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Nomad BoxThe Nomad is a fifth-generation handheld video game console designed and manufactured by Sega.   Released exclusively in North America in October 1995 the console was inspired by a semi-portable handheld game console that was exclusively released in Japan.

Sega developed a partial handheld console that was marketed towards airline travelers.  The Mega Jet was a portable version of the Sega Mega Drive that was available for rent aboard Japan Air Lines (JAL).  The system debuted on the airline in 1993 and was later made available at retail outlets in Japan in 1994.  The console was semi-portable as the system lacked a built-in screen.  The device combined the hardware found in the Mega Drive console and integrated the components of a six button Mega Drive controller in a single unit.

Mega JetSince the system required an external power supply and display it made it an ideal product for airlines to market as a form of entertainment for passengers at an additional charge.  When the system released in 1993 many Japan Air Lines planes had small LCD displays installed into the armrest of each seat.  The system allowed passengers to play Mega Drive games to pass time on their flights.

Designed by Sega of America the Nomad was an attempt to extend the lifecycle of the Sega Genesis home console.  At the time of the device’s release the home console generation was starting to shift away from the fourth generation making way for the next generation of home consoles.  With the market focused on the fifth-generation home consoles such as the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation, Sega of America decided to create a fifth-generation handheld console that would be able to play fourth generation home console games.

Nomad Logo
CodenameProject Venus
PredecessorGame Gear
Hardware TypeHandheld
GenerationFifth Generation
Media TypeCartridge
ReleaseNA: October, 1995
DiscontinuedNA: 1999
Launch Price$ 179.99 USD
SalesApproximately 1 Million Units
Game Library703 Games (Genesis Library)

Nomad Prototype VenusDevelopment of the handheld began under the codename “Venus” with the vision that was similar in nature to the semi-portable Mega Jet system.  Using the identical feature set as the model 2 Genesis paired with a six-button controller the development team created a prototype unit that included a built-in LCD screen as a proof of concept.  The Venus prototype contained much more advance hardware than that of Sega’s competitors’ handheld devices.

The prototype proved to be viable and the development team continued to revise the hardware design of the system for mass market appeal and manufacturing.  The final product was branded the “Nomad” to emphasize the system’s portability as the definition of the word means a person with no fixed residence or an individual who roams about.  By the time the console debuted in October of 1995, the system had an established game library of over 500 existing titles which were released over the course of the Sega Genesis’ 6-year lifecycle.

The handheld system featured the same audio/video out port as the Genesis allowing it to be connected to a television set.  On top of being able to connect to a TV, the system had a DE-9 port on the bottom of the unit to allow for a second controller to be connected for a multiplayer experience.  Player 1 would use the handheld unit itself to play games on the television set, while player 2 could use a standard Genesis controller connected to the bottom of the Nomad.

The system was first released in October 1995 to test markets across North America for $179 and slowly rolled out in limited quantities until its wilder release in early 1996.  Though the handheld system received praise from critics it never became a commercial success.  Even after massive price cuts due to sluggish sales the console failed to compete for the handheld market that was dominated by Nintendo and their Game Boy product line.

The story of the Sega Nomad - Gaming Historian


The Gaming Historian

The Gaming Historian is a documentary series all about the history of video games.  The show is researched, written, edited, and created by Norman Caruso.

Processor:7.67 MHz Motorola 68000 16-bit Processor
Co-processor (Sound Controller):3.58 MHz Zilog Z80 8-bit
Memory:156KB total - 64 KB Main RAM, 64KB VRAM, 8KB Sound RAM. 20 KB ROM
Display Palette:512
Onscreen Colors:64
Maximum Onscreen Sprites:80
Display:Integrated STN LCD
Resolution:320 × 224
Sound:Yamaha YM2612 6 Channel FM, Additional 4 Channel PSG (Stereo Sound)
Power Rating:9V 850mA, 3.5W
Battery Requirements:6 AA Batteries
Battery Life:Approximately 3 to 5 Hours
Dimensions:18.5cm x 10.7cm x 5cm (Metric)
7.25in x 4.25in x 2in (Imperial)

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