In our shared popular narrative of the console wars, it’s axiomatic that the Sega Genesis peripherals Sega CD and 32X helped rig the charges on the Sega console brand before the bungled American Saturn launch in 1995 destroyed it completely. What if that’s not true? A pretty persuasive piece at revrob.com makes the case that 32X was a sophisticated piece of hardware that had some terrific launch titles, and that the end of Sega hardware was almost exclusively the fault of the disastrous Saturn.
An add-on console, that in the words of SEGA of America CEO Tom Kalinske, “was designed to be an interim piece and to prolong the life of the 16-bit platform,” had a smashingly successful launch with great games and embarked on the mission it was created to fulfill, to keep the Genesis relevant until the real next generation could begin.
…on May 11, 1995, at the first ever E3, Tom Kalinske announced that Saturn was releasing immediately, and through select retailers. This was a problem. Most retailers didn’t get a piece of the action. SEGA didn’t get to build up hype to the launch. They didn’t get enough games ready. Consumers didn’t get to pre-order it. It was a total disaster. And this was right as the 32X was hitting its stride. (The surprise launch tactic turned out to be wasted, as Sony outsold Saturn in 1995, despite the four month head start.) Kalinske would later admit that he never wanted to release the Saturn at all.