At one time, the Sega Saturn had obtained second place in the console wars, placing it above Nintendo's Super Famicom in Japan and Nintendo's Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) in North America and Europe, but the Saturn was losing power because of another newcomer - Sony's Playstation.
The Sega Saturn was originally designed to be the ultimate 2D Console, but was refitted to have better 3D capabilities, as rumours about the Sony Playstation were spread, and then rushed to the market, which led to very few games being available when the Saturn started.
The Saturn's inner design with two CPUs and 6 other processors made it hard to get the maximum power out of the Console, since parallel design was too complex for many games developers - and still is. Yuji Naka is rumored to have said "I think only one in 100 programmers are good enough to get that kind of speed out of the Saturn." Third-party development was also hindered by the lack of a useful Software Development Kit. Because of this, many Saturn games needed to be written in assembly language to achieve decent performance on the hardware. Frequently, programmers would only utilize one CPU to avoid some of the trouble in programming for the Saturn.
The Saturn soon started losing out to the Playstation; the main disadvantage of the Sega Saturn compared to the Playstation was the lack of hardware-aided transparency. Later games like Burning Rangers used software emulation to offer transparency effects.
In May 1995, Sega launched the Saturn in the USA, a full 6 months ahead of schedule. This was announced at that year's E3 (Electronics and Entertainment Expo) where Sega representatives were engaged in a public relations battle with Sony. This surprise move resulted in very few sales, however. This was due largely to the high price of the system and the lack of available software. Also, Sega chose to only ship Saturn units to selected retailers. This caused a great deal of animosity toward Sega from unselected companies, including Kay-Bee Toys. In 1996, a peripheral called the Sega NetLink (a 28.8 kbit/s modem) was released for the Saturn. Originally meant to save the console, it backfired largely because of the high price and lack of compatible games. A web browser was available with the unit, programmed by PlanetWeb, who also programmed the web browser shipped with the Sega Dreamcast. A mouse and keyboard adapter were also made for the Netlink, which can still be used to view web pages with many Internet Service Providers. Very few units were sold during the Saturn\'s life in the market, though.
The Saturn was largely a failure in the U.S. market for a variety of reasons. Perhaps first among them was the distrust that gaming consumers were developing for Sega after a series of add-on periphirals to the Sega Genesis that were discontinued after only lukewarm support. Such add-ons included the Sega CD system and the Sega 32X. The Sony Playstation also had many more popular software titles much earlier in the race than Sega did. Cost was also a factor, with the Saturn initially costing US$400 compared to the Playstation at US$300. Consumers also noticed a change of marketing strategy at Sega, which traded the successful rebellious image of the Sega Genesis (for example, the Sega Scream television commercials) for a more conservative attitude. Despite being considered a failure by many in the industry, the Saturn's continued success in Japan should be noted.
The Saturn was later superseeded by the Sega Dreamcast, which may also be considered a failure, despite having featured great technical abilities and a wealth of high-quality software.
The Saturn was more popular than the Sega Megadrive in Japan, while the Sega Genesis, the Megadrive's North American counterpart, enjoyed more success than the Saturn in North America. This was partly due to advertisements with a character named Segata Sanshiro in it. Segata became well known throughout Japan.
DIMENSIONS (US/European model)
There were several models of the Saturn. The first Model was a bit clumsy and superseded by Model 2. U.S. and European models were colored black, and models for the Japan market were white. A number of limited edition consoles in other colors were sold in Japan.
Late in the system's life, a "4-meg" cartridge was introduced to increase the system's RAM and make possible flawless arcade translations. This unit was only officially introduced in Japan. Several cartridges of various purposes were manufactured by other companies in all regions.