Today, most new release video games for consoles cost around $60. They’ve been this price for a while, and back in the days of cartridge-based games, some could go for even more. In 1994, Super Street Fighter 2 was $70 new - which, adjusting for inflation, is about $114 today. So, as a kid, I relied on rental stores to fix me up with new games when Christmas was still months away. But, around that same time, Sega launched a service that had me playing more games than I ever could have with rentals.
Sega Channel launched in Wichita in December of 1994, one of the first places it was available after a dozen test markets. When you signed up for the service, you got a special cartridge you could put into your Sega Genesis, and then hook up directly to your cable line. This cartridge acted like a cable modem for your Genesis. With the software on the cartridge, you could read about upcoming Sega games and learn about special sweepstakes.
But, most importantly, every month, the service had about 50 Genesis games that you could download straight to your console to play. Once you selected the game, it would take four or five minutes to download, and then it would play just as if you had the game in your console.
There are so many great Genesis games that I was introduced to through Sega Channel, that I probably never would have given a chance otherwise. There were even a few games on the service that were never released in North America, including a great platformer named Pulseman - developed by the same team that went on to create Pokemon for Nintendo.
The service was discontinued in 1998, due to most gamers moving on to the Nintendo 64 and the Sony PlayStation. Unfortunately, since the service was dependent on the signal from the cable company, there isn’t really a way for gamers to experience it today, other than a few YouTube videos with people who happened to record themselves playing on their VCRs.