NOTE: This console is actually good, with many good qualities and some features it can do better than the other consoles of the generation. This article will focus primarily on what caused it to flop.
The Sega Saturn is a fifth generation video game console developed by Sega, releasing initially in Japan in November 1994 succeeding their Genesis console. Inside of the console is a dual-CPU architecture and eight processors. It used the CD-ROM format by default for games, allowing for larger storage and a better soundtrack than cartridge-based consoles at the time and without using an add-on. Several of its games are ports from arcade games.
While the Saturn was successful in Japan and became Sega's best selling console in that region, it was infamous for failing horribly in North America with a disastrous launch in that region, resulting in Sega's huge financial loses that led to their downfall throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Why It's Pretendo-ing
- It lacked a true original Sonic the Hedgehog platforming game. Yes, Sega's mascot since the Sega Genesis era in 1991. There was going to be one titled Sonic X-Treme, but it was canceled and instead all it got was Sonic Jam, a compilation of the original Genesis trilogy with a 3D hub world, a port of Sonic 3D Blast, and Sonic R, an average racing game. This issue became one of the major factors of the demise of the Saturn in North America, selling only about 2.7 million units during its lifespan in that continent.
- Speaking of Sonic R, it only served as a spin-off of the series, meaning that the Saturn never got any Sonic game that would be designed specifically for this console and would actually come out on the platform.
- Sonic Adventure was also gonna be originally for the Saturn, but was moved to the Dreamcast instead due to Sega losing focus on the Saturn
- Its launch in North America was an absolute disaster that ruined its company's reputation. It was sold for $399 at launch and Sega of Japan forced SOA to launch the Saturn before the PlayStation in North America instead of its planned launch in that region. The early release date backfired, as even after the PlayStation was announced to be sold at $299 and launched in that continent after the Saturn, it already sold more units than the Saturn did in a single day. The lack of support of the Saturn in America results in the lack of games and interest for retailers to sell these consoles, resulting in Sega suffering from horrible and continuing financial losses over time. This led to the company flopping as a first-party developer with all the lost money even with the release of the Dreamcast, forcing them to switch into making third-party games for major game platforms from other companies.
- It was more expensive than its competitors with a price of $399 USD/44,800 yen at launch as mentioned above, compared to $299/39,800 yen for the PlayStation and $199/25,000 yen for the Nintendo 64. And it didn't help the fact that it was much weaker than both consoles, especially with poor 3D graphics that are worse than the PS1.
- The original Saturn controller feels like it's recycled from the Genesis's 6 button controller. It takes the exact same layout from the aforementioned controller, except that it added two shoulder buttons similar to the Super Nintendo controller.
- The 1 or 4-Meg cart that was used to expand the game's data wasn't sold outside Japan, thus one had to either import it or get an Action Replay device.
- Its complex design made it difficult for western third-party developers to program games for the system, so third-party games were limited on the system. Even Sega themselves had a hard time developing games for the system. The PlayStation, on the other hand, was very easy to develop for thus third-party developers often preferred making games for that over the Saturn.
- Rather than sticking with Segata Sanshiro commercials, which proved to be successful in Japan, the USA advertisements for the Saturn were rather surreal and confusing. Several of the commercials directly attacked the Sony PlayStation and the Nintendo 64 by calling them the "PlayThing" and "Pretendo", the former of which outsold the Saturn by more than 90 million units.
- The Saturn used CR2032 type batteries for save files, which dried out rather quickly and once it did your save files are all gone. This was especially true for Model-1 Saturns.
- That being said, there was a Back-Up RAM Cartridge sold separately for the Saturn.
- The main reason the Saturn was able to have so many games was that a large number of them were ports of Sega arcade games, despite being released at a time were arcade ports for consoles are on the way out due to many developers focusing on games for consoles and PCs in mind, ones that were intended to be played at home in the player's own time, and not in a machine designed to suck as much money from their pockets as possible.
- The Saturn's 3D capabilities were also very lackluster compared to its competitors, likely because the system was originally just a heavily upgraded Sega 32X for most of its development, with a polygon processor hastily added in later on. The Saturn's rasterizer, like the 3DO's, could only render square polygons and not the usual triangles, a system most suited to sprites: as a result, Saturn games had to use complex engines to build even simple true 3D-looking objects. Many have claimed the system is not even truly capable of 3D due to this render method.
- Bernie Stolar, the CEO and president of Sega of America at the time, kept blacklisting all the good 2D games from ever leaving Japan because he believed that the market for 2D games are dying. This is ironic, considering that the Saturn was originally designed with 2D in mind.
- Thanks to Sega of America ending the manufacturing of American Sega Saturn systems earlier than the rest of the world, Sega's Brazilian distributor, Tec Toy, was forced to import White and Skeleton Saturn models from Japan in order to keep selling the system in Brazil a bit more, which caused an big confusion on consumers by looking at the Saturn's Japanese logo in the system with the Saturn's International logo in-game or its box. To add more logs into the fire, Tec Toy stated that you could get wrong controller colors that did not match with the system or vice-versa.
- Such systems were modified by Tec Toy and received proper adaptation to be played in Brazilian CRT TVs and outlets, as well to play games set for American systems.
- Despite being a commercial failure, the Sega Saturn has enough redeeming qualities to have an article on the Awesome Games Wiki.
Although well-received in Japan, worldwide, only 9.5 million were sold, with it failing miserably elsewhere. This failure would be a contributing factor to Sega abandoning its last console, the Sega Dreamcast because of the financial loss and damaged reputation Sega suffered from the Saturn. Stolar ultimately said, "Saturn isn't our future" and had the system discontinued too soon in 1998. In Japan, though, the Saturn continued to be officially supported until 2000. This move angered everyone who was invested on a Saturn and degraded Sega's consumer confidence, in turn many refused to support the Dreamcast.
Following the release of the Saturn, rumors began to circulate that Sega was already working on another new system called the "128 Platinum," with jaded Sega CD owners speculating that this was just to annoy anyone who'd bought a Saturn. A few years later it turned out that was exactly what they were doing.
Despite failing, the Saturn is considered a good console and having a decent game library of 596 games. Most of the reasons the Saturn failed were due to Sega's mismanagement and poor business choices, not the console itself. Today, the Saturn is considered a cult classic and is a valuable collector's item.