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Eclipse / Saturn 2/ 64-bit/ Sega's Forgotten Adventure:

This text is the fruit of internet and magazine collections but also of a more personal reflection. I would like to point out that almost all the consoles mentioned are in my possession. I have always had a special attraction for this video game period which marks for me a video game crisis much less cited than that of the 80s. My article is therefore open to debate, it is even its primary interest when it allows to advance a dialogue that will shed light on the obscurantism of the events of Sega and not only of the 90s.

This article from  " Romain Villez " is based on rumours, it should not be taken at face value.

Upstream :

Little information circulates on this project, however it has always been the fruit of long reflections. The legend says that it is the presentation of the Playstation which will upset the strategy of Sega , it is true for the Saturn but not only! Indeed, for the company, 3D will not really be  performing (making 2D obsolete) only from about 1996 and therefore the performances will have to arrive at this time. This technology will therefore have to accompany 2D , 2D1/2 and FMV ( Full Motion Video ) and other cinematics ( Silicon Graphics stations) before really establishing itself. The arcade remains the showcase of 3D and it is the Model2 and its sequel which is a priority at the 3D level at Sega Japan .

The Sega Saturn

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Sega 32 X.png

We must therefore go back to fully understand this situation, which we must admit is very complex! Sega communicates in this sense:

“Initiative is the key word! Continue to make the Megadrive last with its extensions ( Mega-CD and 32X capable of preparing the ground for its descendant, the Saturn ! An all-in-one, high-end equivalent, offering increased performance. The 32X is seen as a means of training to develop Saturn games at a low cost without forgetting to retain developers in this environment. The two machines are complementary."

More precisely, the 32X is the answer of the American branch which is not convinced by the Saturn and which is banking on 3D. The 32X is therefore a 3D Megadrive booster while waiting for a powerful console dedicated to this technology. Sega had refused to work with Sillicon Graphics for a new console that Sega US will pass on to Nintendo for its 64 . The company of the blue hedgehog had tried, in vain, to work on a common machine with Sony which will finally leave, on its side, the Playstation .

Possible logo (Sega/Sony alliance)

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Sega of America is jaded but has a huge advantage! They are aware of the strategies being prepared by the competition. Even Atari (which has a very loyal following in the United States )  is no longer a problem. Sega will inject $90 million into the company for the purchase of licenses. The  firm on the verge of bankruptcy is living in a drip thanks to the help of Sega . Extensions and consoles Jaguar–CD , Jag-Duo , VR-Jaguar , Modem , or Jaguar 2  are already condemned, Atari will close its doors in the first quarter of 1996. Thus Sega US imagines the upcoming transfer of titles in preparation on Jaguar (which is based on a 68000 with relatively simple textures for 3D, 2D capabilities and convincing video compression) on its 32X ( Neptune and why not coupled with the Mega-CD ) but also on Saturn like the games “ Black Ice The White Noise ”, “ Legion of the Undead ” and “ Dactyl Joust ”. 3DO , for its part, is unable to penetrate the market due to the excessive price of its machine and a complicated distribution, its mode of  marketing is the reason. Sega has a great relationship with Electronics Arts (of which 3DO founder Trip Hawkins is former CEO ) and doesn't really see this new console as long-term competition. It is even possible to consider future arrangements. On the other hand, Nintendo had really had great fears at that time. 

Sony Imagesoft a great ally of Sega-CD (Mega-CD US)

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Sega 32X, the Mars project

The 3DO lost the war in 1995

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The Mega-CD stopped mid-career in Europe. It is said that this project was named moon because of its bios which represented the moon

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​The Jaguar and its expansion CD

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Black Ice THe White Noise (Jaguar cd), a canceled major title. Spiritual ancestor of GTA III

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The Saturn is considered too weak!  The Americans do not perceive it with a good eye (bad memory of the Mega-CD ). They therefore opt to increase the lifespan of the Megadrive (which still sells very well in the West ) and to breathe new life into the losing Mega-CD .  before counter-attacking with a real new 3D machine from 1996. The point of view is therefore not to receive the Saturn too quickly but to wait for the arrival of qualitative and quantitative games for the launch, something to hold on to in the meantime the new machine in order to always be ahead. The Saturn is therefore considered a palliative while waiting for something better. For the Western world of Sega , it  is therefore an all in one ( Megadrive , Mega-Cd , 32X ) 2.0 with multimedia options. There is still a niche for the Saturn . Nintendo is reaching the limits of its 3D chipsets for its Super Nintendo ( SuperFX 1 & 2 ) in this year 1995 and the company is falling behind on its Ultra 64 ( Nintendo 64 ) project. Big N suffered a bitter failure with its Virtual Boy , so the marketing of the Saturn is possible to compete with the Playstation for lack of anything better, but its room for maneuver remains limited in the West .

As early as 1995 (thus before the American release of the Saturn ), Sega of America worked on a 64-bit cartridge console in order to cope with the arrival of the Nintendo 64 with a new partner, a fledgling company preparing to arrive in the world of PC graphics cards: " NVIDIA ". Sega will put around $7 million in investment capital. This project is based on the experience acquired by the company and on the impressive prospects of its new partner. Sega Japan will impose a quick refusal on this 64-bit project, the Saturn is coming  earlier than expected and it is the latter which is the only priority. Still, the idea of a 64-bit extension is far from shelved, quite the contrary.

