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Thread: Was Saturn doomed to fail or could it somehow have sold more than the PS1?

  1. #1
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    Default Was Saturn doomed to fail or could it somehow have sold more than the PS1?

    Yes, this is an '' IF '' thread.

    for Saturn's story to change, something that didn't happen should have happened, I believe that without the boycott the story would have been different, there is also no denying that taking one or two people, the leaders of SEGA was a real pantheon of idiots

    Now I ask you, would there be salvation for Saturn or since it was engineered it was already doomed to flop?
    Last edited by SegaAMD; 02-08-2021 at 07:44 AM.

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    Mega Driven Raging in the Streets cleeg's Avatar
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    I think the thing that really did for it was the fact it was so complicated. If it could have pulled off the transparencies and other cool effects with the ease of the PS1, plus all the other cool stuff it* could do, we might have had a different story.

    In short: Yes! But I still love that machine way more than my PS1, which I do also quite love.

    EDIT - * The Saturn.
    Last edited by cleeg; 02-08-2021 at 01:59 PM.

  3. #3
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    I was a Saturn owner through-out the generation and still am and I adore the system but it is clear that it had a lot of flaws as a piece of design however partly this was because there were "better" (or competitive) alternatives available. I think a scenario that is worth thinking about is actually:

    "What would have happened if Sony hadn't entered the console race"

    this would make Sega's design decisions etc make a lot more sense (i.e. not having a direct competitor that was easier to develop for, benefitted from Sony's vertical integration of their CD pressing plants, that also used CD's, had analogs of Sega's own titles coming from Sega's long time rivals Namco, etc

    This I think would have made the Saturn a far more compelling product.

    Bear in mind that the Saturn release din 1994. It's rivals would be things like the Jaguar and the 3DO - both of which it comfortably out-performed in terms of both 2D and 3D. So the design and 3D capability would have been relatively more impressive (especially when compared to 16 bit main stays) Also bear in mind that the PC's pof the time were very expensive with the recent advent of 3D acceleration cards being the main wat for the system to compete.

    Meanwhile Nintendo were struggling to transition to the next generation with the N64 being delayed until 1996 - and also being cartridge based.

    This would have meant:
    1) Saturn would have had 2 years as the most powerful 2D and 3D console on the market

    2) This may have meant it was supported by more 3rd parties - e.g. Squaresoft may have chosen to release Final Fantasy on it as the only mainstream CD console going (although they may have developed a different FFVII for N64 instead of course) Namco may have ported their Arcade games to Saturn, Konami and Capcom may have developed more 3D games for the system

    3) Even with the release of N64 the Saturn would still be the place for pretty much all 2D games as well as having the pick of arcade ports plus stuff like Tomb Raider would be only available on Saturn and PC. Things like WipeOut, Formula 1, etc may have been Saturn exclusive (or at least for 2 years)

    4) essentially with no PlayStation and assuming at least a chunk of those games were ported (or developed from the ground up) for Saturn with no alternative platforms then I think you'd have seen the system be much more successful.

    If the Saturn was the go to place for RPG's then its sales in Japan alone would have sky-rocketed.



    Back to the original question obviously there are key things that have been previously mentioned:
    1) Complicated & quirky hardware & relatively high price (although actually not much more than PlayStation. Saturn was 399 but came with Virtua Fighter and built in memory and a RGB Scart cable in Europe - Playtation was 299 with a demo disk and no memory card - add 40 for a game and 15-20 for a memory card......)

    2) Lack of killer apps that sell the system (obviously tons of brilliant games but NiGHTS is harder to grasp from a screenshot than say Mario 64)

    3) Confusion on the market - "does it play Megadrive games? It has a cartridge slot? Or maybe that is for 32X games?"

    4) Cannibalising things with the 32X - developers supporting so many different Sega platforms - Megadrive, CD, 32X, Game Gear and Saturn. Not to mention Pico and LaserActive. Every development team working on a game for one platform isn't devoting resources to another one

    5) The botched launch - catching both gamers, developers and retailers on the back foot

    6) Abandoning established franchises - while I love that Sega didn't just rely on the same old IP and tried to deliver a next gen experience - e.g. Panzer Dragoon, NiGHTS, Clockwork Knight and more they really should have made more effort to bring next generation versions of their heavy hitters from the 16bit generation - ever underestimate the power of recognisable titles.

    7) Cumulative effect of previous mistakes leading to lack of consumer (and more importantly retailer and developer) confidence

    TLDR - things could have been better however this would rely on a lot of things happening differently. To be honest I'm happy with what we got - some utterly amazing games and gaming experiences and a library of over 1000 titles - many of which are among the best of their generation.

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    without the many mistakes on Sega side, the lack of a AAA Sonic game at launch (that basically killed all the momentum they had with genesis) and with a more developer friendly hardware + third party real support... yeah story would be very different.

