Spoony's Sega 32X Page - FAQs

Q: What is the Sega 32X?

A:  The Sega 32X was an add-on for the Sega Genesis console, created and released in late 1994 with the intention of expanding the lifespan of the Sega Genesis by enhancing its capabilities.  It was primarily intended to make the system more powerful than the Super Nintendo, a system which the Genesis simply could not compete with on a technical level.   It was promoted as a "home arcade machine", able to accurately port arcade games to a home console.

While successful in that regard, the 32X was shot down by a poorly timed release - the Sega Saturn was released in Japan the same month as the 32X's U.S. debut, and was set to debut in America not long thereafter.  Gamers were presented with a choice - pay $160 to upgrade their old console, or save their money and wait a few months for the Saturn and the Playstation.  Pair that with the 32X's frequent mechanical problems and the fact that it had little in the way of groundbreaking software, and the choice quickly became clear - ditch the upgrade and wait for the true 32-bit machines.  As a result, the system was quickly abandoned, reportedly being sold for as little as $20 in bargain bins.

Q: Why make a site about a failed system?

A: If nothing else, it's because it's a fascinating topic.  As with any obscure old console, the 32X has some interesting stories to tell.  It also provides some prime insight into the workings of Sega, a company that, in my view, definitely has its fair share of ambition, if not always common sense.

Q: Why would Sega release an add-on when their next console was right around the corner?

In 1994, Hayao Nakayama, president of Sega of Japan at the time, had ordered that a 32-bit cartridge-based console be made and released by Christmas, with the intention that the new system's technology would outclass that of the SNES.  Donkey Kong Country and Star Fox had won great acclaim for the system with their previously-unseen graphical and technological quality, and Sega's attempt to cash in on their success with Virtua Racing (utilizing an in-cart chip similar to Star Fox's Super FX chip) would ultimately prove unprofitable.

The order was brought to Joe Miller of Sega of America, with the suggested idea of an enhanced Sega Genesis system.  In theory, this system would extend the lifespan of the Sega Genesis platform, giving them the edge over Nintendo's SNES until the next generation of consoles was ready to debut.  Believing that an enhanced version of an existing system wouldn't sell, Miller worked out a compromise in the form of an add-on unit that would enhance the Genesis' capabilities, a less expensive alternative to buying an entirely new system.  Sega of America began work on the expansion, known as "Project Mars."

Unknown to Sega of America, however, Sega of Japan had begun work on "Project Saturn", a CD-based 32-bit machine.  The idea of another CD-based system seemed improbable to Sega of America; the failure of the Sega CD in North America had convinced Sega of America that gaming was not yet ready for such technology.  However, the Sega CD had done better than expected in Japan, and so a potential CD-based system had become a side-project to Sega's Japan branch.    This project would rapidly develop into the Sega Saturn, which would be ready to launch in Japan by the end of the year.  Sega of America would not find out about this fact until Project Mars, redubbed "32X", was almost ready to debut.

In spite of the Saturn's impending release,  Sega of America went ahead with the 32X's launch.  The 32X met early success, with Star Wars Arcade and Doom selling exceptionally well.  However, the Saturn launched in Japan only two weeks after the 32X's American debut, and the Japanese launch of the 32X failed.  Fans quickly became concerned that the 32X would be abandoned once the Saturn debuted in the United States, despite Sega of America's claims to the contrary.

Sega of America's intent to use the 32X to tide over fans had backfired; gamers and devleopers alike saw no point in bothering with an expensive upgrade to an existing system when the next generation of consoles would be available within only a few months.  Support for the Genesis - and by extension the 32X - rapidly faded in favor the upcoming Sega Saturn and the Sony Playstation, in spite of Sega of America's efforts to spur interest in the system with three different pack-in games and an announced original title called "Virtua Hamster".  Not long after the Saturn's US debut, Hayao Nakayama eventually severed company efforts for the 32X, as well as all of Sega's earlier systems, to focus on the Saturn.

In short, the 32X, intended to expand the lifespan of the Genesis , had ultimately been shot down by its high cost and the extremely short time period between the launch of the 32X and the Saturn.  As a result, it was quickly abandoned by gamers and developers.  The 32X is remembered to this day as one of the biggest commerical failures in gaming history, and Sega's reputation among gamers has never quite recovered.

Had the 32X debuted a year or two sooner, though, the outcome may have been very different.

Q: What pack-in games were available with the 32X?

Star Wars Arcade, Doom, and Virtua Fighter were all offered as pack-in games late in the system's life; the game within was indicated by a sticker on the outside of the box.

Q: What's this I hear about a "Sega Neptune"?

A:  The Neptune was an attempt by Sega of America to revive interest in the 32X by combining the Genesis and 32X hardware into a single unit.   This would offer the package at a lower price than buying both seperately, and would also offset reported technical problems with the 32X unit.  However, with the 32X no longer being viewed as a viable platform, the Neptune was another casualty when support for it was cut.  For more information, see the Neptune page.

