Alternate History: Sega Saturn

AeroPergold

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So here is an interesting thread: Imagine an alternate timeline in which the Sega Saturn succeeds or at least succeeds to the best of its ability. However we have three rules:

1. We are talking about the Saturn in terms of its presence in the United States with some mention about Sega as a whole
2. The Sega Saturn releases as is at E3 1995 at $399. The Playstation 3 had the same exact problems as the Saturn but managed to beat the Xbox 360 during the second half of the console generation.
3. Tom Kalinske, President of Sega of America is ousted before E3 and is replaced by an unnamed figure who'll steer Sega through its dark age.

With these rules in mind we start at the beginning...

1995
The Saturn is released in 1995 during E3 1995 at $399. While Sega is still embarrassed by Sony in this timeline. The day after the new President releases an apology to US retailers trying to spin the surprise release as a experimental mass-test marketing. Due to this certain retailers are angry but this prevents some such as KB Toys from discontinuing the sale of Sega products.

The Sega Saturn gets a nationwide soft re-launch that September in order to combat the Playstation onslaught.

Sonic Xtreme is in development but is cancelled by order of the New President. The New President knows that Sonic might not work in 3D but due to Super Mario 64 being presented at E3 and the release of Jumping Flash. Sega Technical Institute is given the task of reviving Alex Kidd as a collectathon 3D platformer with a release date of holiday 1996.

1996
An aggressive marketing campaign is launched by Sega in an attempt to combat Sony, thus starting the console war in earnest. The New President creates a task force to design an easy to use devkit for Western developers in an effort to ease development of Saturn games. This new devkit system is launched in Summer of this year. The marketing also spins the Saturn's higher price as sign of luxury and power in an effort to get people to see the Saturn in a similar fashion to how people see Apple products or Italian sportscars.

The New President knows that the Saturn can't survive at its current price and plans a price cut to $299 during the holiday season. He also makes plans with SOJ to make a cost-reduced version of the Saturn.

Final Fantasy 7 is shown off at E3 this year and the New President makes an exclusivity deal with Working Designs to provide more RPGs to the Saturn. He also works with Sonic Software Planning who had made "Shinning the Holy Ark" and works with them for a reboot of Phantasy Star I using the same engine.

Holiday season sees the release of the N64 and Sega cuts the price of the Saturn and releases three hallmark titles, NiGHTS Into Dreams, Sonic 3D Blast, and the Alex Kidd game. All three prove that Sega still has its A-Game going and that they can adapt to the changing times.

1997
Final Fantasy 7 releases to great fanfare. Sega begins preparing an Ad Campaign advertising the Phantasy Star reboot as well as the other games provided by Working Designs.

The release of the SOA made devkit allows for more developers to work with the Saturn overcoming its technical complexity. This means that more games are released this year.

During E3 the New President announced his doubling down on the Saturn. While the Saturn is in Second place he had kept the good fight and announces a new price reduced model codenamed the Neptune. This model releases this holiday season at $199. A new Sonic game made by Sonic team is shown off. Known as Sonic Adventure would be released in 1998. The engine is used for Sonic Jam.

The Phantasy Star I reboot/remake is released during the holiday season. A Sequel to the Alex Kidd 3D platformer is also in development.

1998

1998 in the original timeline was the slow death of the Saturn. But in this timeline was a rebirth. With a cheaper model and the doubling down on development resources the Saturn is still alive and kicking. Games such as Burning Rangers become mainstream headliners.

Panzer Dragoon Saga is released as the Final Fantasy killer. While unsuccessful in this task it managed to steal some of the PlayStation's thunder as well as prove the N64's impotency.

Sonic Adventure is released on the Saturn that holiday season but as a multi-disk game different to how it was on the Dreamcast. The new Sonic game re-invigorates interest in the Saturn and the Saturn manages to eek itself out of first place during this cutthroat console war.

1999
1999 sees the release of many new games but the Saturn is beginning to show its age. Despite its newfound success its architecture and design is making it hard for developers to fulfill their vision. Sega times its show at E3 so it happens after Sony's presentation. The PS2 is announced but Sega combats it with the Dreamcast with release in 2000. The console was developed with collaboration with Microsoft whom have plans for the gaming industry.

The new Alex Kidd 3D game sequel is released but leaves less of an impact due to Sonic's new presence.

New games of all genres are heavily pushed during the holiday season.

2000
The year 2000 is a slow year for the Saturn as the Dreamcast is released this year. With two extra years of development the Dreamcast in this timeline features stronger specs and DVD playback. A new console war is brewing but Sega is entering financial difficulties due to increased development costs and the decline of the arcade industry.

This leads to Microsoft's purchase of Sega in 2001. Sega keeps its name due to brand recognition and brand loyalty but Microsoft now handles hardware development.

2003
The Saturn is discontinued. Licensed kids games had been the bread and butter for the system for the past two years but now the Saturn is dead. But its death leads to a new era for Sega. An era in which Sonic the Hedgehog and Panzer Dragoon rub shoulders with Halo and Gears of War. Where Daytona USA shakes hands with Forza.

Two years later a new Sega console is released. It used advanced tech and gets the jump on the PS3 despite reliability issues. In this timeline it has a different name but in ours it is known simply as the Xbox 360.
 

EthanFox

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1995
The Saturn is released in 1995 during E3 1995 at $399. While Sega is still embarrassed by Sony in this timeline. The day after the new President releases an apology to US retailers trying to spin the surprise release as a experimental mass-test marketing. Due to this certain retailers are angry but this prevents some such as KB Toys from discontinuing the sale of Sega products.

I know kinda the point here is you're proposing a "what if" scenario, so it's not like you can be "right" or "wrong" - but I'm not sure about just this part.

Lauching the Saturn like this was such an enormous mistake; I just feel that any scenario or alternate timeline where the Saturn succeeds has to kick off with Sega not screwing this up. At the time, it really felt like this blunder kicked off a chain of events that resulted in the situation that actually played out.
 

AeroPergold

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I know kinda the point here is you're proposing a "what if" scenario, so it's not like you can be "right" or "wrong" - but I'm not sure about just this part.

Lauching the Saturn like this was such an enormous mistake; I just feel that any scenario or alternate timeline where the Saturn succeeds has to kick off with Sega not screwing this up. At the time, it really felt like this blunder kicked off a chain of events that resulted in the situation that actually played out.
Yes this was made as a big what if scenario.

I kept the launch the same because the PS3 had similar problems (PR mismanagement, high cost at launch, hardware that was too advanced). I simply took what Sony did to rectify the PS3 and applied it to the Saturn.

Also Hayao Nakayama, the CEO of Sega of Japan wouldn't let Tom Kalinske (the president of SoA) release the Saturn at its intended date and was pressured into releasing it at E3. This event was the climax of several years of Sega of Japan tightening the screws on its American branch. I kept the launch the same because to solve the Saturn's launch would also require to solve the counterproductive power dynamic between Sega of Japan and Sega of America.

As for sources for why I know this. "Console Wars" by Blake J. Harris.
 

EthanFox

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As for sources for why I know this. "Console Wars" by Blake J. Harris.

Believe me, I'm well-familiar with all of that.

The Sony comparison is interesting, because clearly both companies thought they'd "walk it" and came away with a bloody nose. Though I wonder how much the internet (and giving away games free via PSPlus) contributed to their turnaround that generation, and whether Sega really could've done similarly. The Dreamcast certainly showed they learned some things from the whole affair (I've often wondered how differently the PS3/DC thing would've gone down if the DC had also been a DVD player).
 

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