Sega’s 60th anniversary celebration rolls on, and the company’s latest flashback “seminar” concerns a prototype called “Venus.” That was the code name Sega gave the Nomad, the short-lived successor to the Game Gear and Sega’s last attempt at challenging Nintendo in the handheld market.
It seems Sega was (loosely) following the order of the planets when code-naming things 30 years ago, as Sega producer Hiroyuki Miyazaki explains in the long preamble here. The Game Gear was “Mercury,” for example, so it made sense that its successor would be called “Venus.”
What’s interesting is that many of these codenames were assigned after their units actually launched; Sega retrofitted them to help manage internal documentation. The planet-naming convention comes from, you guessed it, the Sega Saturn, meaning the Game Gear (Mercury), Mega Drive Mini (Moon) and Super 32X attachment (Mars) all got their code names after the fact.
That makes the Nomad the first prototype to have a planet codename on the unit Sega manufactured. It looks larger than the Nomad, but that’s probably because of the asymmetrical design of the production Nomad’s case. The Nomad packed much back, by the way — it doesn’t look like much in the front, but remember, this thing could play Genesis cartridges, so it was by no means a pocket gaming system.
What of the rest of the planets? Jupiter was supposed to be a cartridge-based successor to the Mega Drive/Genesis, but it never launched. Neptune was a thought exercise in combining a Genesis with the 32X attachment, but it got no further than internal planning. And it’s interesting that Pluto was looking like a Sega Saturn with built-in networking. Obviously, this is the direction the Dreamcast went in 1999.
Sega got out of the console racket afterward, and of course, Pluto was removed from our celestial batting order in 2006. Who knows how Sega would have proceeded if they stayed in the hardware game. Maybe we would have had console prototypes called Quaoar, Gonggong, and Makemake by now.