Sega G80

From Sega Retro

G80 Arcade.jpg
Sega G80
Manufacturer: Sega
Release Date RRP Code
Arcade (G80)
¥? ?
Arcade (G80)
$? ?
Arcade (G80)
? ?

The Sega G80 is an arcade system produced by Sega in 1981. It can be considered a successor to the Sega VIC Dual system, and was Sega's arcade platform of choice before the release of the Sega System 1.

The Sega G80 platform provided a basis for many reasonably successful vector-based games from the company, some of which, such as Space Fury, Tac/Scan, and, perhaps most famously, Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator, saw home console/computer ports.


The G80 was designed to be a more versatile system than those seen in arcade cabinets of the past. Rather than rely on bespoke cabinet designs for each game, Sega opted for a more cost-effective "Convert-a-Game" system (as it was marketed in the US), in which games housed on CPU boards could be easily swapped by arcade operators. Announced at Visions '81[2], Sega's plan was to be able to cut install times down to 15 minutes, while also minimising production costs and tackling the poor resale value of used games[2]. As a result, "ConvertaPaks" would cost less to buy than brand new cabinets[3] (about $1,000 USD each[1], versus the $3,000 Sega estimated the average arcade game to cost in 1981[4]).

The G80 system consists of a card cage with a 6 slot backplane that can be populated in different game configurations from a selection of 10+ different pluggable boards, allowing it to be configured as either a raster system if a raster video board is inserted, or a vector system that can display color vector graphics (or X/Y "Colorbeam" games, as Sega called them at the time).

The G80 gets its name from its Z80 CPU which was coupled with a custom security chip to prevent operators from abusing the swappable system. The security chip would obfuscate the "ld (address),a" instruction (opcode 32h) differently based on the security chip installed — an early form of copy protection. The mangling algorithms are rather complicated, and differ from security chip to security chip.[5]


Space Odyssey was the first game to use the G80 system, followed by Space Fury[2].

For a while, Sega believed the "Convert-a-Game" concept was the future. David Rosen predicted that improvements in microprocessor technology would mean players would be constantly seeking new experiences, and as a result, arcade operators would have to keep changing their lineup of games - a business strategy that would not be economically viable if entirely new systems had to be purchased from manufacturers (who in turn relied on these new sales to stay in business)[6]. However, despite advocating its benefits, Sega continued to release big games such as Pengo and Zaxxon using their own, bespoke hardware, and would release their last G80 game in 1983.

While Sega's analysis was correct, the G80 system was not adopted as an industry standard (partly because Sega was not interested in marketing it as such), and the technology was soon rendered obsolete. Genuine arcade standards would arrive in the years which followed - the JAMMA specifications from 1985/1986 are built around the same idea of swappable arcade PCBs, but do not tie developers down to specific hardware (it is mainly the input and output connectors that are standardised instead, meaning the large cabinets could stay in place). However, the idea of "swappable games" never went away - the reuse of hardware became necessary for arcade companies to survive, particularly when home consoles became the dominant form of playing video games in the 1990s.

Sega was not the first company to try and produce a reusable arcade system. In 1980, Data East released the DECO Cassette System which would load games from compact cassette, however this system was prone to failure due to the mechanical nature of the system (and the potential for tapes to be demagentised).

Technical specifications

  • Board composition: One board
  • Main CPU:[7]
  • Sega USB (Universal Sound Board)[8]
  • Speech Board (optional)
  • Sega System 1 sound board (optional, used for Sindbad Mystery in 1983)
  • Sound chips: Sega SN76496 @ 4 MHz, Sega SN76496 @ 2 MHz
  • Horizontal: 256×224 (display), 328×262 (overscan)
  • Vertical: 224×256 (display), 262×328 (overscan)[9]
  • Raster: 14 KB (2 KB main, 8 KB video, 4 KB audio)
  • Vector: 10 KB (2 KB main, 4 KB video, 4 KB audio)
  • Monster Bash & Sindbad Mystery: 24 KB (4 KB main, 16 KB video, 4 KB audio)

List of games



Promotional material


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
Fonz Galaxian Zaxxon Appoooh X Board Model 2 Hikaru Atomiswave
Blockade G80 Hang-On / Space Harrier Model 1 H1 Model 3 NAOMI 2
VIC Dual System 1 System 24 NAOMI
VCO Object LaserDisc System SP
System 2 System 18
System 16
OutRun System 32
Y Board
Based on Consumer Hardware
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 09 10 11 12 13 14 15
SG-1000 System E System C Triforce Europa-R RingEdge 2
Mega-Tech System Sega Titan Video Chihiro Nu
Mega Play Lindbergh
Hardware Series / Generations
1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s
Electro-mechanical systems Sega System series Sega NAOMI series
Discrete logic systems Super Scaler series Post-NAOMI systems
Pre-System boards Sega Model series