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The Sonic the Hedgehog series is a franchise of video games released by Sega starring their mascot character Sonic the Hedgehog. The series began in 1991 with the release of Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis. An 8-bit version of the game was also released for the Sega Master System and Game Gear formats. Sonic was responsible for turning Sega into a leading video game company during early in the 16-bit era, and his first game soon replaced Altered Beast as the default pack-in game for the Mega Drive in North America and Europe. As of May 2006, the franchise has sold more than 44 million units, with three more games released in the later half of 2006.