Sega Mark III
From Sega Retro
The Sega Mark III (セガマークIII) is a video game console created by Sega. It is the successor to Sega's earlier SG-1000 II (itself a redesigned SG-1000), and was released in October 1985 in Japan, before being distributed in South Korea and Taiwan later in the decade. No models of the Mark III were released outside of Asia, but the console did form the basis of the Sega Master System which was distributed internationally.
The Mark III stands as Sega's second attempt at capturing a share of the Japanese video game market in the face of the Family Computer (Famicom) created by Nintendo, sporting significant upgrades over its predecessors. The technology was used as a foundation for its successor, the Sega Mega Drive.
Sega's first console, the SG-1000, launched on the same day as the Famicom in Japan, and was, like many other systems of the era, decimated by Nintendo's efforts. Its computer sibling, the SC-3000 was met with more open arms (including in some Austrilasian and European markets), but by 1985 it was clear that support for Sega's systems were drying up. Nevertheless, Sega's attempts were at the very least notable - whereas other rival systems of the day had been struck off within a year of the Famicom's launch, Sega held a strong, albeit distant, second place in Japan, prompting the company to push forward with a more powerful alternative - the Sega Mark III.
The Mark III was released in Japan on October 20, 1985, with its main comeptition again being the Family Computer. Despite being a cartridge-based system, for the first eight months, no traditional cartridges were produced, with the library instead being populated by cost-reduced Sega Cards. The release of Fantasy Zone ushered in a new phase of cartridge production, and support lasted until February 1989, ending with Bomber Raid.
Over one million units were sold in Japan during Mark III's first year, but similar to its predecessors, the Mark III was unable to dethrone Nintendo or win considerable support from the gaming public. The situation is said to have been an improvement over the SG-1000/SC-3000's fate, but even with superior system specifications, Mark III sales paled in comparison to the Famicom's.
In Taiwan, Aaronix distributed the Mark III, having previously brought the SG-1000 II to the region.
The Mark III was distributed in South Korea by Korea Oacs, and was the first Sega console to be sold in the country. Little is known about the Mark III's fate - Sega would later strike a deal with Samsung to bring the Sega Master System to the country, which is thought to have fared much better.
The Mark III is built similarly to the SG-1000 II, so much so that to the untrained eye, it is easy to mistake one for the other. It is a long, white system sporting a cartridge slot, a card slot, and two DE-9 controller ports at the front of the unit. On the left lies an expansion port, later utilised by the FM Sound Unit, and in addition to the RF television output, an 8-pin A/V port, giving greater picture quality than the system's predecessors. Like the SG-1000 II (and Famicom), controllers (now SJ-152s) can be docked on either side of the unit.
The Mark III offers two major upgrades over the SG-1000 (with the optional FM Sound Unit bringing enhanced sound) - superior visuals offered by a TMS9918 video display processor, and more RAM. Generally this is represented by twice as many on-screen colours and sprites, and smoother scrolling - everything else is largely the same as the SG-1000. The upgrade puts it ahead of the Famicom in many regards, although without the FM Sound Unit, the Famicom has technically superior sound capabilities (furthered still by the Famciom Disk System add-on).
The system is backwards compatible with earlier SG-1000 titles, both in terms of cards and cartridges, and likewise, the controllers are interchangeable. Cartridges and cards are the same physical shape as their SG-1000 counterparts, but will not function in an SG-1000. Sega also released the Telecon Pack, allowing the Mark III to connect to a television "wirelessly".
The Sega Mark III was redesigned as the Sega Master System for release in other markets. This was mainly a cosmetic revamp; the internals of the console remained virtually the same. The redesigned console was itself released in Japan in 1987, but with the features of the FM Sound Unit built in as well as a 3-D glasses port.