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Estimating SMS Production Numbers from Serial Numbers
Post Posted: Fri May 13, 2016 5:47 pm
Last edited by BKK on Sun Feb 28, 2021 3:31 pm; edited 2 times in total
This was done for the Commodore 64 here, by applying the formula for the German tank problem to serial numbers. This is my attempt to do the same for SMS.

I've been collating SMS serial & model numbers here, if you'd like to contribute you can also post in this thread on SMS Power.

Sega used the same basic serial number format (with some minor variations) on all of their consoles from the Master System to the Saturn. The first three digits ie "XYZ" (which I'll refer to as the batch number) denote the manufacturer, year of assembly, and production run. For example;

X: This was the manufacturers code. In 1986 1 (Japan), 3 (Taiwan), 5 (Taiwan), and 8 (Japan) manufactured SMS. These would occasionally get reset or reassigned as the manufacturers changed.

Y: This was the last digit of the year of assembly. ie "6" = 1986, "1"= 1991 etc.

Z: This was the production run, generally with different models being simultaneously manufactured starting in different codes. At first they usually started in 1, 5, or 8. When they ran out of numbers they started using upper case letters, then lower case letters. This system was also used by Mega Drive, with letters reserved for each model. After running out of letters the system was simplified in 1990/1991 (depending on manufacturer). With them adding an extra digit, and just starting at 0. SMSII (and a small number of very late SMS1s) use this simplified format.

These batch numbers are unique per region, and for Japan and North America on SMS1, generally unique per model. The exception in North America happened when models were updated part way through a batch, but it's a very clear change, where models below a certain number are the old model, whilst model numbers above that number are the newer model, thus each serial number should be unique to just that console, and not just unique to the model number.

For SMS II the situation is more complicated. The exact format depends on manufacturer. Only "B" (Japan) manufactured North American SMS IIs, and the pattern suggests that serial numbers from this manufacturer are only unique to the model number. Theoretically different model number can share the same serial number. With only one manufacturer, and two models, it's relatively simple to estimate North American numbers.

For Europe/PAL the situation is a lot more complicated. With there being dozens of different model numbers I'll need more serials before I can estimate those.

Still, in the meantime, here's my preliminary analysis of Japanese and North American serial numbers.

Japan:

Manu.    Year       Run    Model(s)    Num_seen    Max_seen    Total
8(JP)    7(1987)    1+     MK-2000           71      59,605    60,444
3(TW)    7(1987)    8+     MK-2000           81      48,591    49,190
3(TW)    8(1988)    8+     MK-2000           29      19,277    19,941


Estimated Production:

1987: 109,634
1988: 19,941
Total: 129,575

Japan is really simple to estimate, only three batch numbers, and one model. I found the number to be surprisingly small. Unfortunately we don't yet understand the format used prior to SMS, so can't estimate Mark III numbers, which I suspect to be higher. These estimates could change slightly with a larger sample, but are unlikely to change significantly.

North America:

1(JP)    6(1986)    1+     3010              21     112,062    117,397
8(JP)    6(1986)    1+     3010               3      11,068     14,756
5(TW)    6(1986)    1+     3010              22     134,311    140,415
3(TW)    6(1986)    1+     3010              18     113,992    120,324
3(TW)    6(1986)    5+     3010               8      35,765     40,235
3(TW)    7(1987)    5+     3010               6      36,550     42,641
3(TW)    8(1988)    1+     3010/3010-A       67     390,774    396,605
3(TW)    8(1988)    F+     3010-A            12      48,343     52,371
7(HK)    7(1987)    1+     3000              10      37,678     41,445
7(HK)    8(1988)    1+     3000              16      74,648     79,313
7(HK/CN) 8(1988)    5+     3000/3010         12      84,716     91,775
7(HK/CN) 8(1988)    A+     3010              24      84,850     88,384
4(CN)    8(1988)    1+     3010-A            37     226,619    232,743
4(CN)    8(1988)    5+     3010/3010-B       14      82,253     88,127
4(CN)    8(1988)    A+     3010-C            12      56,355     61,050
4(CN)    0(1990)    Y+     3000               2       8,141     12,211
1(CN)    1(1991)    0+     3010-A             5      17,296     20,754
B(JP)    0(1990)    0+     MK-3006           28      87,798     90,933
B(JP)    0(1990)    0+     3006-22            4       8,051     10,063


Estimated Production:

1986: 433,127
1987: 84,086
1988: 1,090,368
1989: -
1990: 113,207
1991: 20,754
Total: 1,741,542

That fits really well with the 1.8m figure that Tec Toy's Stefano Arnhold said.

