One box that fits all...
Some games systems are just awesome, it's quite mind blowing how a lump of plastic and wires and circuits can produce so many memories. Games themselves can't really do anything except look nice in a box, they simply don't come alive until they sit inside those magical contraptions. Consoles especially are renowned for their looks as well as the games they run.
Back in the Golden Era of gaming two companies went toe to toe to control this explosion in the marketplace with all manner of exclusive games however one factor people seem to breeze past is how hardware & software bundles were instrumental to getting people to hand over cash back in the golden era.
Sega show their 'Knuckles'
If you look across the internet these days chances are you will find many instances of hardware bundles, it's something that has been going on since Atari first launched the VCS 2600 and it's one of those things I absolutely love about the gaming industry. You see hardware bundles are a brilliant way of almost re-launching an existing product to entice more people into jumping on board as consumers of your project.
The thing is that the odd limited edition console aside a lot of the magic has gone out of the whole thing, well for me it has anyway. In fact seeing the recent Batman PS4 got me thinking about all this again because now something like that seems unique and worthy of 50 articles on each of the main news websites (IGN, GAMESPOT, EUROGAMER, DESTRUCTOID etc etc, seriously they love repeating each others crap). It is of course a newsworthy item because as I said it's not often we get something like this now but go back to the 1990's and it felt like every other month a new software/hardware themed bundle was available, especially for the Megadrive/Genesis and Super Nintendo consoles.
When a big game was launched like Starfox, Street Fighter, Aladdin, Donkey Kong Country, Fifa etc etc at some point during peak trading periods (usually last quarter) we would get a hardware bundle that included said big name game. Today I want to take a look at one of my all time favourites, the Sega Megadrive 2 Sonic 3 bundle.
Released in 1994 Sonic 3 was of course massively anticipated by all Sega and Sonic fans, the second game had taken the first and improved it in almost every single way possible and now rumours were rife that a new main character was being introduced, people were excited, people wanted this game yesterday... When it was finally released magazines went crazy over it especially as by this time the megadrive was very much getting to the point where it was starting to look old news in graphical terms, 32-Bit consoles like the 3DO were showing off screenshots of things that in some cases looked like Hollywood movies.
Turns out though that gameplay is the most important factor and in this Sonic 3 was yet another step forward, refining rather than re-defining it was another mega hit for Sega jumping into customers hands all across the globe, at the same time Sega were also doing yet another hardware push with their previous years re-designed hardware the Megadrive II which was a smaller, lighter, cheaper to produce console so during 1994 it was decided to once more do another of those hardware/software bundles to see just how many more new customers they could find.
With a copy of the Sonic 3 game included as well as two control pads as standard this bundle was made even more attractive simply by adding a cover slip to the main console box. With gorgeous artwork and images of the games lead characters as well as screenshots on the back it was impossible to miss this when walking around shops. In the UK this became the main bundle for the entire 1994 period including the Xmas season where it performed very well in a shrinking marketplace (a lot of people don't realize how much of a lull there was from late 1993 through to the Playstation launch here in late 1995) Sega using old existing tech and a new game with their leading mascot did a great job of covering up how poorly the Mega-CD was selling and keep people interested until they could get the Sega Saturn and 32X ready.
At one point in several retailers this was going during the XMAS period of 1994 for under £100.00 so even when you took away the £39.99 price for Sonic 3 it meant that a brand new megadrive was costing you just £60... What a bargain!!! At the time I was rocking my original model 1 megadrive so didn't snap this badboy up however in 2001 on Ebay I managed to get the one in the pictures below for just over £20.00 and it's been in my GamesRoom ever since. It's in superb condition and I was over the moon that the copy of the game inside even has this cool little promotion leaflet for the first Sonic game. This is cool because for new customers it was a reminder to go back and buy the previous two Sonic games at now mega cheap prices, secondary sales, very clever Sega.
The console itself has no special markings or colour themes which is a bit sad considering how limited edition consoles now stand apart because of how they actually look but there's something about the outer packaging and the quality of the game bundled that makes me always look back to these examples of hardware bundles and smile from ear to ear. Doing it this way was a great way of simply stopping consumers in their tracks and making them physically pick up the box, anyone working in sales knows that in retail the first bite is with the eye and physical connection is a key indicator of want.
So as the sun was setting on the relevance of the 16Bit console Sega once again did what they did best during the golden era, they found a new way to sell an old product. Nintendo during this time were also on form for sure and eventually I will show you some of those moments but today let's all take the time to remember when Sonic the Hedgehog not only sold copies of software but walked hardware into homes all over the globe. A time when Sega had some of the best franchises and marketing on the planet, I miss this Sega so much. I miss this Sonic even more. 3 games in and he was still evolving, still changing the way we played videogames, still making everyone else work harder simply to catch up.
To be this good took Sega, to be this cool took Sonic, to still be this sexy in the modern era will take everyone else AGES...