There has been further research conducted into the Mega Drive's total sales figures within the Sega community, but this time more in-depth. This brings us closer to solving the dispute among retro gamers as to which console really did sell the most during the 16-bit console war.
Here is a list of sales figures compiled so far, including sources:
- Genesis (North America) - 20 million
- Mega Drive (Japan) - 4.3 million
- Mega Drive (Europe) - 6.9 million
- Mega Drive (Brazil) - 2 million+
- Genesis 3 (North America) - 2 million
- Nomad (North America) - 1 million
- Mega Drive (Other Regions) - 3.5 million
What the compiled figures do show is that the Mega Drive was the best-selling unit in the Americas. Nintendo's official sales figures quote that 23.35 million SNESs were sold in total, compared to the Mega Drive's 25 million.
The Mega Drive sold more than the SNES in "other regions" as well, which includes Europe - compare Sega's 10.4 million to Nintendo's 8.58 million.
These figures do miss out on one thing, however - there are no solid sales figures for the many variations of Mega Drives, such as the Wondermega and Multi-Mega. One website mentions that in North America 10,000 JVC X'Eyes may have been sold along with 5,000 CDXs.
If we take all of the figures gathered so far, we can safely assume that the Mega Drive sold almost 40 million units worldwide, a much more accurate figure than the previously assumed 29 million. We can also say that the Mega Drive outsold the SNES in the Western hemisphere.
It seems that Nintendo's huge sales of the SNES in Japan (17.7 million) have led to the general assumption that the Mega Drive was "beaten" everywhere, when in fact Japan was the only major market where this occurred. Japan's figures gave the total SNES sales a huge 49.1 million, compared to Sega's 39.7 million.
Aside from these sales figures, the community found some software and hardware revenue figures from Sega and Nintendo:
Sega - US Hardware and Software Revenue in millions of dollars (including Sega Genesis, Sega CD, and Sega 32X, not including Sega Nomad, Sega CDX, JVC X'Eye, the Genesis 3 or software sold by Majesco in 1997-1999)This shows that Sega was ahead (revenue-wise) of Nintendo from 1994, with Sega's cheaper hardware and software suggesting more units were sold. If we take into account Sega's hardware and software not included on the list then surely they made more revenue in total?
1989 - $182
1990 - $280
1991 - $586
1992 - $1,151
1993 - $1,938
1994 - $1,812 (End of 16-bit era Total: $5,949)
1995 - $812
1996 - $294
1997 - $180
Total - $7,235
Super NES - US Hardware & Software Revenue in millions of dollars
1991 - $560
1992 - $1,733
1993 - $1,890
1994 - $1,471 (End of 16-bit era Total: $5,654)
1995 - $823
1996 - $514
1997 - $243 (End of Sega Total: $7,234)
1998 - $137
1999 - $20
Total - $7,391
I will update the figures when more sources have been found. All this effort put in from the community shows that for many of us, the 16-bit war will rage for all eternity!
EDIT 28/12/09: I have updated the figures with new information, mainly for Europe and Japan.
02/01/10: Here is another source for the Mega Drive sales figures. [Unreliable chart removed.]
08/07/10: Here is a chart from the May 1995 issue of Man!ac Magazine showing console sales of 29 million at the fiscal end of 1994.