When they switched to newer models they didn't always update the model number immediately, so it would require working out which numbers have which bios to get a good estimation for a breakdown betwen consoles with bios v1.3 and v2.4 (Hang On/Safari Hunt). These make up the vast majority of units.

For v3.4 (Hang On), and v4.4 (Missile Defense 3-D) it's a bit simpler. These only come from one batch number each.

485: Whilst these models start with 3010, before switching to 3010-B later, all of the 3010 ones that I've seen still contain bios v3.4. So an estimated 90,000 of those were produced.

48A: These are all 3010-C, so an estimated 60,000 with bios v4.4 were produced.

SMS II: An estimated 90,000 US units, and 10,000 Canadian units were produced. They didn't even manage to sell all of those US ones in America, some of those ended up with the Mexican distributor.

A small number of SMS1s were manufactured in 1990 and 1991 for Canada and Mexico respectively.
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Post Posted: Fri May 13, 2016 7:30 pm
Awesome, a shame not to have the PAL numbers though - maybe the number of variants suggests a large total number, as we'd probably expect.
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Post Posted: Fri May 13, 2016 9:03 pm
PAL will be done eventually :)
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Post Posted: Sat May 14, 2016 8:55 am
I found that on twitter recently, been meaning to post it.
I don't know what the source is from may be wrong.
Top claim to be HW sales, bottom 2 lines claim to be Software.
I don't know which region.

*EDIT* That's the tweet
フロラン:フランスでの任天堂VSセガ売り上げ推移
https://twitter.com/michsuzu/status/721259044619419648

So that's sales in FRANCE according to Florent (Florent Gorges who works on Pix'n Love books)

Context was this conference apparently
https://twitter.com/hashtag/retrogamealacarte?src=hash
CgJtRvbVAAAtccW.jpg (37.48 KB)
CgJtRvbVAAAtccW.jpg

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Post Posted: Sat May 14, 2016 9:10 am
I am going to ask for model/serial numbers from the Japanese community and will post them on the other thread if I get any.
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Post Posted: Sat May 14, 2016 9:50 am
Bock wrote
I found that on twitter recently, been meaning to post it.
I don't know what the source is from may be wrong.
Top claim to be HW sales, bottom 2 lines claim to be Software.
I don't know which region.

*EDIT* That's the tweet
フロラン:フランスでの任天堂VSセガ売り上げ推移
https://twitter.com/michsuzu/status/721259044619419648

So that's sales in FRANCE according to Florent (Florent Gorges who works on Pix'n Love books)

Context was this conference apparently
https://twitter.com/hashtag/retrogamealacarte?src=hash


I believe that those were GfK (a retail sales tracker who still tracks French video game sales) estimates, but I don't think they were very accurate back then as lots of video game sales weren't in consumer electronic stores that they tracked, but in toy stores and independent computer stores. We can get a good estimate for France for SMS II from serial numbers as it's the only country to use that model (similar for UK too), but for SMS1 it will be difficult to tease out sales per model as they seem (I need more serials to confirm) to have produced several different models in each batch.
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Post Posted: Sat May 14, 2016 9:58 am
Bock wrote
I am going to ask for model/serial numbers from the Japanese community and will post them on the other thread if I get any.


Thanks, the more we have, the more accurate the estimates becomes.
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Post Posted: Mon Jun 06, 2016 1:52 am
I've added more serial numbers and recalculated the estimates, but it didn't change anything significantly.

For Japanese Master System increasing the number of serial numbers from 51 to 65 changed the estimated total from 136k to 134k.

For North American Master System increasing the number of serial numbers from 283 to 322 changed the estimated total from 1.75m to 1.74m.

I think that we're pretty much there with those two regions, I'll take a stab at PAL regions soon.
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Post Posted: Mon Jun 20, 2016 8:27 pm
One extra sample:

SG-1000 Blue/red/white (standard)
Model: SG-1000
S/N: H1124176
xwk3g.jpg (34.22 KB)
xwk3g.jpg

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Post Posted: Thu Feb 01, 2018 6:49 am
Hi BBK!

Did you do some work on the PAL estimates? :-)
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Post Posted: Fri Feb 26, 2021 9:48 pm
^ Sorry for the late reply ...

