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Theory vs. Fact

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As seen on the Console History page, in the above link, the Saturn sold only 3 million units in the US, and 10 million in Japan, to the PS1's ultimate 60+million worldwide. Over twelve hundred games were ultimately made for the Playstation in the United States, and at best several hundred were made for the Sega Saturn. The purpose of this section is to challenge popular ideas on why this happened by putting them up against the documented facts. If reading this causes you to think that the intent of this website is to convince you to prefer one console or the other, you need to read much more carefully, the reason this website exists is because everybody already does.

There are a vast variety of theories as to why the Saturn failed to gain significant market share in the United States. This will focus on the United States because the Saturn was actually Sega's only successful console in Japan. Neither the Genesis nor the Dreamcast sold as well there as the Sega Saturn did, and it was only after Final Fantasy 7 was released that the Playstation started to outsell the Saturn in Japan, which is actually fairly similar to what it was like in the US as well.

"No games..."

The first theory we'll cover is the one that claims that the Saturn didn't have any, or didn't have enough, "good" games. As shown on the Month to Month games section below, according to a series of polls conducted on Usenet, the Saturn had just as many games of notable quality as the PS1 did, even in the United States, right up to and even for a good while after its discontinuation.

Performance "gap"

Another popular theory on why the Saturn failed to capture the masses' interests is that it didn't have comparable 3D performance to the PS1. The Saturn, is significantly more powerful than the PS1 in 2D capabilities, but it is also able to run at higher resolutions (640x224, 704x480), and capable of higher resolution and color count textures with less effort. The Saturn is more capable of these things because it has 66% more Video RAM. On the Saturn, as is true on any hardware, more RAM allows for higher color, higher resolution texture mapping, and higher screen resolution. Combine this with the specs directly from Sega and Sony's web pages, showing that both systems were capable of similar polygon performance, shows clearly that the Saturn was no slouch in the 3D department either.

The catch is that Sega achieved comparable polygonal performance with the Saturn by including more processors in the Saturn, which made development more difficult at first than it would be on the more simple PS1. In addition to having better developer support from Sony than Sega gave for the Saturn, and better more mature development kits, the PS1 also had built in special effects in the form of transparency and gouraud shading. This allowed the PS1 to generate lightsourcing and transparent special effects or polygons with a minimum hit to the system's polygon performance. Since the Saturn had to generate these effects through sheer processing muscle, developers of Saturn games usually had to lower the resolution to 320x224 in order to program effects similar to those on the Playstation. What this all means is that because the PS1 could just "turn on" light sourcing and transparency, the effects were achieved with uniform results across any game that used them, while the same effects on the Saturn were subject to the quality of the code, written by each individual developer, to display it.

Uniformity is a good thing, the PS1 had that over the Saturn because of its development kits and simple but effective design. Even though some developers were able to achieve comparable or even unique effects in Saturn games, because other games failed to have comparable effects, and some developers chose to release incomplete, buggy, and unoptimized games, the Saturn gained the reputation of not being as "good at" 3D as the Playstation was.

Perception gap

On a side note, but on the topic of public perception and system performance, the specs listed here for the PS1 are taken directly from the Sony web page. Sony had claimed for 5 years that the PS1 could display 500,000 texture mapped gouraud shaded or 1.5 million flat shaded polygons per second (22 + 23), which was never true. Contrast this with the fact that Sega in particular, while being well known for hyping their systems as the "next level" or having "High definition graphics", or even their games as being "arcade perfect", has never falsified their system specs on any console. This fact didn't stop the media from trying to undermine their marketing by making claims that Sega was exaggerating their specs. The same media zenes never questioned Sony's announced specs for either of their consoles, even though both of Sony's system's pre-launch specs were clearly massively exaggerated.(24).

