Entire “Sega Channel” Soundtrack Uploaded For Listening And Downloading Pleasure
If you were like me and was a teenager in the mid to late 1990s, chances are you had a chance to experience, or at the very least hear about, the short lived experience that was known as “The Sega Channel”. For the time, it was one of the best ways to get the chance to play “up to 50 games a month for one low price.” Of course, us being the typical teenagers that we were, we never thought about saving things, and because of this, a lot of footage of “Sega Channel” has been lost forever. But rather late last night, a brand new video on Youtube was uploaded with something really great for us retro gamers.
For those that were not fortunate to live in an area that had the service, here’s a quick little introduction. Sega Channel was a project developed directly at Sega with utilized the 16-bit Genesis console. It launched on December 1, 1994 and was available to customers of Time Warner, TCI and TKR cable systems across the country. For a start-up fee and a monthly fee thereafter, you got an adapter that plugged into the Genesis, which was then attached to your cable line. Every month a new set of games (usually between 30 and 50) would be available for download. Once the game was downloaded, the cartridge acted like it was the original game ROM, and you could play your games as much as you wanted. This was a great way for parents to save money on buying games because you got to test them before you bought them, a lot like how you can download demos today.
Aside from full games, you also had the chance to “test drive” games that may have been in the works, as well as get a chance to play games that were not available in the United States. (These were known as “Sega Channel Exclusives”. You could also get cheats and tips, read text versions of the game manuals, and even get to participate in exclusive contests that took place as the internet became a little more known and available to the public. While it may seem like it was an “on demand” service, the station was actually a broadcast channel, which functioned just like premium channels like HBO and Cinemax, where you would need a special converter box to receive the network. When you made your selection, the adapter would wait for the game to be “broadcast” on the channel, and then load into memory. When the service ended on July 31, 1998, all adapters were to be returned to the cable company. (Of course, I never did and still have my adapter!)
As I said at the start, because most of us were not thinking about the future, a lot of footage from this remarkable service has been lost forever. If you are lucky to have the adapter cartridge, all you get when you turn it on is the start-up screen, and then a display telling you that it was not getting a signal from the cable company. One of the cool things about the channel was that it was full of excellent 16 bit audio which was saved both on the cartridge itself as well as transmitted over the air. This week, the owner of Youtube channel “BigBangBlitz” made available as a video, the complete audio of music that was used during transmissions. It has every single track ever featured on the service, including a few that were only in the preview version. Not to mention, the entire recording is also available for download for your audio player of choice! It had been assumed that most of this music had been long gone, and I know I was very excited to hear those tunes again after all these years! It’s bound to bring back lots of button mashing memories!
If anyone out there happens to have the complete video that used to air on TV that advertised the service, please let me know. (I remember that there was a half hour “infomercial” that used to repeat on the overnight hours on one of the channels on our lineup.) I for one was a big Sega Channel freak in the 1990s and unfortunately didn’t think to record any of that great footage. The two things I did manage to keep were my Sega Channel adapter, and even rarer, a few pamphlets from the cable company that mentioned the service, which I have shared scans of the very first one throughout this article. Dig that old channel lineup, and remember that was only 17 years ago! (While we’re at it, remember channels like “The Box” and “PRISM”?) In the meantime, sit back, relax, close your eyes, and let’s go back to 1994!