This is a lot of work, so I'll break it down with SMS1 first;

PAL Master System 1:

Manu.   Year      Run       Model(s)   Num_seen   Max_seen     Total
8(JP)   6(1986)   5         3005-18          56     18,705    19,038
8(JP)   6(1986)   6         3010-XX          33     35,748    36,830
7(CN)   7(1987)   5/6/7     3010-XX/3010    274    228,111   228,943
4(CN)   8(1988)   G         3005-XX-B        93     45,477    45,965
4(CN)   9(1989)   G/H       3005-XX-B       212    183,871   184,737
4(CN)   0(1990)   G/H       3005-XX-B       140    145,276   146,313
4(CN)   1(1991)   G         3005-XX-B         6      4,899     5,715
4(CN)   8(1988)   I         3005-XX-A        31     26,081    26,921
4(CN)   9(1989)   I         3005-XX-A       112     86,639    87,412
4(CN)   0(1990)   I/J/c     3005-XX-A       404    274,042   274,719
4(CN)   1(1991)   I         3005-XX-A        15      8,914     9,507
4(CN)   8(1988)   K         3005-XX-C         8      3,933     4,424
4(CN)   9(1989)   K         3005-XX-C        22     14,237    14,883
4(CN)   0(1990)   K         3005-XX-C         3        924     1,231
4(CN)   0(1990)   a/b/h/i   3005-XX-B/C/D   386    344,076   344,966
4(CN)   1(1991)   a         3005-XX-D         6     14,219    16,588
1(CN)   1(1991)   0         3005-03-A        13      7,813     8,413


Estimated Production:

1986: 55,868
1987: 228,943
1988: 77,310
1989: 287,032
1990: 767,229
1991: 40,223
Total: 1,456,605

By Bios:

v1.3 (Snail Maze): 284,811
v2.4 (Hang On/Safari Hunt): 406,972
v3.4 (Hang On): 382,730
v4.4 (Missile Defense 3-D): 20,538
Alex Kidd: 361,554
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Post Posted: Sat Feb 27, 2021 10:03 pm
Last edited by BKK on Sat Feb 27, 2021 11:28 pm; edited 1 time in total
PAL Master System II:

Manu.   Year        Run     Model(s)      Num_seen  Max_seen     Total
B(JP)   0/1(1990/1)         3006-03             75    94,665    95,926
B(JP)   0(1990)             3006-04              4     1,313     1,640
B(JP)   1(1991)             3006-05             13    13,949    15,021
B(JP)   1(1991)             3006-09             18    26,397    27,863
B(JP)   0(1990)             3006-15              4     4,822     6,027
B(JP)   1(1991)             3006-18             17    23,542    24,926
B(JP)   0(1990)             MK-3096-19           6     1,276     1,488
1(CN)   1(1991)             3006-03             60   108,690   110,501
1(CN)   2(1992)             3006-03             57    90,810    92,402
1(CN)   1(1991)             3006-03 (PAL-G)      9    18,821    20,911
1(CN)   2(1992)             3006-03 (PAL-G)     72   105,692   107,159
1(CN)   3(1993)             3006-03 (PAL-G)      2     1,629     2,443
1(CN)   1(1991)             3006-04             12    18,084    19,590
1(CN)   2(1992)             3006-04             39    37,295    38,250
1(CN)   3(1993)             3006-04             11    10,074    10,989
1(CN)   1(1991)             3006-05            222   248,912   250,032
1(CN)   2(1992)             3006-05            248   289,280   290,445
1(CN)   2(1992)             3006-05A           105   103,947   104,936
1(CN)   3(1993)             3006-05A            47    29,816    30,449
1(CN)   1(1991)             3006-06              2     1,018     1,526
1(CN)   1(1991)             3006-09            228   534,265   536,607
1(CN)   2(1992)             3006-09            128   234,656   236,488
1(CN)   3(1993)             3006-09              8    14,930    16,795
1(CN)   3(1993)             3006-09A            22    28,074    29,349
1(CN)   1(1991)             3006-13             64   119,872   121,744
1(CN)   2(1992)             3006-13             52    95,810    97,652
1(CN)   1(1991)             3006-18            182   245,552   246,900
1(CN)   2(1992)             3006-18            413   530,891   532,175
1(CN)   2(1992)             3006-18A             3       209       278
1(CN)   3(1993)             3006-18A            59    80,584    81,949
1(CN)   1(1991)             3006-20             67   134,092   136,092
1(CN)   2(1992)             3006-20             32    76,536    78,927
1(CN)   1(1991)             3006-24              8     8,592     9,665
1(CN)   2(1992)             3006-24              1     1,415     2,829
1(CN)   1(1991)             3006-27              4    12,031    15,038
1(CN)   1(1991)             3006-33              4     1,644     2,054
1(CN)   2(1992)             3006-39              1       206       411
2(TH)   1/2(1991/2)         3006-XX            539   639,431   640,616
2(TH)   3(1993)     07-09   3006-XX/3006-XXA   285   273,237   274,195
2(TH)   3/4(1993/4) 00      3006-XXA            57    70,568    71,805
2(TH)   5(1995)             3006-XXA           114   120,725   121,783