In 1995, Developers were happy to achieve 80-90,000 polygons per second in game (27), and gouraud shading those polygons meant only 16-colors or less on the texture maps. Yet, during the same time period game magazines, and developers like Electronic Arts, were publicizing (28) that the Saturn could only do 60,000 polygons per second while the PS1 could do 360,000. The former number was the actual performance of the launch Saturn title Daytona, the later was a theoretical number that the PS1 never achieved. It is, however, these numbers that are emblazoned on the minds of gamers and magazine editors to this day. It is impossible to say how much this false public perception of the performance differences affected the outcome of the 32-bit system wars, but it is undeniable that it was extremely influential.

"Just a 2D system"

Another possible cause for the idea that the Saturn was primarily a 2D game system with moderate 3D capabilities is that there are quite a few 2D games that were made for it, in comparison to the PS1's library. Sony forced developers to make PS1 games exclusively 3D until some years after the Playstation's release. Combine the library differences with a couple of Industry rumors about the President of Sega of Japan deciding the architecture of the Saturn over a golf game with a buddy from Hitachi, and the same President "scrambling" to revamp the Saturn's 3D capabilities immediately after Sony publicized the PS1's specs (mind you, the 500k/1million specs, not the real ones) and you have a theory run wild with speculation that proponents will defend to their deaths. Because of this, and the fact that 3D gaming caught on and completely replaced 2D gaming in this generation, Sony has been credited as the company to bring gaming into 3D.

Pioneering the next generation...

A similar thing happened with a different type of gaming only a couple of years before. Sega released the Sega CD to allow gamers to experience Laserdisc style FMV adventures in the home at typical console prices. Sega even aided Digital Pictures, a company that had experimented with FMV games using VCRs in the 80's, in porting over most of its titles to the Sega CD. The problem most often cited for why this type of game didn't take off is that it was too early. The Sega CD's color palette caused FMV to look murky or grainy. While higher color video was possible later in its life, when Cinepak and Truvideo were written, it was too late in the public and media's mind. With the Sega CD's and FMV style gaming's lack of success behind them, Sega did choose to make the Saturn the ultimate 2D hardware, and to focus heavily on 2D gaming for the Saturn because of it.

Nobody could have predicted that rudimentary 3D games, with graphics that warp, textures that block up when they approach the screen, and color count per texture comparable to the 8-bit NES's color palette, would have completely replaced 2D games with higher color counts, greater animation, and all around better aesthetic value. It wasn't until the Dreamcast and PS2 that 3D games contained a comparable image quality to this generation's 2D games, and 2D games had been the entire video game market since its conception.

Some of the pioneers of polygonal 3D video games in the arcades and on consoles were Atari, with Stun Runner, Hard Drivin' and Race Drivin', Sega with the first polygonal 3D Fighter, Virtua Fighter, Virtua Racing, Virtua Fighter 2, Daytona, Sega Rally, Virtual On, and Virtua Cop in the arcades and at home, and Namco with their Ridge Racer and Tekken series. In addition to those games, LHX Attack Chopper was released by EA on the Genesis in 1992, and StarFox among lesser 3D titles for the SFX chip was released by Nintendo and designed by Argonaught on the SNES in 1993. Sony Imagesoft was the only Sony Videogame department at the time, and they focused primarily on FMV for the Sega CD, and 2D games like Hook.

Public memory and unforgiveness...

On the subject of Sega's efforts with 3D and FMV, still another theory says that the public was holding Sega's moderately successful Sega CD and utterly rejected 32X Genesis add-ons against them when the Saturn released. As pointed out in the Sega CD and 32X section of Console History, the Sega CD sold right around two and a half million units, and the 32X sold less than 200,000 units in the United States, by the time the Saturn was released. There is no documentation to back up that any significant number of people are actually disgruntled about either add-on, or that what few actually bought a unit could influence the 60-80 million user strong Video Game Industry enough to actually cause a console to fail. There is, however, plenty of media generated hype in game magazines and websites against Sega for releasing these add-ons.

