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28 Years of Christmas
1995: Sega's Saturn Deserves To Die
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on December 04, 2002   |   Episode 10 (Show Archive)  

The Scoop: : Of all the video game launches throughout history, the Sega Saturn has to be one of the worst. Not one single thing went right for Sega, and the Saturn would quickly become nothing more than a footprint in the PlayStation's wake. Problem is, this topic almost deserves a whole book chronicling the tragedy, not some one page Christmas special that barely mentions it.

Even before the Saturn launched, Sega was already dropping the ball in every possible way. For starters, the Saturn almost didn't come out, thanks to the release of the 32x only a year earlier. Sega was hoping to release a low priced upgrade to the Genesis, and rumors were abound that they may never release the Saturn over here.

Of course, it didn't take long for the 32x to dig its own grave, and eventually Sega was forced to spill the beans about the Saturn. In a bold move, Sega decided to allow four retailers the chance of selling their 32-bit system six months early. Toys R Us, Electronics Boutique, Software Etc., and Babbages all were allowed to sell the Saturn for $399 as early as May, instead of September, as Sega has said all along.

At $400 gamers were given a copy of Virtua Fighter, a demo disc, and a selection of a dozen or so games. You also got a next generation system six months before the PlayStation or Saturn officially launch.

Problem is, the companies that weren't allowed to sell these systems, including Kay Bee, Circuit City, Future Shop, and every mom & pop retailer in America, had very little desire, or reason, to stock the Saturn come September. After all, the buzz was surrounding Sony's entrance into the game world, and Sega was little more than an after thought.

Once September hit and the 32-bit war was underway, Sega was unable to keep its head above
water long. Perhaps the final nail in the Saturn's launch came when Sega offered a mail in coupon to received an improved version of Virtua Fighter ... the LAUNCH GAME!

The Other Side: It should also be said: I love my Saturn! It was the best 2D system of the era, and still houses a number of wonderful games. I suggest everybody pick up a Saturn at least once in their life, if only to witness a few of the excellent titles that populated the market. Games like Panzer Dragoon Saga, Shining Force III, NiGHTS, Virtua Fighter 2, Burning Ranger, Sega Rally, and Three Dirty Dwarves are all worth owning, even though the systems launch is similar to the voyage of the Titanic.

The Impact: Sega's failure early on was monumental in securing Sony's dominance in the 32-bit war. Even with Nintendo entering the market a year later, Sony was able to eat up the competition, and eventually become what Nintendo was in the mid-1980s. Sega, on the other hand, settled for last place as they contemplated pulling the plug on their 32-bitter.

Sega's failure prompted them to take a long, hard look at the console industry, so that when they finally released their Dreamcast, they did not suffer from the same problems. The Dreamcast was inexpensive, extremely powerful, offered a built in modem, and best of all, launched with a number of must-own games. The Dreamcast launch is one of the most successful launches in video game history, and it may be because they just did everything opposite of the way the Saturn landed.

Where Are They Now?: Sega has since stopped attempting to take over the video game industry, and started publishing games on all three major platforms, as well as the GameBoy Advance. Focusing on software, Sega has been able to reintroduce the world to a number of classic games, some of which got their start on the failed 32-bit system. Games like Virtua Fighter 4, Panzer Dragoon Orta, Virtua Cop, House of the Dead, and even NiGHTS have all been brought back in one form or another, and Sega has promised more where those come from.

The Saturn may not have been given much respect back in the day, but here at Defunct Games we are determined to look at it the way it should be, as a troubled system just looking to prove us all wrong.


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