||This article may require copy editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone, or spelling. (July 2012)|
|Type||Handheld game console|
|Generation||Fifth generation era|
|Retail availability||October 13, 1995|
|Units sold||1 million|
|Predecessor||Sega Game Gear|
The Sega Nomad (aka Sega Genesis Nomad) is a handheld game console that was released by Sega on October 13, 1995. The Nomad is a portable variation of Sega's home console the Sega Genesis (known as the Mega Drive in Japan and PAL regions). It is one of the few Sega systems that can play most games regardless of region without the use of an adapter.
Although released within the fifth generation era, making it the first handheld of that generation, the Nomad had a short lifespan of two years. It was both released and discontinued before the generation's other main handhelds, Game Boy Color and Neo Geo Pocket, came to the market.
Sold in North America and Japan, the Nomad was never officially released in PAL territories such as Europe and Australia, though the unit retained its PAL/NTSC switch on the internal board. It was released in Japan after a delay so as not to compete with the Sega Mega Jet, which was already being sold in Japanese retail stores.
Its codename during development was Project Venus, as per Sega's policy at the time of codenaming their systems after planets.
The system was similar to the Japanese Sega Mega Jet, but featured a built-in color screen, whereas the Mega Jet needed a separate monitor.
The Nomad was primarily an evolution of the Mega Jet, a system in the Japanese market, while attempting to capitalize on the handheld market following the success of the Sega Game Gear. The Mega Jet was screenless and required an AC adapter, but the Nomad featured a 3.25 inch color LCD screen and an external detachable battery pack that had room for six AA batteries, making it completely portable as opposed to simply being a small (travel-size) Mega Drive/Genesis system. In addition to its other improvements over the Mega Jet, such as playing most games regardless of region without an adapter, an A/V Out plug was added at the top of the unit, allowing owners to play games on a television screen with a separate A/V cable. The directional pad on the unit controlled all one-player games, and a port on the bottom allowed a second controller pad to be plugged in for two-player games. This meant that the Nomad could be a fully functional home system as well as a hand-held solution with a preexisting library of games.
Sega originally intended for its successor to feature a touchscreen interface, many years before the Nintendo DS. However, such a technology was very expensive at the time, and the handheld itself was estimated to have cost $289 were it to be released. Sega eventually chose to shelve the idea and release the Sega Nomad as simply a handheld version of the Mega Drive.
|Processor||Motorola 68000 16 bit processor running at 7.67 MHz|
|Co-processor (sound controller)||Zilog Z80 8-bit at 3.58 MHz|
|Memory||156KB total (64 KB Main RAM, 64KB VRAM, 8KB Sound RAM. 20 Kb ROM)|
|Maximum onscreen sprites||80|
|Resolution||320 × 224|
|Sound||Yamaha YM2612 6 channel FM, additional 4 channel PSG. Stereo sound; Texas Instruments SN76489 Programmable Sound Generator|
|Display||Integrated CSTN LCD at 320 x 224|
|Power rating||9V 850mA (same as Genesis/Mega Drive model 2)|
The Nomad was bulky and inefficient, offering limited battery life (about 2 hours) compared to contemporary handhelds (specifically Nintendo's Game Boy system). Rechargeable AA batteries were not recommended due to voltage problems (as Ni-Cds provide 1.2V instead of the 1.5V that alkaline batteries output), though a rechargeable battery pack was available separately for $79; the use of a proper car adapter on the wall wart input with SLA batteries with varying voltages between 12 to 24 can also work too. The Nomad had compatibility problems with the sister system's add-ons, including the Sega 32X, the Mega-CD, and the Power Base Converter. While they did work technologically, forcing compatibility involved modifying the add-on units' shapes or using 3rd party expanders.
The Nomad had a small number of compatibility issues pertaining to specific games:
- X-Men: Requires the player to reset the game at one point in order to progress forward. It is impossible to continue the game on the Sega Nomad due to the lack of a reset button.
- 32X Add-on: Cannot be played on the Nomad due to the 32x blocking the AV output.
Sega released the Nomad in October 1995 for US$180, and was marketed as a portable Mega Drive/Genesis. The Nomad won praise for its screen resolution and features, its impressive technical specifications for the time (including a full color backlit display), and its support of an estimated 600 titles already on the shelves in addition to being a functional home system. However, the Nomad had poor sales due to its limited battery life and the poor timing of its release. Even after a $100 price drop, the handheld did not garner enough support to continue. By the time it was released, the Mega Drive was at the end of its lifespan—already being replaced by the Sega Saturn, PlayStation, and upcoming Nintendo 64—and a general indifference towards 16-bit era titles hastened the unit's demise.
See also 
- Blake Snow (2007-07-30). "The 10 Worst-Selling Handhelds of All Time". GamePro.com. Archived from the original on 2007-10-12. Retrieved 2008-01-17.
- Santulli, Joe (2005). Digital Press Collectors Guide. USA: Digital Press. ISBN 978-0-9709807-0-0.
- IGN Presents the History of SEGA (Page 7), IGN
Further reading 
- Retro Gamer, issue 69. Retroinspection: Sega Nomad, pages 46–53