Tom Kalinske: The only man in America to like Knuckles Chaotix!
Have you ever read an interview and said, "There's no way that could be right"? You may not know why or how, but you definitely have the suspicion that that what they are saying is utter bull. Well that's the case with our newest They Said WHAT?!? victim, Tom Kalinske. 14 years ago Tom was at the top of his game, heading up Sega and turning his company from underdog to the world champs. Still don't know him? Well, he was one of the people that gave us the "SEGA!" scream. From what I can tell this is a stand-up guy with solid business sense. There's just one problem, half the stuff he says was completely inaccurate.
To prove my point we have decided to take out some of the best quotes from an interview he conducted with NEXT Generation back in 1995. At that time he was gearing up for the launch of the Sega Saturn, justifying the existence of the Genesis 32X and dissing his competition. In other words, he does everything you would expect from somebody who shows up on an episode of They Said WHAT?!? We expect him to talk up Sega and be unrealistically cheerful about their chances, but what he told NEXT Generation magazine will go down as some of the boldest statements ever made. There's absolutely no way that he could say these things and expect people to believe him. The problem was that we knew it at the time, we could see right through his crap. And now, thanks to the invention of time moving forward, we are able to look back and debunk all of his key talking points. So all of you Tom Kalinske fanboys may want to avert your eyes, because our newest episode of They Said WHAT?!? is about to get bloody!
Quote #1 - 32X to Outsell the PlayStation?
"Now, I can sit here and tell you today that no matter how great Saturn is, or PlayStation is, or Ultra 64 is, we will outsell them by an enormous amount with 32X -- simply because of the price."
Without a doubt, this has to be one of the most outrageous quotes of all time. Can you imagine the size of this guy's balls
This little system can do a lot of things (like have arrows point directly at it), but the one thing it can't do is outsell the PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and Saturn!
to suggest that the Sega 32X was going to outsell the Saturn, PlayStation and Nintendo 64 (then known as the Ultra 64). Tom must have balls the size of Texas to even think that he could get away with an outrageous statement like that. It's so patently absurd that 14 years later I'm still having a hard time imagining these words actually coming out of his mouth. But there they are, in black and white in a magazine. I guess he must have said it.
So how far off was Tom's prediction? Was the Sega 32X the next big thing, or did it go down in flames like the Sega CD, Activator and Nomad? Well, I suspect you know the answer to this question, but we're still going to take the time to compare the numbers. The Sega 32X managed to sell approximately 200,000 units. To put that in perspective, the Xbox 360 sells at least 200,000 units a month. In contrast, the Saturn sold around 10 million units before Sega pulled the plug. I guess the 32X didn't kick the Saturn's ass after all. It also didn't kick the PlayStation or Nintendo 64's butt, either. The PlayStation rang up 102 million units, while the Nintendo 64 managed to sell 32 million. In other words, the PlayStation did 5200 times better, 160 times better for the Nintendo 64 and even the Saturn was able to do 50 times the business of the 32X.
Quote #2 - Save Your Money for Neptune!
"Now, later in the year we'll have Neptune out (a combined 32X/Genesis machine) coming into the market for people who have owned an alternate system and want to come over."
If this is what Neptune really looks like then NASA is going to be extremely disappointed!
It's not that Tom is lying here, I fully believe that Sega had a 32X/Genesis hybrid all ready to go. In fact, Sega had already released pictures of the proposed unit, which looked like a Genesis that had just been stepped on. The problem is, this system didn't even come close to making it to store shelves. The Neptune was scrapped the moment Sega realized that their 32X was a complete and utter dud. How they weren't able to see that coming a mile away is anybody's guess, but the Neptune is one hybrid that never found its way to your living room.
Unfortunately the Neptune is one of the only Sega concepts that didn't see the light of day. Usually when Sega comes up with an idea they release it ... no matter how bad of an idea it is. How else can you explain the Sega CD, Activator and Nomad? And it's not like they hadn't already released a crazy hybrid unit. A year earlier Sega released the overpriced Sega CDX, a Sega CD/Genesis hybrid unit. I guess Sega learned their lesson after the first disaster.
Rumor #3 - Saturn to Launch With 10 Games!
"I want to have 10 great titles at launch and it's this that will determine Saturn's release date. I still assume that it will be the (latter) half of 1995."
Wrong on both counts, Tom. The truth is, Sega had originally set the release date for a fall 1995 window; however Sega decided
It's not that the launch games were bad, it's that they weren't going to hold you over until the REAL launch!
to jump the gun and release the Sega Saturn early. How early? At the 1995 E3, Tom and his gigantic balls got up there and announced that the Saturn was going to go on sale immediately. As in, that month. Whaa? That's right, Sega decided that they couldn't wait until they had 10 games; they had to get the system out there as quickly as possible. What's more, they allowed only four retailers to sell the hardware and games, leaving everybody else out in the cold. Oh, and you had to spend $100 more than if you wait until the fall. It turned out to be one of the most disastrous console launches of all time, kick starting the terrible lifespan of the Sega Saturn.
As for the games, Sega didn't even come close to hitting 10 games at launch. Because Sega decided to launch early, the third-parties weren't able to ship their games until six months later. Not only did this anger Sega's third-parties, but it also made for a tiny launch line-up. Aside from Virtua Fighter, your selection consisted of either Panzer Dragoon or Daytona USA. More games would eventually come out, but not before you had grown tired of these three Sega titles.
Rumor #4 - Good 32X Games Coming!
"And the 32X titles coming out in March and April will be fantastic. Internally, we have seen things that we're working on where 32X titles are beginning to look just as good as the Saturn games."
I'm sorry, but that's just not true. The 32X titles that came out later in the system's lifespan were no better than those released early on. At no point did Sega (or any of its third-parties) release a game that was on par with what the Saturn would offer. That's not to say that the Saturn had the best graphics of all time, but most of the time you couldn't tell the difference between a Genesis game and its 32X counterpart. Perhaps it's really early stuff that Tom is talking about, games that were in development but never made it out. But even then these games wouldn't have been in development long enough to look as good as Saturn games. So, I hate to say it, but I suspect that Mr. Kalinske is pulling this fact straight out of his butt. You can argue it all you want, Tom, but these pictures below don't lie!
Rumor #5 - In the Year 2000 ... !
"Aside from that, you have to wait for the infrastructure before you can do it properly. It won't happen next year or the year after. I think we'll really have to wait until at least 2000 A.D. before the infrastructure is in place."
The question that Tom is answering is one about online gaming. He suggests here that we are going to have to wait until there is a faster
In the year 2000 gamers around the world will be doing this ... only it will be online and these people aren't really friends!
internet connection ... or something like that. He is hinting at (but not saying) that the future of online gaming is broadband, and that's what Sega is going to wait for. Except, that's not what Sega waited for. In fact, Sega didn't actually wait at all. No more than a year later Sega decided to release the Sega NetLink, a $200 (yes, $200) modem that attached to your Saturn and played games like Daytona USA CCE, Duke Nukem 3D, Saturn Bomberman and Sega Rally.
And 1996 isn't the last time Sega dabbled in online gaming; three years later they released a console with a built-in modem. The Sega Dreamcast, released in 1999, managed to feature a number of hit multiplayer games, including classics like Phantasy Star Online and Chu Chu Rocket. So Tom's prediction that it wouldn't be until "at least 2000 A.D." is off by a few years. Now, when it comes right down to it, online gaming didn't become popular until broadband became widely available, and that was definitely after 2000. But, this guy clearly says that the Saturn won't be going online next year, when that's exactly what happened.