SEGA megadrive advert from 1991.
The Mega Drive is a fourth-generation video game console released by Sega in Japan in 1988 and Europe in 1990. The console was released in North America in 1989 under the name Genesis, as Sega was unable to secure legal rights to the Mega Drive name in that region. The Mega Drive, heavily marketed as “16-bit” due to its hardware, was Sega’s fifth home console and the successor to the Sega Master System, with which it is electronically compatible.
The Mega Drive was the first of its generation to achieve notable market share in Europe and North America. It was a direct competitor of the TurboGrafx-16 (which was released one year earlier in Japan under the name PC Engine, but at about the same time as the Genesis in North America) and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (which was released two years later). The Mega Drive began production in Japan in 1988 and ended with the last new licensed game being released in 2002 in Brazil.
The Mega Drive was Sega’s most successful console, with over 29 million units sold worldwide. The console and many of its games are still popular today: Some games have been re-released in compilations for newer consoles and/or offered for download on various online services, such as Xbox Live Arcade and Virtual Console. The console is also still popular for fan translations and indie game development.
Although the Sega Master System was a success in Europe, and later also Brazil, it failed to ignite much interest in the North American or Japanese markets, which, by the mid-to-late 1980s, were both dominated by Nintendo’s large market shares.Meanwhile in the arcades, the Sega System 16 had become a success. Hayao Nakayama, Sega’s CEO at the time, decided to make its new home system utilize a similar 16-bit architecture. The final design was eventually also used in the Mega-Tech, Mega-Play and System-C arcade machines. Any game made for the Mega Drive hardware could easily be ported to these systems.
The first name Sega considered for its console was the MK-1601, but it ultimately decided to call it the “Mega Drive”. The name was said to represent superiority and speed, with the powerful Motorola 68000 processor in mind.Sega used the name Mega Drive for the Japanese, European, Asian, Australian and Brazilian versions of the console. The North American version went by the name “Genesis” due to a trademark dispute.
Info gleaned from Wikipedia