Another undocumented fact is that Sony's Playstation had an unofficially admitted 10% of defective units in its first couple of years at least. When faced with mailing in their Playstation for repair, at their own cost since Sony wouldn't cover the defect under the warrantee, many owners simply bought another PS1 to replace their broken model (11). While every manufacturing run is prone to having a small percentage of defects, a simple search of Google Groups will reveal a significant difference in the number of questions and complaints between the Playstation 1's defect rate, and the Sega Saturn's on Usenet. The Playstation 2 has also had a large number of defects including overheating due to dust build up and Disc Read Errors, yet there has been no public outcry, nor one page of legitimate media coverage. Whether or not the public at large, those who fall under the sway of "pop culture", have any memory of past wrongs committed by any company is something which remains to be proven.

Relevant Facts and Background

In 1995, Sega was the darling of the Industry and the company most scrutinized by politicians and the media. By Summer of 1998 Sega's winning streak was officially over. In three short years, Sega had turned over its American office's management, which had been present since 1990 and responsible for the success of the Sega Genesis. Sega of America had been placed under direct management by its Japanese office, and given a new figurehead, Bernie Stolar. Bernie Stolar proceeded to aggravate what few loyal developers Sega had in the West, losing Working Designs over a simple Entertainment Expo booth dispute. He was also responsible for slowing the flow of Japanese RPGs and other localizations to a trickle, and eventually canceling the system over a year before Sega's launch of the Dreamcast in September of 1999. Stolar has also gone on record stating his opinion of the Saturn and its library in a simple but familiar phrase, "it did not have very good games" (1, 5). With a friend like that, the Saturn didn't need any enemies.

Meanwhile, also in 1995 a new company was about to join the fray of game console manufacturers in the United States. This company had worked closely with the former management of Sega of America, with whom they had developed "criteria for what the next optical platform ought to be" (2). When this occurred, prior to 1992, this company had no hardware division for video games and had only one small publishing house responsible for multiplatform ports and FMV titles on the Sega CD like Sewer Shark. When Sega of Japan rejected their plans, they began work on a CD-ROM upgrade for the Super Nintendo (3). Nintendo unceremoniously dumped them at a major Entertainment Expo, announcing that Phillips would instead develop their add-on. Months later this company announced a stand alone system with 3D specs that shocked the Industry, although they were bloated in comparison to the system's actual capabilities (4). This system became the Playstation, and Sony, its manufacturer, dominated the worldwide markets for over a decade. More can be said on how and why this happened, but the reason was not because of the Playstation's absolute superiority in hardware or software.


Popular opinions and media generated "history" have omitted relevant facts in regard to this generation. The Saturn and Playstation were released within a few months of one another, were at the same price as one another by the time both consoles were on the market, and had similar software release numbers and quality. Both systems were designed and finalized by the middle of 1993, and had similar technical problems to overcome in creating a fully 3D system as a consumer level product. When they launched in Japan by Christmas of 1994, they were both considered cutting edge, and both sold relatively well in relation to one another for several years. As is true in all generations, owning one and not the other meant excluding oneself from many of the best titles of the generation, because most of the best titles each generation are console exclusive.

Below is a month to month list of notable Saturn software compared to notable PS1 software.

Click here for information on the notable game lists.

E-mail me with suggestions or comments.

Year 1 Start

// Year 1 // Year 2 // Year 3 // Year 4 // Final //

Saturn Launch
May 1995
Astal (action platform)
Virtua Fighter (3-D fighter)
Clockwork Knight (action platform)
Daytona USA (racing)
Panzer Dragoon (shooter / adventure)
Romance IV: Wall of Fire (strategy)
Shinobi Legions (action platform)

June 1995
Virtua Racing

September 1995
Virtua Fighter Remix (3-D fighter)
Sim City 2000 (simulator)

October 1995
Bug (3-D action platform)
Cyber Speedway (hover racing, 2 Player Split)
Rayman (action/platform)
Wing Arms (arcade flight adventure)
Mansion of Hidden Souls (adventure/mystery)
Ghen War
Theme Park (simulator)

November 1995
Virtua Fighter II (3-D fighter)

December 1995
Dark Legend (Unique 2-D fighter)
Black Fire (helicopter shooter)
Sega Rally Championship (racing)
Virtua Cop (gun game/shooter)