The Nintendo 64, a mixed success that owes its survival to the Pokemon craze

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 "You have to imagine SEGA well established on the market  having a certain lead against Nintendo and its future 64 while continuing to compete with the Super Nintendo and its improved cartridges. So imagine, in 1996, Nintendo arriving with its Nintendo 64 and Sega offering its Neptune at $150  (combined Megadrive 32X ) compatible Mega-CD at end of life (approximately $80), compatibility  Master System ( Master-Converter 2 designed by Sega Europe ),  a versatile package for the aftermarket. Don't forget a Saturn with new skin for $200 then just before the release of the competition, line up a 64-bit extension at less than $100 which exceeds the performance of the enemy brother! In short, on paper, the Sega galaxy is firing on all sides.

Sega Neptune

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MasterConverter 2

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In Japan , the Saturn matured in a very Japanese spirit . The Mega-CD did its job (competing with Nec and taking Nintendo by surprise) and enabled Sega to develop a distribution network on this new medium, a strategic alliance between manufacturers and distributors linked to the acquisition of licenses for the new format CDs (multiple licenses). The Gigadrive project has evolved well and the 2D power inside is breathtaking. The Model1 caused a sensation, Sega was named the undisputed leader in 3D, if not the inventor! Gigadrive becomes Jupiter (1992-93), the project is surely the alliance of Gigadrive added  to the performance of the Model1 in cartridge format with an SH1 processor, close to Motorola 's 68,000. A rise in power at the 3D level from Sega Japan is planned but it will remain light.

Little remains of this Jupiter project apart from the cartridge arcade system taken from the Saturn , the STV for " Sega Titan Video System " ( Titan being a moon of Saturn ).  On the other hand, the appearance of the CD-Rom support becomes obvious time for the capacities of storage and the audio that for the multimedia possibilities (numerous on Saturn with the Video-CD , the Karaoke and the Photo-CD ). The Saturn is launched and Jupiter abandoned! The design of the machine, well thought out upstream, makes it possible to absorb the additional cost of the CD medium. 

Early Saturn prototype

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A remnant of the Jupiter project (STV System Cartridge)

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Sega Saturn Model 2 (Sega Japan)

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The Teradrive (combined PC/Megadrive) would be at the origin of the Sega solar system in relation to the success of the company at the world level (1991). The year when the idea of a 32-bit console from the 32 arcade system began

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The Sega System 32

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The Marty 2 will be swept away by the arrival of new 32-bit consoles. Fujitsu withdraws from the market

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Contexte : 

A perfect 2D mastery (left) for a too tight 3D (right) on the Sega Saturn in its original project

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In the arcade everything is fine. Sega switched to Model2 in 1993 and its  news  skills will serve the nascent Saturn . A bone was given to Sega of America with the Mars project ( 32X ). The Japanese vision is comforted by the action of the competitors. Nec turns to 2D and FMV preferring to abandon 3D for the moment, yet the firm had a big lead with its PowerVR1 . The same goes for Bandai , which even makes a dedicated console.  at the FMV, “ La Playdia ”, and is reluctant to use a 3D accelerator card in its new console, the “ Pipp!n ,” (under Apple license). In short, everything is fine for the best of worlds, except  … THAT !

Sony presents the demonstration of the T-Rex and specifies the arrival of the Playstation . The Saturn is literally out of the game in 3D! Sega Japan is going to double the 3D performances physically in a hurry, the cost and the complexity as a bonus calling into question all the future strategy and especially the innovative ideas of Sega of America .

« Should Sega have delayed the Saturn and speeded up their support for the 32X projects and  Neptune while waiting for a redesign of the said Saturn on the Western market, I still ask myself the question but one thing is certain, Sega of Japan would never have accepted this affront! » 

The Saturn is marketed in Japan and is successful, it is ahead of the Playstation for 6 months while Nec with its PC-FX suffers a bitter failure. Then the machine is hastily launched in the US to allow Sega to get ahead of Sony , against the advice of interested Americans . Poorly prepared, insufficient games, average quality linked to Sony 's very aggressive pricing policy, these problems weaken the console in the West from the outset. The European release, several months ahead of the Playstation , is a failure, the results are not good!


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Now back to Japan . While the Model2 reached its limits but still caused a sensation, Sega is preparing a new arcade system, the revolutionary Model3 . Sega is still confident, Bandai  has just been swept away since the Playdia is not selling and the Pipp!n is a disaster. Bandai calls to the rescue Sega , a vein attempt to refourguer its multimedia console offering however interesting elements (integrated modem, upgradable memory and processor allowing graphics acceleration).

​a Playdia, Bandai's other FMV drama

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​The Pipp!n a failure of Bandai and Apple and attempted rapprochement with Sega in 1996

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​The Playstation a success for Sony, a disaster for the  other console manufacturers

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The beginning of the new generation:

In Japan , it starts as usual with the arcade with the Americans of Lockheed Matin ( Real3D ) specialized in military and space simulation. They worked on the Model1 and 2 .  But this project has nothing to do. It will be so innovative that this terminal will remain unbeatable in 3D until 1998 (surpassed by Sega 's Naomi and Dreamcast systems, to say the firm's supremacy at that time). This card will remain the absolute reference!

iI740 too late (1998) for Sega and not efficient enough

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There I see you coming, a console based on this technology would have literally destroyed the competition… yes, but no!

It should be known that the project will give birth with difficulty with a few