Sega Magazine Issue 1
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

30 years ago this coming January, UK publisher EMAP launched Sega Magazine, a monthly tome which was focused on the dazzling array of console hardware Sega had on the market at the time. That included (deep breath) the Master System, Mega Drive / Genesis, Mega CD and Game Gear – and, towards the end of its 22-issue print run, the Sega Saturn.

A little bit of historical context might be in order before we dig into the contents of this debut issue. EMAP was, alongside Future Publishing, one of the leading lights of the British video game media industry in the early '90s, having tasted success with Computer & Video Games, Mean Machines, Megatech and Nintendo Magazine System. The latter was the first officially licensed magazine of its kind and was created after the bosses at EMAP decided that splitting the multi-format Mean Machines into two platform-centric publications would generate more cash (the other post-split mag was Mean Machines Sega).

By 1993, it became clear that the format laid down by Nintendo Magazine System was commercially quite popular, so EMAP entered into a similar arrangement with Sega. As was the case with NMS, the magazine was official, but its editorial staff were not beholden to the platform owner; if a game was crap, they would still say it was crap.

The benefit was that Sega Magazine's staff would get early access to titles (as evidenced by issue one's Virtua Racing preview – it was based on one of only two pre-production carts in the entire world) and would naturally be able to use Sega's branding throughout.

The result was a magazine which felt very similar to EMAP's other publications; review scores were broken down in percentages, and the mag's writers would offer their opinions on each game via special 'comment' boxes. There was a news section, a host of previews and several pages of tips – essential for any self-respecting gamer in the era before the internet came along.

In this opening issue, the Mega Drive brawler Eternal Champions is the cover star, and the magazine's staff raved over the one-on-one fighter, giving it a whopping 95 percent and comparing it very favourably to Street Fighter II, which also gets its own multi-page guide in the mag.

Sega Magazine Issue 1
Having the official Sega licence meant that EMAP was able to use related branding, including the iconic Pirate TV skull — Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

Another neat reminder of just how long ago 30 years is comes with a two-page advertisement for the home port of Mortal Kombat, fronted by football hardman (and, more recently, big-screen actor) Vinnie Jones. It's also interesting to see a promotional page for Mean Machines Sega, which EMAP would run alongside Sega Magazine, despite both publications covering pretty much identical ground.

October 1995 would mark the end of Sega Magazine's run, but not the end of Sega's relationship with EMAP; it would rebrand the mag Official Sega Saturn Magazine, and former Sega Magazine staffer Richard Leadbetter would assume the role of editor. Leadbetter is now most famous for establishing Digital Foundry, a site (and YouTube channel) which focuses on breaking down the technical elements of both modern-day and retro gaming.

As for Sega Magazine launch editor (and all-round games media legend) Julian "Jaz" Rignall, he would leave the publication – and EMAP – for the United States after completing work on issue two to join Virgin Interactive.