This interview was featured in the October 1995 issue of the Spanish video game magazine Hitech . The conversation with Sega Europe’s Director of Marketing and Sales Andy Mee focused on the Saturn and its battle against the PlayStation. Mee had only started in the position in May of that year.
Mee has been a salesman all his life, getting his start in a department store before moving to Toshiba where he pitched consumer electronics. That experience led him to Sega, where he worked his way up to Director of Marketing and Sales. Mee was famous for his optimism regarding the console until his departure from Sega in 1997, once proudly proclaiming in summer 1996, “Up yours Sony. We will be in the market long before you and we will be in it long after you get out.” Obviously, the quote didn’t pan out the way he hoped but Mee was never one to shy away from standing behind his products.
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Andy Mee, Saturn product head in Europe, is the man responsible for Sega’s new console on the old continent. Hitech had the opportunity to speak with him during the latest London fair, where he gave us all the details surrounding the present and future of the console Sega on which Sega is devoting all its efforts.
Hitech: Let’s start with a direct question: How are the Saturn’s sales in Europe?
Andy Mee: We’ve received over 11,000 warranty cards from Great Britain, and we estimate that we’ve sold around 20,000 Saturns throughout the island. Speaking of Europe, we have numbers of around 50,000 units. We’re experiencing supply problems and are receiving the machines day by day because we simply can’t meet the demand for it. We could say that it’s going stupendously.
Hitech: Are you afraid of the good image Sony has with consumers?
Andy Mee: No because they’re unknown in the video game market. You have to keep in mind that they’ve also had their failures in the consumer electronics market, like the Betamax and the MiniDisc, to which we could add the MSX. Effectively, they’re really good at making televisions and HiFi systems, but what makes people think they’re going to be any good at making video games?
At Sega, we’ve been making video games for a long time. We’ve made some mistakes in the past, but we’ve learned from them. Additionally, Saturn got there first and is the only console that’s going to bring home all the popular arcade hits like Virtua Fighter 2, Sega Rally, and Virtua Cio.
Hitech: What was your initial impression when you learned about the PlayStation’s price?
Andy Mee: The subject of the PlayStation’s price is a delicate one. I would have done the same thing in their place. They’re new and have to play with the price so that it’s in their favor. However, Saturn is being sold with Virtua Fighter and PlayStation only includes a demo disc and not a full game. Another thing to remember is that Saturn has onboard RAM to, for example, save high scores in Virtua Fighter, which are saved automatically. PlayStation has no memory, so if consumers want to save their games they have to buy an optional card. All these things need to be kept in mind when making comparisons.
Hitech: What are Sega’s intentions with the Saturn. Will we see an upgrade and Sega continuing its policy of forgetting about its older consoles? Will the same thing that happened to the MD/32X happen to it?
Andy Mee: Today I’ll make the commitment to say that Saturn will be a format that last for at least two years, if not more. Also, regarding upgrades, its possible that there will be on similar to the 32X, although we are not very supportive of it. At any rate, if that were the case, we’d be sure to have sufficient software before releasing the product. The truth is that if we have to feel guilty of something, it would be for moving up the Saturn’s launch in relation to the MD/32X. In any case, we’re going to release very good titles for this console.
Hitech: Third party companies have made their opinions clear about both machines, and the general feeling is that the PlayStation is much easier to program for than the Saturn. What’s Sega’s opinion on the topic?
Andy Mee: That’s what makes Saturn games more interesting. Also, it’s been shown that there are things that PlayStation can’t do, like what CTW recently said about it being impossible to make a Virtua Fighter 2 for Sony’s console. The truth is that what we’re seeing is that it’s easier for people to make games for PlayStation, but the issue is that consumers don’t want to feel like they were fooled and play games that are easier but not as challenging and addictive. The fact that the machine is easier to program doesn’t mean that the games are going to be better.
Hitech: Doesn’t it seem excessive to sell a console at such a high price?
Andy Mee: You have to keep in mind that it’s a great piece of engineering and that its potential can be increased through future upgrades like, for example, Video CD, which when released will come with a Polygram demo disc with more than 20 music videos. We’re also examining the possibility of developing software to access the Internet. So, we can’t say that it’s just a video game console; it’s a home entertainment system that can go as far as consumers want. If they want to play the latest arcade hits, they can. If they want to watch movies, they can watch them, and if they want to listen to music through its high fidelity sound, they can do that.
Hitech: Are you thinking of lowering the console’s price?
Andy Mee: I’d like to say that we’re going to cut the price, but it’s very hard. The console’s manufacturing process is very complex and requires a series of operations that are quite costly. Moreover, the CD-ROM unit itself raises the product’s final cost.
Hitech: Wasn’t the arrival of CDs going to lower software prices?
Andy Mee: Game development for the new consoles is very expensive. The creation and development of Panzer Dragoon alone cost us $1 million. Technology advances and game consoles become more complicated. Furthermore, consumers demand better game quality. That’s why it takes more time to produce a good title and this means a lot of money.
Hitech: Sega of America has done a series of spectacular promotions. Is there any intention to follow in their steps and give away Clockwork Knight, Victory Goal, and Virtua Fighter with the console the same way they’ve done in the U.S.?
Andy Mee: At this time, no. Sega Europe has to assume the costs of translating each game into different languages, which doesn’t allow us to do that kind of promotion. However, we can consider offering consumers special packs, such as the one that will coming on October 6 that includes Virtua Fighter Remix and a special CD with images of the characters from the Virtua Fighter series.
Hitech: Do you have a clearer idea of what’s going to be done with the Saturn’s cartridge slot? Will we see any cartridge games soon?
Andy Mee: There are no plans for that because we don’t see a clear advantage in making cartridge games. We also won’t close the door on something in the future, and the slot isn’t just for memory or upgrades. So, we’ll have to see what happens.
Hitech: In the Saturn manual the door is left open for plans for disc a drive and keyboard. When will we see these peripherals?
Andy Mee: We’re looking at all the options, but what we want to make clear is that the Saturn is the best game platform. Then, we think about the possibilities we have to offer a home entertainment system, like surfing the Internet on your television. Now, what we don’t want is to turn the Saturn into a PC, as that would be far too expensive and excessive compared to any benefit consumers might get.