Sega Model 3

From Sega Retro

Model3 fullboard.jpg
Fast facts on Sega Model 3
Manufacturer: Sega, Lockheed Martin
Release Date RRP Code
1996  ?

The Sega Model 3 is an arcade platform produced by Sega in partnership with Lockheed Martin. It is a successor to the Sega Model 2 platform, and was released in 1996.

The Model 3 hardware is very different to the Model 1 and Model 2 boards which preceded it. It was desinged with one purpose in mind - to push as many textured polygons as possible for as least money as possible. Upon release, the Model 3 board was more powerful than any other arcade platform on the market, as well as any home console or computer.


The Model 3 board went through a series of delays which frustrated Sega. Despite success with the previous generations of arcade hardware, Lockheed Martin, mainly responsible for the graphics processors, were unable to finalise the specifications of the board until mid-way into 1996 - Sega had planned to release the board in late 1995 along with three games, one of which, Indy 500, was reportedly downgraded to Model 2 hardware thanks to the troubles. Virtua Fighter 3 and then Scud Race debuted as the first two Model 3 games, and the board was officially supported until 1999 to make room for the Sega NAOMI and its successors.

The Model 3 went through a number of revisions (steps) in which improvements were made the system and board architecture was changed. These "steppings" mainly increased the clock speed of the CPU and the speed of the 3D engine, as well as minor changes to the board architecture. Step 1.0 and Step 1.5 released in 1996, Step 2.0 in 1997, and Step 2.1 in 1998. Though there was much talk of Model 3 games being ported to the Sega Saturn, all home ports of Model 3 games were seen on the Sega Dreamcast, including the likes of Sega Rally 2, Virtua Fighter 3tb, Virtual-On Oratorio Tangram and Virtua Striker 2.

It was the most powerful game system in its time, an order of magnitude more powerful than PC graphics cards from 1998, which were still producing Model 2 quality graphics, two years years after the Model 3's release.[1] By 2000, the Sega Model 2 & 3 had sold over 200,000 arcade systems worldwide,[2] making them some of the best-selling arcade game boards of all time. At around $15,000 each (for the Model 2, with the Model 3 costing higher), this amounts to at least over $3 billion revenue from cabinet sales, equivalent to over $4.9 billion in 2014.

From the early 1970s, arcades had been at the forefront of graphical technology in video games. The Model 3 hardware as well as competitors from this era were also leading the industry from a graphical perspective at the time, compared to PCs which were still producing Model 2 quality graphics in 1998,[3] but the gap began to slowly narrow after that, as PCs would begin to benefit from hardware accelerated graphics towards the end of the decade. Beginning with the co-development of the Sega Dreamcast console and Sega NAOMI arcade system, both released in 1998, consoles and later PCs would slowly become the basis for arcade systems, rather than the reverse as it had been up until this point. The last proprietary Sega arcade systems would be the Sega Hikaru and Sega NAOMI 2, after which PCs would overtake arcade systems as the forefront of graphical technology. Today, arcade games are built primarily around controls and the experience one gets from a game as opposed to graphical potential. Complex motion cabinets, and large, unique forms of control unsuitable for households is what drives the arcade industry in the present day.

Technical Specifications

Hardware Images

List of Games

Step 1.0

Step 1.5

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Step 2.1

Sega Arcade Boards
Originating in Arcades
76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08
Blockade G80 Gigas System 18 Model 2 Hikaru Aurora
VIC Dual Zaxxon System 2 System 32 Model 3 NAOMI 2
VCO Object System 1 System 24 NAOMI
LaserDisc Model 1 H1
System 16
Hang-On / Space Harrier
X Board
Y Board
Based on Consumer Hardware
84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
SG-1000 System E System C Triforce Europa-R RingEdge 2
Mega-Tech System Sega Titan Video Atomiswave RingEdge
Chihiro Nu