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Saturn

Sega Saturn, as with nearly all consoles, was initially released in Japan. On November 22nd 1994, the Saturns' launch date, over 150,000 machines were sold, and this number rose to half a million by the time Christmas arrived. It continued to sell well, and it is estimated that over five million consoles were sold in Japan, making it a more successful machine there than the Nintendo 64.

The Sega Saturn was released in early 1995 in the United States, and shortly after in Europe. This was ahead of its previously announced release date of 2nd November 1995, and was dubbed 'Saturn-Day' by the video game press. Most people saw this 'rush release' as an attempt to secure some of the market before Sony released its already hyped Playstation, the 32 bit rival to the Sega Saturn.

The Sega Saturn received a 'lukewarm' reception in the states, and this can be put down to two main factors, cost and marketing. The Saturn cost $100 more than the Playstation, which at $400 made it too expensive for most gamers. But the main factor for the Saturns' poor start, and ultimately its decline altogether was Sonys' experience in the PR department. This last factor is definitely the reason the Saturn failed in the UK; Sega basically had no marketing for the Saturn and solely relied on its reputation and the success of the Megadrive.

Even before the Playstation was released in the US, Sony had been hyping its console with regular TV adverts, billboard posters and adverts in game magazines. This had already whetted the American gaming publics' interest, and when the Playstation was released it almost immediately out-sold the Saturn at a ratio of 2-1. But the real stroke of genius was the audience that Sony decided to target once the Playstation had gained a foothold.

At this time, games consoles & video games were still perceived by many people as nerdy - something kids played on their own in their bedrooms, or beardy 'dungeons and dragons' type folk played over the internet! Sony took a risk and decided to try and make its new console seem appealing to the twenty-something's. They used popular recording artists in their game soundtracks - Psynogsis' Wipeout game featured The Prodigy & The Chemical Brothers to name but a few. They placed advertisements in gentlemen's magazines such as GQ and FHM. They produced games aimed at a more mature audience; Tomb Raider being the most obvious example along with Resident Evil which also carried a 15 certificate. The risk worked.

Sony had tapped a previously unexplored market, and effectively changed the face of video games altogether. Gaming was now seen as more of a social thing, rather than a solitary thing. It was seen as cool to be into video games. People openly discussed the latest game releases, and even popular TV shows such as Friends had references to the Sony Playstation. But it also changed other things. Unlike die-hard gamers, the new breed of fickle gamers wanted quantity over quality, and despite the fact that the Saturn had produced some quality games, it was the sheer number of games on the the Playstation that eventually ended the ill fated Saturns' life.

But even the amount of games on the Playstation could be put down to Sega and the Saturn itself. The machine was initially designed for 2D games, while the Playstation was built for 3D polygon games, something gamers were now demanding as standard. This lead Sega to redesign its internal architecture in a hurry, but the end result was something game developers found messy and time consuming. The Playstation had always been built with 3D games in mind, and as such contained many of the techniques used to generate 3D effects within its hardware i.e. light sourcing, transparency etc. The Playstation also had built in video & audio compression routines, something the Saturn programmers to include within the software.

This encouraged many software developers, especially the smaller publishing houses, to favour the Sony Playstation as they found it difficult to get to grips with Sega's hardware and dual processor technology. The outcome was a switch to Sony by some of the biggest names in the business - the most well known being Squaresoft who introduced their Final Fantasy series to the Playstation, and in a lot of people's eyes, increased the popularity of RPG's with one single move.





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