It’s almost 20 years since Sega ceased production on the Saturn, the company’s ill-fated rival to the original Sony Playstation.
Two decades on from a failure that ultimately put Sega on a path to ruin, however, one key figure has come up with a pretty good idea as to who is to blame.
Sonic The Hedgehog.
That’s right, Sega’s signature platform game star was the root cause of the Saturn’s demise. Or at least that’s what former Sega America CEO Tom Kalinske reckons.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Polygon, Kalinske explained that the Saturn’s failure came about because of the company’s failure to develop a Sonic game specifically for the console.
When the Saturn launched without a Sonic game, Kalinske explains, fans were left confused with the former CEO claiming that many of his Japanese colleagues failed to consider the demand for another title featuring the blue icon.
“I think they just didn’t understand how powerful Sonic was in the western world. I mean, it’s kind of a strange thing to say, because they could certainly see the sales numbers and the amount of revenue that was produced, and the passion that players and users had towards the Sonic character, and the TV shows, and the comics and, you know, everything else that [came with] the licensing.”
What many probably don’t realise is that that mistake was never rectifying with no Sonic games ever arriving on the Saturn in the four-year window from 1994 to 1998 when the console was still in production.
To Kalinske’s way of thinking, this was a cataclysmic error considering the important role Sonic had played in the success of the company’s previous console, the Mega Drive.
According to the ex-Sega chief, the original Sonic the Hedgehog game and its two sequels on Mega Drive were responsible for around 50 per cent of the machine’s success.
“I think we probably would have been successful at a modest level without Sonic. I mean, it would have been better than it was, you know, before I joined the company, but I don’t think we could have possibly passed Nintendo in share of market. And I don’t think we would have reached about a billion and a half in revenue in the United States and 900 million in Europe without Sonic. So Sonic contributed tremendously to that. And certainly that made me a lot more successful.”
The subsequent failure of the Dreamcast may have ultimately put paid to Sega developing any more consoles, but Sonic and the company behind him lives on.
A new Sonic game, entitled Sonic Mania, is currently in the works and will see the character return to his 2D platformer origins.
Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.