of creating an industry-wide rating system. It gives off that every major studio thought these senate hearings and the ESRB were a good thing.

Tom Kalinske and Ken Williams write opinion pieces on how they perceive a new rating system

To further drive the point home, Sega of America CEO, Tom Kalinske wrote his first and only article for the magazine, an opinion piece on why he support the new rating system. In his words, he supports this move because he's a parent and because the movie industry shares a similar safeguard as well. It's interesting to see how Tom mentions on-demand movies in 1994, roughly ten years before their use became a mainstream commodity.

Amidst all this, there was still more hardware to sell

Perhaps to serve as a counter-balance to all this wave of positivity towards a shifting industry, this issue also included a guest editorial article by Sierra On-Line co-founder, Ken Williams. Ken defends the creation of a rating system, just not one that is state-run, his issue being the government shouldn't decide what is or isn't safe to view. The editorial cites examples of games who already contained warning labels deeming them unsafe for children including Leisure Suit Larry 6. Ken stated Sega's arguments with the congress fell on def ears and that a government-led rating system could potentially block freedom of expression. Regardless of my thoughts for Ken's arguments, I can't but be surprised to see an editorial of his in a Sega magazine considering both companies never shared much of a working relationship.

The community seemed somewhat split towards the topic though leaning more towards Ken's side

Mr. Ken's words would not be the only ones opposing the ratings board as the topic dominated the "Yo Sega" section. Most letters discussing the topic were clearly against this industry-wide citing reasons which ranged from censorship to not being old enough to purchase titles. Others were simply asking for information on what the big deal was and one is even thankful at the prospect of a rating board. Of course, as with nearly every other issue, there's someone asking how bits work.

The image isn't particularly relevant for today's post, but I wish I could get my hands on this game

This is perhaps the most interesting issue in the entire Sega Visions run. It was the first time Tom Kalinske addressed his readership and the first time someone outside Sega had their own editorial and the community was obviously worried about these market changes as well. The amount of historically relevant information within the first 14 pages of this issue is staggering. In part five we'll be taking a look at the rest of issue 18 along with issues 19-22.

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