January 1996
Black Dawn (helicopter sim.)
Darius Gaiden (shooter)
Mystaria/Blazing Heroes (rpg)
High Velocity (Sports Car-Mountain racing)
Need for Speed (Unique racing, with cops)

February 1996
Clockwork Knight 2 (action platform)
Sega Rally NetlinksEdition (online!)
Street Fighter Alpha (fighter)

March 1996
Night Warriors DSII (fighter)
Decathlete (decathelon events)
Golden Axe: The Duel (fighting w/Weapons & Magic)

April 1996
X-Men C.O.T.A. (fighter)
Panzer Dragoon II (shooter/adventure)
Guardian Heroes (fighter/adventure (6 player)

Year 1 End

: 37 games

// Year 1 // Year 2 // Year 3 // Year 4 // Final //

May 1996
Wipeout (hover racing)
Iron Storm (WW II strategy)

June 1996
Magic Knight Rayearth (action rpg)
Gun Griffon (mech warrior adventure)
Baku Baku (Puzzle game)
Shining Wisdom (action rpg)

July 1996
Worms (action / strategy)
Herc’s Adventure
The Legend of Oasis (Adv by Ancient)

August 1996
Nights w/ Controller (3-D adventure)
Virtua Fighter Kids (3-D fighter)
Alien Trilogy

September 1996
Bubble Bobble & Rainbow Islands
Galactic Attack (Psuedo 3D shooter)
F-1 Challenge (formula car racing)
Bust A Move 2
Three Dirty Dwarves (3-D action fighter)

October 1996
VR Pro Pinball
Mr. Bones (action platform) (2-disc set)
Fighting Vipers (3-D fighter)

November 1996
Street Fighter Alpha 2 (2-D fighter)
Virtual On (3-D mech fighter)
Tomb Raider (action RPG)
Daytona USA Champ.Edition (arcade racer)
Virtua Cop 2 (3-D gun game)

December 1996
Bug Too (3-D adventure / platform)
Christmas Nights (flying racer demo)
Dark Savior (3/4 view rpg)
Daytona USA CCE Netlinks Edition (online!)
Dragon Force (rpg)
Heir Of Zendor(strategy)
Command and Conquer
Tempest 2000 (Atari Jaguar port)
Williams Arcade’s Greatest Hits
Die Hard Trilogy (driving / gun game / shooter)
Power Slave (1st person shooter)
Virtual On Netlinks Edition (3-D mech fighter)

January 1997
Super Puzzle Fighter II (puzzle) (hard to find)

February 1997

March 1997
Die Hard Arcade (3-D story fighter)
Bust A Move 3

April 1997
Mech Warrior 2 (Enhanced from original PC version)
Fighters Mega Mix (3-D fighter)
Pandemonium (just play NiGHTs)
Norse by Norsewest (puzzle adventure)

Year 2 End

: 46 games (83 total)

// Year 1 // Year 2 // Year 3 // Year 4 // Final //

June 1997
Atari Collection Vol 1

July 1997
Shining The Holy Ark (True 3D rpg)
Albert Odyssey: The Legend of Eldean
Manx TT Superbike (motorcycle racing)

August 1997
Bomberman (Online and more than four player!)
Sky Target (After Burner in 3D)
Sonic JAM (All cartridge Sonic games & one 3D level)
Mortal Kombat Trilogy (2-D fighter)

September 1997
Mega Man 8 (action platform)
Croc (3D Adventure)

October 1997
Duke Nukem 3-D (Fully Polygonal, dynamic lighting)
Last Bronx (3-D fighter)
Marvel SuperHeroes 2-D fighter (ram pack)
Resident Evil (Capcom) (3-D action adventure)
Mega Man X 4 (action platform)

November 1997
Sega Ages(classic Sega games)
Enemy Zero (1st person adventure / mystery)
Sonic R (3-D racer, Full Transparent reflective level!)
Quake (Colored lighting, comparable to N64)

December 1997
Street Fighter Collection (2-D classic collection)

January 1998

February 1998

March 1998
House of the Dead (gun game)

April 1998
Burning Rangers (3-D firefighting adventure)
Panzer Dragoon Saga (True 3D rpg)

