The Sega Power Base converter (Also known as the Master System converter in Europe) was perfect for Sega to add an additional selling point for people looking to make the upgrade to their recently released Genesis / Mega Drive console.
The benefit? It enables users to play Sega Master System games on their Sega Genesis / Mega Drive. A perfect proposition for parents who had already spent lots of cash on Master System games for their kids and didn’t want to see those games go to waste.
What Is The Sega Power Base Converter?
The Sega Power Base Converter makes the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive Backwards compatible with Sega Master System games.
Simple to use, the Power Base Converter plugs the cartridge slot on top of the console, then plugs in a Master System game cartridge or Sega Card game into the Power Base Converter.
Sega Card games interestingly were introduced to the Master System as a way to play SG-1000 games as well as proving a cheaper medium to produce smaller file-sized games instead of a full cartridge.
A total of 15 Sega Card games for the Master System were produced. SG-1000 games cannot be played with the Power Base Converter due to a limitation with the display modes available in the Genesis / Mega Drive that the SG-1000 utilises.
Backwards compatibility was not that commonplace during this time, so this peripheral was actually quite an innovation at the time.
Development and production of the Power Base Converter was made easier by the fact that the Genesis / Mega Drive already had all of the components internally needed to run master system games.
The main issue was getting the different shape cartridges to sit in the Genesis cartridge bay. The Power Base Converter simply acts as a pass-through for Master System cartridges and game cards.
Power Base Converter Models
There are two models of the Power Base Converter / Master System Converter.
Power Base Converter
The original Power Base Converter for the Genesis / Mega Drive Model 1 is designed to fit around the upper portion of the console, being retained in place by the cartridge section of the converter, once inserted into the console’s cartridge port.
There are several international variations of this original device available, with the only difference being the Genesis / Mega Drive branding, the pause button colour and other cosmetic differences with some of the printed text layouts on the device.
It also has a pause button built-in (The Master System could only be paused by the button on the actual console, since there were no pause buttons on the controllers, rather strangely!)
The card input slot is for Sega Master System card games and also can be used with the Sega Master System 3-D glasses.
Master System Converter II
A slimmer version was released in Europe to fit the redesigned Mega Drive 2. This is called the ‘Master System Converter II’.
Given that the original Power Base Converter / Master System Converter is not able to fit properly on top of the Genesis / Mega Drive Model 2, the Master System Converter II was introduced to allow users of the Model 2 to benefit from Master System backwards compatibility.
The form factor changed significantly to essentially just a cartridge-sized device, which plugs into the console’s cartridge port, and then the Master System game drops into the top, once the flap has been pulled back into the open position.
The game card port has been removed, but the pause button has been retained as otherwise, you would not be able to pause any Master System games!
How Much Is A Sega Power Base Converter Worth?
Like most things retro console-related, prices seem to just keep going upwards, and the Power Base Converter is no exception. An original Sega Power Base Converter is reasonably easy to get hold of. There are plenty of examples both loose and boxed on eBay.
A loose Power Base Converter typically sells for around $90 USD / £75 GBP, a boxed example tends to go for $150 USD / £120 GBP upwards.
The Master System Converter II is rarer than the original model, so tends to be a little harder to find, and as a result more expensive.
A loose Master System Converter II will set you back around $120 USD / £100 GBP, or boxed upwards of £200 GBP.
A lifelong avid gamer and computing enthusiast, Matt has decades of experience in the field, so producing retro orientated content for How To Retro comes is second nature to him. Now over 40 years old, Matt now even considers himself retro, but fortunately, nobody has developed a Matt emulator (not yet at least!).