is the Sega 32X?
A: The Sega 32X was an
add-on for the Sega Genesis
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
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
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
Q: Why make a site about a failed
A: If nothing else, it's
because it's a fascinating topic.
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
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
the Sega Genesis platform, giving them the edge over
Nintendo's SNES until the next generation of consoles was ready to
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
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
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
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
all of Sega's earlier systems, to focus on the
In short, the 32X, intended to expand the lifespan of the Genesis , had
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
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
A: The Neptune was an
attempt by Sega of America to revive interest
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
Q: How big of a library did the 32X
A. The 32X, in addition to
being compatible with all Sega
(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
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
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.
kind of technical problems did
the 32X have?
Reportedly, the Sega 32X does not work with some older
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
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
shipments. As a result, many faulty 32X units were (and still
are) in circulation.
Q: Can I use a 32X with my Sega CDX
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
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
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:
You'll need this to get the above
connector cable to work with your
Model 1 Genesis.
Q: What components does the 32X
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
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
A: All I can recommend is to keep an eye on eBay or Amazon
to get a system that has one. Or, if you're handy with soldering,
you can make your own. Read this PDF
for a walkthrough of the process.
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.