Q: How big of a library did the 32X have?

A. The 32X, in addition to being compatible with all Sega Genesis games (with the exception of Virtua Racing due to its built-in processor), has a library of 34 games, as well as 5 more Sega CD 32X titles for a total of 39 games.  Many more games were in production but were never released.  See the Games page for a complete list, and the Cancelled Games page for a list of cancelled titles.

Q: What are "Sega CD 32X" games?

A: Sold in yellow and orange boxes with the label "Sega CD 32X", some games required both the Sega CD and the Sega 32X to play.  Due to the short life of the 32X and the high cost of acquiring a Sega Genesis and both add-ons, only five of these games were released, all of which were upgraded versions of existing Sega CD software.  More were planned for release, but never saw the light of day due to the 32X's quick demise.

Q: How can I recognize 32X Games?

The 32X's cartridge-based games were similar in appearance to Sega Genesis cartridges and were sold in similar-looking boxes, save for a yellow strip on the left side with "32X" in red letters.  The cartridges themselves are slightly larger than Sega Genesis cartridges and lack end labels, as well as having some added detail in the plastic casing.


 
Comparative photos of Sega Genesis and 32X cartridges.

The CD-based 32X games were sold in yellow and orange boxes with "Sega CD 32X" written in the left-hand strip in red letters.  The CDs themselves have the words "Sega CD 32X" on them in white letters.  As all of these were rereleases of Sega CD games, they feature very similar box art to the original Sega CD games.


The Sega CD and Sega CD 32X versions of Supreme Warrior

Q: What kind of technical problems did the 32X have?

Reportedly, the Sega 32X does not work with some older televisions.

The Model 1 Genesis' 1603 R/F switch has also been found to be incompatible with the 32X.  The system requires either 1634 mono A/V cables or a Model 2 Genesis' 1632 RF Switch.

The 32X is also incompatible with Model 3 Genesis systems, which lack some of the interface logic necessary to run the 32X.

The white wires within the system are also notorious for coming loose, causing lockups and loss of power.  See the Troubleshooting page for help with this issue.

Finally, many 32X units simply didn't work.  While mechanical problems are not uncommon for a console at launch (witness the recent problems with the X-Box 360), the 32X hadn't lasted long enough as a viable platform for many problems to be found and corrected for subsequent shipments.  As a result, many faulty 32X units were (and still are) in circulation.

Q: Can I use a 32X with my Sega CDX system?

A:  The 32X is technically compatible with the Sega 32X, but due to the design of the system, care must be taken when inserting the 32X to avoid damage to the unit and the CDX.  The 32X also hangs over the edge of the system, creating an unbalance that can cause the system to tip, and the CD door cannot be opened with the 32X attached.

For a walk-through of the attachment process, see this page (off-site).

Q: Can I use a 32X with my JVC X'Eye?

A: Yes.  The 32X is compatible with the X'Eye, though like the Sega CDX the design of the system prevents the CD door from being opened while the 32X is attached.

For a walk-through of the attachment process, see this page (off-site).

Q: Where can I get a 32X?

A. Try eBay, Amazon, Half.com, or similar sites.  Prices can vary greatly; complete units can range from $20-$50 or more, while incomplete ones can go as low as $5.

The best thing to search for in an auction is the connector cable that connects the 32X to the Sega Genesis.  It is a small cord with a 9-pin connector at either end.  These cables were made specifically for this purpose, and finding them seperate from the 32X is difficult.  A photo of the cable is below.





Note that if you have a Model 1 Genesis, you'll also want to keep an eye out for the A/V converter cable, which looks like this:


(Photo taken from Sonic Cult's 32X Repair Guide)

You'll need this to get the above connector cable to work with your Model 1 Genesis.

Q: What components does the 32X require?

A: The 32X requires, at bare minimum, three cables: a power supply, an A/V cable or RF Switch, and the the aforementioned connector cable that connects the Sega Genesis to the 32X unit.  The power supply, A/V cables and RF switches are interchangable with Sega Genesis hardware.

The system also came packaged with an A/V converter cable, metal "static plates" and a small plastic spacer that fits around the bottom of the unit, which you may need one or more of of depending upon the model of Genesis you are attaching it to.  See the Troubleshooting page for more information.

Q: I can't find that damned Connector Cable.

A:  All I can recommend is to keep an eye on eBay or Amazon and try to get a system that has one.  Or, if you're handy with soldering, you can make your own.  Read this PDF file for a walkthrough of the process.

The author's site also states that he makes and sells them for a $15 charge.  Last time I asked, however, he was too preoccupied to make any (though he had the materials to do so).  May be worth checking back on once in a while.

Q: Any rare gems I should look out for in the 32X library?

A: As with any console, there are a few valuable collector's items out there.

Back
©2007 Spoony