Ah, the 90s, a time when grunge was in, beepers were a thing, and the world of video games was about to be rocked by some innovative technology. In a decade marked by dial-up internet and the beginning of the World Wide Web, video game consoles had to adapt to keep up with the times. So let’s take a trip down memory lane and explore some of the most exciting online and network-connected add-ons that shaped the world of gaming in the 90s.
First up, we have XBand, the OG online gaming network for Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo Entertainment System users that launched in the United States in 1994. XBand was like Tinder for gamers, letting players connect with others worldwide, download games and other content, and experience new ways of play. But let’s be real, the speed of internet connections at the time and limited access to the service put a damper on things. Sorry, XBand, but you were a pioneer, not a legend.
Next, we have the Sega Channel, a subscription-based service for the Sega Genesis that allowed players to download games and other content via cable television. This groundbreaking service launched in the United States in 1994 and spread to Canada, Brazil, and some parts of Europe. With the Sega Channel, players had access to a library of up to 50 games each month, which they could download via cable television and play as much as they wanted while remaining subscribed to the service. The Sega Channel also provided game demos, walkthroughs, contests, and promotions. Cable TV and video games together? Mind blown!
In 1995, Nintendo released the Satellaview, a satellite modem peripheral for the Super Famicom, the Japanese version of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). The Satellaview allowed players to connect to a satellite broadcast network to download games and other content, but players needed a satellite connection to use it. Talk about exclusive! It was an innovative way to access new content, but it was limited by its availability.
Last but not least, we have the NetLink, the modem peripheral for the Sega Saturn that allowed players to connect to the internet and play games online. Released in the United States in 1996, it was the first online gaming service for a 32-bit console, and it proved to be a game-changer in the evolution of online gaming. Finally, players could connect globally and get their game on. But once again, the speed of internet connections at the time had its limitations.
Ah, the Sega Dreamcast, a console ahead of its time! With its built-in 56k modem, it allowed players to connect to the internet and dive headfirst into online gaming. Not only was it the first console to have a built-in modem, but it also paved the way for the modern online gaming industry. In other words, you can thank the Dreamcast for all those hours spent playing Call of Duty with friends online.
These add-ons and consoles paved the way for the modern online gaming industry. Even though they may seem primitive by today’s standards, they changed the way players engaged with video games and inspired future generations of video game consoles and online gaming services. So, let’s give a shoutout to XBand, Sega Channel, Satellaview, NetLink, and any other console that dared to dip its toes into the wild world of the internet.
About the author
Scott Hough has been playing games since 1986. His parents bought him a used Atari 7800 for his 6th birthday. He was hooked. He loves RPGs, RTS, and Flight Sim games. He is a big fan of the Dragon Quest franchise.