Sega had enjoyed huge success with it’s previous console the Megadrive, but had tested the patience of its loyal fanbase to the limit with expensive add on consoles in the form of the Mega CD and the 32X, the latter developed by Sega US Division, in an attempt to prolong the console’s life, while Sega Japan worked on the Saturn.
Initially the console was developed to cater for mainly 2D games, but with the 3DO already on the market, and the Playstation arriving imminently, 3D capability was added at the last minute to the Saturn’s hardware, this new addition, as well as the already complicated architecture in the machine, meant the machine now had eight processors, and it would prove very challenging, especially for third parties to get satisfactory software running on it initially.
In Europe, which was Sega’s strongest market, it was chosen to launch the machine in July 1995, to try and steal a lead on Sony, who were due to launch the Playstation in September, this led to two big problems, firstly, people were too busy saving for summer holidays to spend £400 on a new console, and those that could buy it found themselves with a rather uninspiring looking machine, with just three software titles at launch, Virtua Fighter, a great fighting game, Clockwork Knight, a strange 2D platformer, and Daytona racing, which was a barely finished racer, with terrible pop up.
The Japanese launch eight months earlier in November 1994 fared better, and the machine initially sold well, but the surprise launch in the US of May 1995 had not gone to plan, it was four months earlier than scheduled, and despite some strong software releases in the next couple of years, such as the Panzer Dragoon series, AM2 conversions from the arcade like Sega Rally, Virtua Cop, and Virtua Fighter 2, the lack of third party support, and the arrival of the Nintendo 64 in 1996 meant the console failed to even sell ten million units, and was finally discontinued in 1998.
One game of note that appeared on the Saturn first was Tomb Raider, which after the second game was tied exclusively to the Playstation was seen for many years to be a Sony franchise despite its origins.