Estimated Production:

1990: 79,468
1991: 1,728,273
1992: 2,058,378
1993: 509,958
1994: 8,016
1995: 121,783
Total: 4,505,876

By Bios:

Alex Kidd: 3,835,534
Sonic: 670,342

PAL SMS1 + SMS II Estimated Production:

1986: 55,868
1987: 228,943
1988: 77,310
1989: 287,032
1990: 846,697
1991: 1,768,496
1992: 2,058,378
1993: 509,958
1994: 8,016
1995: 121,783
Total: 5,962,481

By Bios:

Alex Kidd: 4,197,088
Sonic: 670,342
Hang On/Safari Hunt: 406,972
Hang On: 382,730
v1.3 Snail Maze: 284,811
Missile Defense 3-D: 20,538

Notes:
*A couple of the SMS serials rollover into the next year, to estimate per year sales for those I took the midway point of the gap in serial numbers between the year change. I did the same to estimate bios for made in Thailand 1993 batch which had a mixture of both models.

*There's a gap of 80,000+ in the made in Thailand serials. This is statistically unlikely to be missing by chance, so I assumed these serials don't exist. I applied theGerman Tank formula going backwards from serial 231000000 to estimate the start of this batch. If those serials do turn out to exist, then the actual number could be ~80,000 units higher.

*Chinese SMS 1 PAL-D models don't have serial numbers. They are likely estimated if they were manufactured in the same batches as other SMS 1s, but it's possible that they are missing if they had their own batch or were made at the end of currently estimated batches. It shouldn't be a lot either way (maybe 4 figures).

*After Sega stopped manufacturing SMS in 1995 Tectoy manufactured a PAL-G Master System III Compact for the few remaining European distributors (Ecofilmes in Portugal and Zegatron in Greece) for the 1996 holiday season. These don't have easily visible serial numbers, so aren't estimated. They're not super-rare though, so probably something like low 5 figures.

*Strangely I've come across a batch of ~10,000 1992(!) Sega of America SMS1s which only seem to show up in Egypt (earlier models found there are PAL). SoA had ~20,000 manufactured in 1991 for Mexico, so maybe these were initially intended for there. As they seem to be NTSC models I'll include them in the North America figures when I get around to updating them, but technically they seem to have been sold in the PAL region.

*This only estimates batches that I've come across, it's likely that there are other low production run batches that have been missed, so actual number may be slightly higher (more likely to be tens of thousands of units rather than hundreds of thousands.

I think I've finally worked out the pre-SMS serial numbers, so I'll do Mark III next.

Edit: Fixed copy paste error with annual sales.
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Post Posted: Sat Feb 27, 2021 10:54 pm
This is super interesting, thanks! Is there any update to the earlier numbers with four more years of data collection?
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Post Posted: Sat Feb 27, 2021 11:36 pm
Maxim wrote
Is there any update to the earlier numbers with four more years of data collection?


Mostly just Japan, but it changes very little (will update when I do Mark III numbers). I haven't bothered so much with collating more North American serials, but will do another scan of Ebay to update those at some point.
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Post Posted: Sun Feb 28, 2021 3:46 pm
Last edited by BKK on Sun Feb 28, 2021 7:12 pm; edited 1 time in total
I've updated Japanese Master System in the OP. Increasing the number of serial numbers from 65 to 181 changed the estimated total from 134k to 130k. There's enough serials to say that's probably the final number (seems to be batches of 60k + 50k in 1987, with a further 20k in 1988.

For SG-1000, SG-1000 II, and Mark III the serials roll from one console to the next, so I've done all three here.