    That doesn't mean they could beat Sony even with a perfect console, that is a big no, Sony was too powerful (escecially marketing-wise) and had unlimited resources compared to Sega, also it was more motivated (while Sega believed to win 32 bit just because the dominated the 16bit).
    Even Nintendo despite the huge successes of Wii and Switch is still a second choice, no matter what they do, even MS failed.

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    Outrunner maxi's Avatar
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    Every single decision over the Saturn was a mistake. There's no way Sega alone could make it work.
    The only thing who could possible help it get a couple more of years was the merge with Bandai in talks in 96. Whould give exclusivity to the platform on anime based games and help against Sony in Japan, because there's no way Bernie Stollar would license those games on America. Also could give the DC a upper hand over there on the launch.

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    Mega Driver Hedgehog-in-TrainingMaster of Shinobi Gryson's Avatar
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    This has been discussed to death on this forum so I don't have much to add, aside from "this topic is so complex it would take a book to fully cover."

    As always, the best thing to read are the comments from Hideki Sato:

    https://mdshock.com/2020/06/16/hidek...e-sega-saturn/

    (and generally take anything that Tom Kalinsky says with a grain of salt)

    Quote Originally Posted by GreyFox View Post
    1) Complicated & quirky hardware & relatively high price (although actually not much more than PlayStation. Saturn was 399 but came with Virtua Fighter and built in memory and a RGB Scart cable in Europe - Playtation was 299 with a demo disk and no memory card - add 40 for a game and 15-20 for a memory card......)
    This gets mentioned a lot on the internet (and I don't know specifically for Europe), but the Saturn matched price with the PlayStation pretty closely for its lifespan. Although it initially launched with Virtua Fighter, once the PlayStation was released Sega offered a no-bundled-game version of the Saturn at the same price as the PlayStation. Whenever the PlayStation lowered its price, the Saturn was fairly quick to match.

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    Nameless One
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    Yes - that was kind of the point I was making - the narrative is that it was much more expensive than PlayStation but in reality the price differential (once you factored in the cost of a game and memory card) was very little. Its kind of "Perceived Value for Money" though - at first glance one system seems a lot cheaper than the other even though the price difference was very small in reality.

    The issue for Sega was the complicated design meant it was a lot harder for them to reduce costs of the hardware by consolidating the design so reducing the cost of the console at retail would hurt them relatively more than Sony doing likewise.

    Another huge advantage Sony had was the fact they owned the CD pressing plants so could rapidly scale up production of games to meet demand etc

    The other thing that is commonly misconstrued is the idea that Saturn was absolutely DOA and that the PlayStation was the instant winner at launch. In reality in Europe I believe the sales were fairly neck and neck at least for the first year. As each system got releases the best seller in the charts would fluctuate between the two. So Formula 1 was the top seller in the All Formats Charts for CD based consoles in one month and then Sega Rally would be the best seller etc

    Also in Japan the fact the system came packed with Virtua Fighter was indeed a Killer App hence the greater support and success over there. Genuine mega hit of a franchise and exclusive to the system. Whereas in the Western markets Virtua Fighter wasn't anywhere near as popular - hence needing more software like a true next gen Sonic etc

    For me the point in Europe that the PlayStation really became a sales phenomenon and true mainstream was when the price dropped to 129.99 (also no surprise the fact the GameCube sold so well at launch due to that similar impulse buy price once you saw Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron 2 running on a big CRT)

    Plus the release of the "Big 3" and subsequent pack in and promotion of stuff like Christmas NiGHTS helped push hardware sales.

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    Hedgehog-in-Training Hedgehog-in-TrainingOutrunner
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    I don't particularly see any mistake at SEGA, there was a deconstruction of everything it represented in the period games, colors, action via the competitors' marketing always saying that everything it did was bad decision or low quality, on the other front SEGA was prevented from moving consoles due to a criminal boycott. Sony was competent to make temporary exclusivity for all multiplat, in addition to constant unofficial price reductions, there are reports that PS1 could be purchased in February 1996 for $ 170 well below the supposedly low price of $ 299

  9. #9
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    Everything GreyFox said. And just from my perspective at the time, it made no sense. A price tag of $399 (nearly $700 in today's money) was in the territory of "no way in hell are your parents buying you that" and my friends and I had no idea what the Saturn was, we saw that cart slot + CD drive and figured Sega had consolidated the Genesis, Sega CD and 32X into one device. The 32X had been so recent we couldn't believe Sega was really making a new platform already. The launch titles looked boring and unimpressive, if it had had a Sonic game at launch it would have been a lot more interesting.

    Another problem was that the buzz for it died down almost immediately, a mere two years later in 1997 I remember asking "hey, what happened to the Sega Saturn?" because you just didn't hear about it at all. Meanwhile the PSX and N64 were getting titles like FF7 and Goldeneye.

