What Has Sega Done?|
Two years after the launch of the Saturn and Playstation, the
console-industry has moved at a steady pace. Within those two years, as
SNES fell to the way-side, we were dazzled by the Panzer Dragoon series,
the home conversions of the Virtua Fighter and Tekken series, and the first
incarnation of Resident Evil.
In 1996, when the n64 arrived, the industry as a whole was in good shape. 32-bit technology was still not considered old and awesome 64-bit titles like Mario64, Pilotwings, Goldeneye and Banjo-Kazooie arrived; while Saturn and Playstation stayed fresh with a larger user-base. Following the two years after the birth of 64-bit technology, the console industry has gone through a number of changes. Nintendo64 has struggled, hampered by the limiting cartridge format; Saturn has prematurely been put to rest, due to poor executive choices by SoA; and Playstation has been crowned king of the industry. In Japan the scene is similar, but with roles reversed with Saturn and N64; with SoJ still holding on strong.
On the horizon, there is a new warrior arriving to try for the Playstation's throne and administer a death-blow to both the Saturn and N64. It is of course, the Dreamcast; blatantly a major improvement on any technology that has, already, graced the industry. Though the N64 was a step-up in graphics and speed, due to Nintendo's poor thinking by not including a dedicated sound card and holding onto the cart-format; it was not as revolutionary as hoped.
The Dreamcast has either included or enhanced all the features lacking in the N64, all-the-while, quadrupling the power of the Playstation and its elder brother, Saturn. If life were a vacuum and no other system would ever be released and all we had to choose between were: Dreamcast, Playstation, N64, and Saturn; it would be easy to judge the victor. Unfortunately for many people, including Sega, life is not a vacuum and newer systems will arrive.
Before I pose my question, I want look back... way back... way, way, way back. Let us look to the early 1990s, when Genesis and Super Nintendo first arrived; jam-packed with 16-bit gaming goodness. It was four years before they were replaced, in some cases, six years (for those of you who waited for the n64). Of course, both systems were inferior, but they were still supported and retained popularity, for two years after the Saturn/Playstation debut. Game-makers, were still creating innovative games like: Sonic 3, Sonic and Knuckles, the Donkey Kong Country Series, attempts at virtual reality with the Virtua Racing series, and the awesome render technology on the SNES.
Now, let's put our time-travel helmets back on and return to the present. Game-makers are pushing the Playstation to its limits. Saturn has gained a second wind in Japan with PDS, Deep Fear, X-men vs. Marvel Superheroes, and Vampire Savior (American gamers licking their chops and rushing to import stores to add the JP converters to their Saturn). Nintendo is even making a strong stand, coming into the new year, with game-developers gearing up to release the 2nd generation of n64 games (not a laughing matter, if one has followed the new titles).
I want to add one more argument to my case, and the basic question I am soon to reveal. Look at Saturn in Japan, with all its new and coming games: over one hundred all together. Why are none of these games coming to American and European shores; at least with an English translation? Why has Sega abandoned Saturn?
Sega of Japan still supports it, Sega of America does not. Why? One only wonders. The fact is, there is a vastly superior piece of hardware arriving, that will put all the other systems to shame. I'm sure many of you are puzzled, as to why I seem almost angry at this; I will explain. Look at the PC-industry, where technology moves so quickly it is difficult to keep up, especially for those who do not want to spend another $2000, for an upgrade, every two years. The console-industry has always been a safe-haven, for gamers. It has promised dazzling graphics, longer life-spans, and a lower price-tag. I hope you see where I am headed... By killing Saturn, gamers will have no choice, but upgrade to the Dreamcast. At this point, its almost foolish to by a brand new system, with the super-console just a year off (at least that's how I see it). This poses problem one: parents forced to dish out another two or three hundred dollars for a new system, because of a debunked console, that every living gamer knows still had life in it. Now, comes problem two: rival companies, not wanting to be deserted by their user-base.
Sony has already said, they will announce details of their new system around the launch of the Dreamcast, with a potential Japanese release in September 1999. That gives Dreamcast only a one year grace period, before it is possibly surpassed by another system; which is much unlike the four years SNES and Genesis had. This, will of course, leave the Nintendo 64 as the least powerful system. Nintendo will not be happy with this and I would expect their new system sometime in 2001, giving developers, more than enough time to max out the 64's capabilities, while giving themselves time to study their rivals.
The vicious circle has already begun. Yes, Dreamcast will floor everybody this Fall and yes, there will be a year of gaming goodness for the system; allowing it to build up support. Yes, I will also be first in line come 1999, no matter what Sony has to offer. Still, the memory remains...
I do not want the console-industry to become like the crazy PC-industry. Longevity has always been one of its selling points. Where else can you buy a 'computer' (depends on how you define that) for $300 and be guaranteed support for at least four or five years? It may have been wise, to keep the Saturn going a little longer than it has, especially in America. The unfortunate system still had a lot of life left in its hardware--- hey, look at what their doing with it in Japan!!
Things may go easier for gamers in the East, since over there, companies still seem interested in developing for a 'dead' system. We in the West, will have much to fear, if prematurely writing-off a system becomes vogue. For it will be the gaming community, not the game companies, that get stuck holding the bill and an out-dated piece of plastic. "What has Sega done?" They have done a lot... oh, yes...
|Written by: Michael K. Bess|