The format seems to be the first letter is the year. T = 1983, H = 1984, they dropped that with SG-1000 II. Any Japanese speakers notice any relevance to those letters and years?

The first number is the quarter (1-4), it's still possible to work out the year on SG-1000 II and Mark III by seeing how many times the number changes.

Third and fourth numbers are the batch, numbers rollover through quarters, years, consoles etc. They seem to always have a small batch running in parallel to the main one. I've seen mentioned in service manuals for other consoles that serial numbers above certain numbers have parts from different manufacturers, so maybe something like that is what's happening here.

On Mark III the small parrallel batch starts ahead from #950,000, when the main batch catches up they change the format which avoids having two consoles with the same serial number. Instead of starting with 1-4 for the quarter, they switch to 6-7 for the year, small batch continues with the old format.

Year          Quarter/Year*   Run     Model(s)         Num_seen   Max_seen   Total
T/H(1983/4)   3/4/1           03-14   SG-1000               115    119,813   120,854
T/H(1983/4)   4/2/3/4         03-04   SG-1000                12     10,660    11,547
H/*(1984/5)   2/3/4/1/2/3     21-51   SG-1000/SG1000 II     248    307,260   308,498
*(1985/6/7)   1/2/3/4/6*/7*   60-96   SG-1000 II/Mark III   221    364,342   365,990
*(1986/7)     3/1                95   Mark III                6      6,733     7,854


I estimated annual and per console production by taking the midway point of the gap in serial numbers.

       SG-1000   SG-1000 II   Mark III   Total
1983    72,832                           72,832
1984    64,718      143,927             208,645
1985                174,756    221,245  396,001
1986                           128,296  128,296
1987                             8,969    8,969
Total  137,550      318,683    358,510  814,743
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Post Posted: Sun Feb 28, 2021 6:22 pm
Something I noticed when looking at all of these serials. The first ~18,500 SG-1000 models (serials T3030 - T3048) have four pads, one underneath each corner (latest I've seen is T3048400). After that (earliest I have seen is T3048671) they have an additional pad in the middle. Presumably this fixed a design flaw where inserting a cartridge could flex the mainboard.

Similarly, SG-1000 II started off with five pads, one in each corner, and one offset to one side in the middle. After about 100,000 units they added an additional middle pad offset to the other side. Maybe from kids leaning on the console?

The only obvious difference I've noticed with Mark III which has the same six pads is the sticker. The first ~50,000 units say to use SA150 power supply, after this it doesn't specify the power supply model number.
SG-1000 T3048400.jpg (130.5 KB)
SG-1000 T3048400.jpg
SG-1000 T3048671.jpg (95.72 KB)
SG-1000 T3048671.jpg
SG-1000 II 4312302.jpg (185.66 KB)
SG-1000 II 4312302.jpg

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Post Posted: Mon Mar 01, 2021 10:09 pm
My serials (unfortunately the Mark III one is damaged):

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Post Posted: Mon Mar 29, 2021 2:46 pm
^Thanks for those, if my theory is right then your Mark III was manufactured in Q4 1985, and your SG-1000 II was manufactured in Q1 1985. Mobos shouldn't be later than those dates, but could be earlier.
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Post Posted: Mon Mar 29, 2021 5:13 pm
BKK wrote
^Thanks for those, if my theory is right then your Mark III was manufactured in Q4 1985, and your SG-1000 II was manufactured in Q1 1985. Mobos shouldn't be later than those dates, but could be earlier.

Thank you !
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Post Posted: Mon Mar 29, 2021 6:15 pm
I'm going to leave SC-3000 for the time being ... overseas computers are mixed up with Japanese systems, it's not a huge problem, just requires more serials to brute force it.

So here's a bonus in the mean time. My estimates give 130k Japanese SMS + 360k Mark III for a total of 490k SMS/M3 in Japan. 130k SMSs had FM audio, but M3 required the FM-70 add-on for that.

Fortunately (for production number estimates) Sega only seem to have run a single batch of these. They start with "B74";

Japan:

Manu.    Year       Run    Model(s)    Num_seen    Max_seen    Total
B(JP)    7(1987)    4+     FM-70       35          32,821      33,758


An estimated 34k FM Sound units were manufactured ... slightly less than 10% of the 360k Mark III consoles. Adding those to JP SMS comes to 164k / 490k ... about a third of Japanese consoles could experience FM Sound.
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