    I think Sega should have kept supporting the 16-bit hardware for another year or two and only launched a 5th gen system when they had worked out the hardware design and made some good games for it.

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    If the Saturn would've sold as much as the PS1, Sega would've lost so much money on manufacturing that they would've gone bankrupt by 1998. There's that Hideki Sato interview where he explains that they had to cut back manufacturing, despite there being a strong demand for the console, because it was the only way to cut down on the expenditures. They could've sold much more, but they couldn't afford it. That was with 1-2 million units sold per year. Imagine if they sold 30 million units by 1998...

    Needless the say, Sega Japan in the mid-90s was extremely out of touch with its own market.

    Then again, if the Playstation wouldn't exist, then they wouldn't have had to decrease prices so aggressively, and would have lost less money or maybe none at all, though the console price would've stayed higher even till the end. And if they don't have the need to rush a new console out so soon, maybe they would've focused more on making a cost-reduced version. The cost reducing they did on the Saturn was nowhere near as extensive as they did on the Megadrive, after four years the Megadrive had almost all ASICs in one chip, the Saturn only managed to cut down on three ASICs.

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    Mega Driver Hedgehog-in-TrainingMaster of Shinobi Gryson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zyrobs View Post
    If the Saturn would've sold as much as the PS1, Sega would've lost so much money on manufacturing that they would've gone bankrupt by 1998. There's that Hideki Sato interview where he explains that they had to cut back manufacturing, despite there being a strong demand for the console, because it was the only way to cut down on the expenditures. They could've sold much more, but they couldn't afford it. That was with 1-2 million units sold per year. Imagine if they sold 30 million units by 1998...
    They could have made a profit -- they just had to sell ~8 games per console (according to Nakayama). The problem with that was they didn't have the game library to pull it off, since they were nearly on their own in terms of game development.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zyrobs View Post
    Then again, if the Playstation wouldn't exist, then they wouldn't have had to decrease prices so aggressively, and would have lost less money or maybe none at all, though the console price would've stayed higher even till the end. And if they don't have the need to rush a new console out so soon, maybe they would've focused more on making a cost-reduced version. The cost reducing they did on the Saturn was nowhere near as extensive as they did on the Megadrive, after four years the Megadrive had almost all ASICs in one chip, the Saturn only managed to cut down on three ASICs.
    I see it the same way, they would really have to work on reducing the costs even without the PSX as a competitor. Expensive consoles tend to become niche products and the N64 was only a year away with a launch price of $199. At least with no PSX I think the Saturn would have had a much better chance of getting a killer app in its first year, a game like VF2 would have looked stunning when the closest competition is the Jaguar.

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    End of line.. Hero of Algol gamevet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gryson View Post
    They could have made a profit -- they just had to sell ~8 games per console (according to Nakayama). The problem with that was they didn't have the game library to pull it off, since they were nearly on their own in terms of game development.
    Game development that they had wasted on the 32X. They could have put out a better version of Virtua Racing, Star Wars Arcade and Knuckles Chaotix on the Saturn. Put a little effort behind in-house sports games, which the North American market so desperately needed. 989 Sports cemented the PlayStation as the console to buy for sports games, while the Saturn offered none of that in 1995. We certainly didn't need a game like Bug, representing the Saturn in North America.
    A Black Falcon: no, computer games and video games are NOT the same thing. Video games are on consoles, computer games are on PC. The two kinds of games are different, and have significantly different design styles, distribution methods, and game genre selections. Computer gaming and console (video) gaming are NOT the same thing."



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    Six Button Shooter Hedgehog-in-TrainingWildside Expert Cafeman's Avatar
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    SEGA made so many ill-advised decisions back then. Launching too early with such an inferior Daytona USA and followed with stuff like Bug, Cyber Speedway, Ghen War, Clockwork Knight and even Astal didn't appeal to people. Too bad hey didn't whip out great 32-bit versions of Genesis games like SOR, Ecco, Sonic, or Eternal Champions.

    Imagine Saturn launched in NA in the fall with Virtua Fighter / VF Remix on one bundled disc, and a visually better Daytona USA.

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    Raging in the Streets Blades's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gryson View Post
    They could have made a profit -- they just had to sell ~8 games per console (according to Nakayama). The problem with that was they didn't have the game library to pull it off, since they were nearly on their own in terms of game development.
    Is there an interview that says this?

    Another huge advantage Sony had was the fact they owned the CD pressing plants so could rapidly scale up production of games to meet demand etc
    I think this is overplayed, particularly by Sony themselves. Panasonic (Matsushita) was larger than Sony at the time, had CD pressing and massive IC manufacturing plants, and didn't even make a dent in the video game market with 3DO despite massive resources.

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