Year 3 End

: 24 games (107 total)

// Year 1 // Year 2 // Year 3 // Year 4 // Final //

May 1998

June 1998

July 1998

Shining Force III (strategy / rpg)

Year 4 End

: (107 total)

Final month before Dreamcast

: (107 total)

// Year 1 // Year 2 // Year 3 // Year 4 // Final //

Click here for the Dreamcast compared to PS1&PS2

Year 1 Start

Playstation 1
May 1995

June 1995

Playstation launch
September 1995
Ridge Racer
Destruction Derby
Twisted Metal
Battle Arena Toshinden

October 1995
Jumping Flash
XCOM: UFO Defense
Theme Park (simulator)

November 1995
Ultimate Doom

December 1995
King’s Field
Panzer General

January 1996
Resident Evil

February 1996
Alien Trilogy

March 1996
Descent (Avail on PC first)
The Need for Speed

April 1996

Year 1 End

Playstation 1: 19 games

May 1996

June 1996

July 1996
Namco Museum 1
Syndicate Wars

August 1996
Tekken 2
Crash Bandicoot
Die Hard Trilogy

September 1996
Namco Museum 2
Bust A Move 2
Wipeout XL
Ridge Racer Revolution
Black Dawn
Tokyo Highway Battle
Bubble Bobble

October 1996
VR Pro Pinball
Tempest X3
Tomb Raider
Legacy Of Kain: Blood Omen
Twisted Metal 2
Formula 1
Mortal Kombat Trilogy

November 1996
Disruptor (FPS with psionic powers)
Tecmo’s Deception
Jet Moto
Tobal no. 1

December 1996
Atari Greatest Hits 1
Robotron X

January 1997
Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo
Namco Museum 3
Rally Cross
Carnage Heart

February 1997
Soul Blade
Nanotech Warrior
Command and Conquer

March 1997

April 1997
Rage Racer
Wild Arms

Year 2 End

Playstation 1: 38 games (57 total)

June 1997
Namco Museum 4

July 1997
Ace Combat 2
Herc’s Adventure

August 1997
Final Fantasy VII
Odd World Abe’s Oddysee

September 1997
Cart World Series (Sim gameplay)
Bushido Blade
Castlevania: SOTN
Croc The Legend of Gobbos
Intelligent Cube

October 1997
Cool Boarders 3 ("widespread control")
Armored Core
Colony Wars
Parappa the Rapper
Command and Conquer RA 1
Time Crisis
G Police

November 1997
Crash Bandicoot 2
Midway Arcade Collection 2
Norse by Norsewest (puzzle adventure)

December 1997
Midway Atari Collection 2
Resident Evil 2
Final Fantasy Tactics

January 1998

February 1998
Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit
Tekken 3

March 1998
SaGa Frontier
Dead or Alive
Bloody Roar

April 1998
Gran Turismo
Breath of Fire III
Tactics Ogre

Year 3 End

Playstation 1: 36 games (93 total)

May 1998
Vigilante 8(“Tweaked” TM2)

June 1998
Devil Dice
Grand Theft Auto

July 1998

August 1998
Tenchu Stealth Assassins
Thunder Force V
Parasite Eve
Spyro The Dragon
Treasures of the Deep

September 1998
Metal Gear Solid
The Unholy War
Rival Schools United By Fate

October 1998
Brave Fencer Musashi
Crash Bandicoot Warped

November 1998
Roll Away
Dark Stalkers 3

December 1998
Mr Domino

January 1999
Akuji: The Heartless
Syphon Filter
Silent Hill

March 1999
Roll Cage

April 1999
Lunar The Silver Star Story
Ridge Racer IV

Year 4 End

Playstation 1: 27 games (120 total)

May 1999
Street Fighter Alpha 3
Ape Escape
StarOcean:The Second Story

June 1999

July 1999
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver

August 1999
Suikoden II
Tony Hawk Pro Skater
Final Fantasy VIII
Wipeout 3

Final month before Dreamcast

Playstation 1: 9 games (129 total)

Click here for the rest of the PS1 library.