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Remembering Sega's SVP Chip

Virtua Racing Back in the days of the great 16-bit console wars it seemed that everything innovative that Nintendo developed Sega would copy in a bizarro world sort of way (and vice-versa).  Nintendo had Donkey Kong Country's rendered visuals, so Sega countered with Vectorman's rendered visuals.  Nintendo released the Super Scope lightgun, so Sega followed up with the Menacer lightgun.  Nintendo's Mario Paint?  Meet Sega's Art Alive.  The list goes on and on, but one item is often forgotten.  After Nintendo's Star Fox took the stage in 1993 when its new Super FX chip that allowed for plenty of polygons on the Super NES, Sega considered using a custom chip of its own to bring polygon action to the Sega Genesis.  The result of those considerations was the SVP chip.  Sega-16 takes a look back at the SVP's short lifetime and wonders what the industry would be like today had Sega gone with the SVP chip instead of the maligned 32X.

This powerful little microprocessor had its debut and finale in a single game: Virtua Racing. Clocking in at an daunting $100, [the game] was the most expensive mass-produced domestic cartridge in history. What made it so expensive was the new chip it featured, known as the SVP (Sega Virtua Processor, not Super Virtual Play, as some erroneously believe) chip, which gave the game the extra muscle it needed to push polygons. It was born during a time of great innovation at Sega, innovation that would ironically eventually lead to the company's fall from grace.

Sega dropped the SVP chip after Virtua Racing, thereby canceling Genesis versions of Daytona USA and Virtua Fighter.  In the end the company decided that it was more cost effective to sell an add-on to the Genesis that was a one time purchase (the 32X) instead of packing expensive chips into each individual cartridge.  We never had the chance to see the SVP grow and stand on its own merits, but I will say this: Virtua Racing is much more fun and much more fluid than Nintendo's Super FX racer, Stunt Race FX.