HISTORY OF SEGA SATURN
After several years of success with the Genesis, Sega launched the Sega Saturn in 1995, at $399.99 ($626.37 today adjusted for inflation). The sales numbers were quite low and thus the Saturn ended up having one of the shortest console production spans in history. It was discontinued in 1999, leaving only a four year span of sales in North America and only 9.5 million units sold worldwide. The system itself was technologically impressive at the time, using a combination of Hitachi CPU and an additional video display processor. The Saturn used CD-ROM games, had Internal RAM and had hardware capable of 32 bit information storage. Sega changed the design of the system multiple times over its production span, mainly due to rumors of how powerful the upcoming Sony Playstation would be.
There are several things credited to the Saturn’s poor sales. The console’s North American release date was a surprise by Sega, coming four months early in an effort to beat the Playstation to the market. So much of a surprise in fact that they did not even tell most distributors that it was coming. Those left in the dark were rightfully upset. KB Toys even removed the Saturn from their stores completely. Another factor was the huge $399.99 price tag, likely due to the messy development changes Sega made from worry of being beat out by Sony’s Playstation. The small number of available launch titles (Bug!, Clockwork Knight, Daytona USA, NHL All-Star Hockey, Panzer Dragoon, Virtua Fighter and Worldwide Soccer) for a system that had already been out in Japan for a full year is another issue credited to Saturn’s low sales. That problem would plague the Saturn throughout its lifespan, as it ended its production with one of the smallest console libraries ever. The other factor some say may have been the biggest was that a new Sonic the Hedgehog never released for the system, which many reasonably believe would’ve been a huge impact on sales for the Saturn given the popularity and success of the series at that time. No matter what you credit for its demise, the Saturn is a historic example of what not to do with a system’s development and launch if you’re a video game company.
PERSONAL HISTORY WITH SEGA SATURN
My grandmother in Indiana bought a Saturn in the late 90s, probably cheap at a yard sale, so that us grandkids would have something to play. What limited time I had with the system I thoroughly enjoyed. My cousins and I played a lot of Nights into Dreams, Virtua Fighter 2, Virtua Cop and Daytona USA. They also played a lot of Sonic 3D Blast, but I didn’t because that game always made me dizzy and nauseated. I personally was a huge fan of Virtua Fighter 2. Super Street Fighter II and Killer Instinct had hooked me into fighting games earlier in my life but Virtua Fighter 2 was really the first 3D fighting game I got into. A 3D fighting game presented to me a new system and strategies to master. Later in life when I started collecting I picked up a Saturn and relived those past games. I also picked up great titles I had missed out on through the years like the Panzer Dragoon Series.
COLLECTING FOR SEGA SATURN
Saturn’s short lifespan combined with the fact that most of its games weren’t produced in high numbers make it one of the most expensive and difficult consoles to collect for. The console itself doesn’t present too much of a challenge. It can be found with only moderate difficulty at retro gaming stores, online or at yard sales. The console also is well built and in my experience holds together very well with time so there is minimal worry of you buying a Saturn that turns out not to work. Saturn’s games is where things get tricky. All of them are difficult to find. Even the more popular ones like Daytona USA, Virtua Fighter, Sega Rally Championship and Nights into Dreams are not gonna be seen with regularity at retro gaming stores. For the hard to find classics like the Panzer Dragoon series you almost have to resort to eBay or Amazon as they’re nigh impossible to find and they will be expensive (although I was personally lucky enough to find Panzer Dragoon II: Zwei disc only at a thrift store for $25). Arguably the best Saturn game, Panzer Dragoon Saga, normally goes for over $200 on eBay. Complete-in-box collecting for Saturn won’t run you much more at all and in my opinion is the only way to go when it comes to CD based games.