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Gamer Tuesday

October 2, 2012

Pap the Disney Gamer's Highlights EPCOT's 30th Anniversary Week: Sega at EPCOT's Innoventions

First opening on October 1, 1982, EPCOT Center at Walt Disney World Resort represents Disney's belief of a brighter tomorrow fueled by the innovation of technology and the ingenuity of the human mind. It's lands celebrate the endless possibilities of the future and the beauty of our world's many cultures. One area that best encapsulates this motion is Innoventions. Opening its doors to the public in 1994, Innoventions is all about technical innovations and how they make our lives better while teaching us the importance of a practical lifestyle. Many partners have teamed up with Disney to bring attractions and shows to Innoventions that best represent these beliefs, such as Florida Blue Cross for 'Habit Heroes,' T. Rowe Price for 'The Great Piggy Bank Adventure,' and the focus of today's Gamer Tuesday article, Sega. In honor of EPCOT's 30th anniversary this week, Gamer Tuesday will take a look at how the two companies crossed paths and made EPCOT history.

If the name sounds familiar to you then it is likely because you grew up playing one of their many games, or know about their biggest mascot: Sonic the Hedgehog. But I am getting way ahead of myself here. Sega was originally known as Service Games, a company dedicated to creating slot machines and coin operated games through various American military bases. Throughout the 50s and 60s, the company began to grow beyond their place of origin, changing their name to Sega (as in SErvice GAmes). In the 80s, they released their first ever home console, the Sega SG-1000. Despite it being somewhat of a failure due to the great video game crash that occurred in that era, it provided Sega with the basis for their next and far more successful video game system: the Sega Master System.

By this point in time, the video game crash was making way towards a brighter future thanks to the efforts of companies like Nintendo with their system the Nintendo Entertainment System and the arcade boom that propelled the industry early on. The Sega Master System boasted better graphics than its rival the NES, but didn't quite see the same level of success as Nintendo's system. Regardless, many fans grew to enjoy the Sega Master System thanks to its eclectic selection of games as well as peripherals and innovative approach to home console gaming. Sega, however, would really begin to get noticed in 1989 when they released the Sega Genesis in North America.

Its release would boast one of the biggest and most famous rivalries in the industry. With the Sega Genesis, Sega was determined to take away Nintendo's crown. Its ads spawned the now legendary 'Sega does what NintenDON'T,' bragging about the system's power in comparison to the NES at the time. Out of this a new character was born, Sonic the Hedgehog. His game was all about speed and attitude, enough to make Nintendo's Mario seem too old and slow. The 90s was Sega's era of growth, thanks to a multitude of games released on the Genesis that gained them great respect from the fans. But it was also during this era when Sega saw its mistakes drive them to a drastic change in financial plans. In an attempt to rival Nintendo in the handheld market game division, they released the Sega Game Gear, a handheld that was far more powerful than the Game Boy and featured a color screen. Its games would earn it a cult following, but in comparison to the Game Boy its popularity was somewhat weak.

Sega also kept releasing add-ons and peripherals in order to make the Genesis more appealing than the Super Nintendo. One of these was the Sega CD, one of the first initiatives towards the CD being the ideal gaming medium of the future. Much like the Game Gear, the games that were released inspired great support, such as Sonic the Hedgehog CD. The price of the add-on, though, combined with mediocre CD games made it a mockery in the industry and the first of many failures. Sega also released the 32X during its time, yet another attempt to make the Genesis more powerful. That initiative was quickly forgotten and seen as a waste of time by those that invested on it.

The mid-90s saw great potential in the CD medium. Many companies entered the video game fray in hopes of inspiring a new gaming revolution using the then fabled technology. Sony released their first gaming console, the PlayStation. Nintendo embraced 3D gaming with the Nintendo 64. Sega wouldn't be left far behind when they released the Sega Saturn. The system generated some of the best games of the era, such as the Virtua Fighter 3D fighting game series, many 2D fighters, the super colorful NIGHTs Into Dreams, Panzer Dragoon and many more. Still even with some high quality games on the system the Sega Saturn still didn't seem to capture the same momentum as Sony and Nintendo's systems.

Sega decided to try it one more time. Their years of experimentation yielded them the Sega Dreamcast, released on September 9, 1999 (or 9/9/99). The system was one of the most powerful consoles at the time, years ahead of what Sony and Nintendo could do with their respective systems. It was also the first home console to have online play, a memory card unit called the Visual Memory Unit that featured a screen that would complement the game and faithful ports of super popular arcade games. It is seen as one of the most beloved systems Sega ever released. Still, even with what seemed to be endless support from fans and the video game industry, the system was eventually crushed under the presence and promising power of the PlayStation 2, released just a year later. Nintendo's answer to both systems, the GameCube was released in 2001.

Due to the poor marketing decisions and lackluster performance of their systems, Sega announced in 2001 that they would become a third party developer, no longer producing their own gaming hardware. As bleak as the announcement seemed at first, it allowed Sega to keep making games and keeping their famous franchises alive on many systems. To this day, they are still releasing games across all the available platforms, from the Xbox 360 to the latest mobile devices.

So we have all this history on Sega, and you might be wondering 'What does Sega have to do with EPCOT's Innoventions?' Well, at the height of their presence in the gaming industry, Sega partnered with Disney to bring their gaming systems to present guests their latest, state-of-the-art games. Systems that were on-display included the Sega Genesis, the Sega CD, the Sega Pico (which I wrote about here), Sega Saturn and the Sega Dreamcast (park guests were lucky in 1999 as many of Sega's most anticipated games would make playable debuts here). Park guests were free to play both classic and modern games as a way to see how far gaming had evolved since the release of the Sega Master System. In addition, it was one of many attempts on Disney's behalf to bring relevant interactive entertainment while keeping EPCOT's tradition of modern technology as a way towards a better tomorrow alive and well.

While Innoventions is still around today, the exhibit that showcased Sega's games no longer exists (although there still is a video game section). If you were one of the lucky guests that got to experience this firsthand when it was available in 1994 and forward, and want to relive those Sega days, the company has done a really good job of keeping those classic games alive. One of the most recent releases is Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. This release features almost 50 Sega Genesis games and even some arcade games.

If what you want instead is to play just one Sega game, the company has made available their games individually throughout many downloadable game services, such as Xbox Live Arcade and the Wii Shop Channel on Nintendo's Wii. In terms of modern games, last year Sega released Sonic Generations, a game that celebrates their beloved gaming mascot. Sega was also responsible for some of the Avengers themed games such as Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America (though these games were received poorly due to their mediocre game design choices).

The Sega/Disney team up has lived on in one peculiar manner. This November, Disney will release their 52nd animated feature film Wreck-It-Ralph, a film about a video game villain who is tired of being treated as the bad guy, and thus he embarks on a journey to other video game worlds in hopes of finding a bigger purpose in life. The film has already gained popularity with gamers thanks to its countless video game references and character cameos. Care to guess which company jumped in and provided cameos? That's right, Sega! When the film is released, you will be able to see glimpses of Sonic the Hedgehog, Dr. Robotnik, and other Sega villains.

Their partnership with Disney made Sega a very common name amongst EPCOT's fans. It goes to show you that Disney's beliefs can exist even in other companies, and when they make their presence known inside the parks, they help further shape a 30 year legacy that will never end as long as there is imagination in the world. Guess it is a great big beautiful tomorrow after all!

 

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