Sega Visions is the name of the official magazine published by Sega of America and produced by one of several outside firms in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The magazine was as good as Sega Master System/Genesis owners had to an official, in-house publication equivalent to Nintendo Power, though it did not come close to the quality of Nintendo's magazine.
The Early History
The origins of the magazine that became Sega Visions begin during the Sega Master System era. Sega had sold the rights to the Master System in America to Tonka Toys, whom, as we all know, did a poor job of marketing. After three years of failure and little success, Sega took back control and repackaged the system for one last chance at success.
As a compliment to this new look, it received something along the lines of Nintendo's Fun Club News - a promotional miniature magazine, Challenge: The Team Sega Newsletter. The most common way to subscribe was via promotional inserts in various Master System games.
It wasn't intended as a true periodical. It was an advertising feature, a promotional tool. It did, however, run some interesting articles, such as the 3D Goggles. It was also the only place where you could obtain Power Strike, via mail order.
This newsletter was eventually renamed to simply The Team Sega Newsletter with Issue 4. The periodical ended with issue 7, three issues under the Challenge banner (Winter, Spring, and Summer 1988) and 4 under the name of The Team Sega Newsletter, (Fall 1988, January, April, and December 1989).
Sega Visions of the Future
After a five-month pause, a new publication appeared from Sega in June 1990 under the name of Sega Visions. At first glance, it wasn't that special. It had more than a passing resemblance to the Team Sega Newsletter, it was distributed for free, which made the cover price confusing, compounded by the fact that it wasn't really sold at retail.
Plus, the first few issues included a gimmick - poorly-illustrated trading cards, meant to be based on reader tips. It was dropped soon enough.
Let me make on thing clear - Sega made no pretentions to its staff about it being a real magazine. It was only ever meant as an advertising tool, another wheel in the Sega marketing machine.
Those intentions were reflected in the magazine, as well. The reviews weren't really 'reviews.' The thirty-two pages of the magazine were filled with Sega bravado, and a bunch of fancy language. It read like a long, long advertisement. Despite that, the writers and editors working on the magazine did their best.
The magazine wasn't that new. It was narrowly focused on the Genesis, as well, basically being the sales pitch for it to the public, extended and in installments. They did, however, have some consolation for Master System owners - the last few games that were being released as they trickled downwards were reviewed in the early issues.
But it was clear that, if you didn't have any intention to buy a Sega Genesis, then you would have less reasons to read as time went on. It showed that Sega did, indeed, care for its 8-bit supporters. Of course, the nails were entering the coffin at a rapid rate. Genesis was the future.
Growth Despite Restraint
The writers were not allowed to say anything negative about Sega's products. The magazine did not get exclusives, because the game was being pimped everywhere else. There was a brief attempt to make the magazine paid, but it was recognized for what it was, and the decision was quickly reversed before it ever came into effect.
The magazine was never intended as hard competition for Nintendo Power, or any of the other magazines of the era, and it showed - the magazine implemented third-party logos into its design. If that doesn't say "promotional tool," what does?
The writers still attempted to inject personality into the magazine, and it grew. The Niles Nemo comics of the issues faded away to the first Sonic the Hedgehog comics.
Much of the problem with Sega Visions was that Sega had a very strict view of where marketing would go, and moreso, the budget thereof. The magazine, as a result, did not get the budget, the attention, or the expertise to make it into anything more than just a promotional tool. Nothing negative about Genesis products was allowed inside, which made editorial content difficult for the writers.
There was never any chance for the magazine to become a "real" magazine. The budget wasn't there. Sega was a smaller company then Nintendo, and it spent one dollar to every eight Nintendo had, roughly speaking. Sega had to be fickle with marketing, because where Nintendo had its massive stores, Sega had - for a time - ten percent market share.
Despite the backstage problems at Sega Visions, it managed to survive. Comparisons with Nintendo Power were frequent, and that may have given the magazine a certain legitimacy that Sega couldn't on its own. It may be that which resulted in the editors trying to give the magazine an identity.
Sega controlled everything. Which games were covered and what peripherals were to be hyped. The Sega Seal of Quality was mentioned frequently, and the magazine had a section called Party Line that flaunted third-party releases. (That's the bit with the third-party logos as part of the design.) In essence, the magazine's editors were denied full journalistic freedom.
Despite the control, the magazine still managed to grow despite the restraints. Niles Nemo comics gave way to Sonic the Hedgehog comics. Reviews were facelifted and strategy was made a larger part of the magazine. Readers were occasionally allowed to see behind the scenes of the magazine, such as motion capture.
The magazine was, in time, moved off to San Francisco with a new publisher and an all-new staff. It was further refined thereafter, continuing on for three years before abruptly being cancelled with Issue 25 just as the age of the Sega Saturn was dawning.
The reasons for cancellation are likely down to a number of things - the out-of-touch Japanese management, the virtual war between Sega America and Sega Japan, the decision to discontinue all hardware except for the Saturn in 1996, the lack of full creative control, the magazine's move across the country (quality was doomed to suffer), the lack of Sega's full support, and the fact that the magazine was completely free.
Nevertheless - the fact that the magazine survived five years, basically in a state of being video game propaganda, compared to Nintendo Power, and with in-house censorship to an extreme degree, is impressive.
This history of Sega Visions itself, with the information above, was written by HunterofBugs.