When Sega Genesis games arrive on Nintendo Switch Online next month, Switch owners in most regions will have to play them with three-button Genesis controllers. Nintendo is producing a six-button version of the Genesis controller — but it will be available exclusively in Japan, Nintendo confirmed to Polygon on Friday.
Nintendo announced the controller Thursday as part of an upcoming expansion to the Nintendo Switch Online service that will bring a handful of Genesis and Nintendo 64 games to the Switch for an additional cost on top of the existing subscription. The company is making modern wireless versions of both the Genesis controller and the Nintendo 64 gamepad, to be used with games such as Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Mario Kart 64.
Each controller will cost $49.99 in the U.S., and will be sold only to Nintendo Switch Online subscribers. Nintendo has yet to announce a concrete release date for them. (Of course, retro games on Nintendo Switch Online work just fine with Switch Joy-Cons or the Pro Controller.)
“Different regions make different decisions based on a variety of factors,” a Nintendo of America representative told Polygon via email. “For the U.S. and Canada, a replica of the original SEGA Genesis controller is the available model. This was by far the more widely used and well-known SEGA Genesis controller in these regions.”
That’s certainly true. The Genesis launched with a three-button gamepad, and it wasn’t until 1993 — more than four years after the console’s debut in Japan — that Sega released a six-button version of the controller. That model was timed to the early ’90s fighting game boom, since its layout (with two rows of three buttons each) was a better fit for the setup of buttons for arcade games such as Street Fighter 2 and Streets of Rage 3. Those titles took advantage of the extra buttons and made it easier to do various moves.
Still, it’s strange that Nintendo would produce a more capable controller in 2021 and limit it to one region of the world, especially since the Switch is region-free. (It’s worth noting that Nintendo does not guarantee compatibility between Switch consoles and accessories purchased in different regions.)