Is the Saturn the most popular console in the US? Of course it’s not. Many have formed an opinion of what they consider to be “cool”, and the Saturn isn’t leading it. It is, however, something that many see as being as good as or better than the alternatives. Just like many may prefer another hobby over the Tamagotchi or another soda over Coca-Cola, there are those who view the Saturn as a worthwhile purchase for home videogaming. But despite the fact that there are close to 2,000,000 Saturn consoles owned in North America by now, and some excellent titles out or coming soon, there are no shortage of rumors about its death being as certain as it is near. And despite the excellent sales and support the Saturn is getting in Japan, some would rather insist that Sega’s system just can’t keep up technically to the others.
Not everyone seems to see things this way though. Sony, for example, is spending money to protect their PlayStation system from what they feel to be a real threat from Sega. If the Saturn was really in danger, third parties wouldn’t feel it was worth their time to program games such as Wild Nines and Tomb Raider 2 for it. And if Sony honestly felt there would be limited impact to their system from Saturn versions of these games, they wouldn’t be paying the third parties enough to discount the money already sunk into Saturn development.
Sega’s Dural system, their next major home console, is also being used to add fuel to an already messy fire. Why is this? The time needed to design a major new piece of hardware, build up some programming libraries, and code some games for it is usually at least two years! (Sega has stated before that their work on the Saturn started five years before its release.) I don’t remember Nintendo getting this degree of bashing with the NES when the SNES was waiting in the wings, or when the N64 was perpetually only months away from release. Rumors of Sony’s PlayStation replacement first sprang up six months ago in the newsgroups, with a similar time of release to the Dural, but I haven’t seen any similar anti- PSX rumors recently.
Finally, there is the story of Sega dumping the Saturn outright in the coming months, which seems to have originated with an irresponsible piece of journalism from “Video Game Spot”. For some reason, we are to believe that dumping a current system with absolutely no alternative for consumers faithful to the company will build their trust. We are to believe that game programmers will be paid to spend much of the next year sitting on their hands. We are to believe that the profit which came to consoles with smaller markets (like the 3DO or the Neo-Geo) will be deliberately rejected so that they can concentrate on another project which requires a fair sum of money. And frankly, I can’t believe it.
In short, with only a few coughs there are those who are running for the shovels. But video games are about fun. And instead of preaching personal beliefs of what constitutes as viable enjoyment or pretending to be corporate stock analysts of other console manufacturers, the focus should be on just having fun with the titles available. And if one can’t do that, then maybe they should buy another console.