Black Belt or Black Eye?


Sega’s 64-bit system is coming. What can we expect? Other than the Genesis, Sega does not have any real success stories with hardware. Now that the Saturn looks to be a non-player in the current system wars, Sega really needs a good hardware platform. To say that their next system will make or break Sega’s hardware future is probably an accurate statement. They need to be very cautious in releasing the Dural Belt or whatever they want to call it.

There are many reasons why the Saturn fell to a distant third behind the Playstation and N64. At least three are evident. First, Sega’s system is clearly graphically inferior to the Playstation and Nintendo 64. One need only to compare at a Saturn developed game vs. a Playstation developed game of the same name to attest this fact. Second, Sony one-upped Sega in almost every move they made in terms of marketing and developer support. Finally, the Saturn was too difficult to program for on the developer’s perspective.

Sega’s new system looks to solve at least one of these problems. Only one? Yes. Because Sega is teaming with Microsoft to make a developer’s operating system, their 64-bit console will most likely be easier to program for than the Saturn. But as for matching the Playstation 2 or out-maneuvering Sony’s strategies, Sega has not shown they can accomplish either of these feats.

Sega’s first mistake was to let their hardware specs for the 64-bit system get revealed. Even if the rumored specs are not final, Sony at least knows what to shoot for and what to beat. Sony’s system is still so confidential, no one outside their R&D; knows what to expect for their next system. Round one for Sony. And if Sony gets their way, their new system will again be more powerful than Sega’s 64-bit console.

Sega needs to be patient in their release of their next system. They need to make sure their new system can compete technologically with Sony and any system that will be brought out within two years of their console release date. Otherwise the worse case scenario make look like this:

Sega releases their 64-bit console in late 1998. Technically, it’s an awesome system, rivaling arcade boards. It sells pretty well, but because people are still buying N64’s and Playstations, it doesn’t break out like gangbusters. A few months to a year later, Sony, realizing the Playstation has seen its best days behind, brings out a noticeably superior Playstation 2–superior not only to the Playstation but also to Sega’s new console. Sony, as they did with the Playstation, uses tactics to lure the best developers to exclusively make games for the Playstation 2 and take potential Sega games away. Meanwhile, word trickles to the press about a “revolutionary new console” from Nintendo and gamers who don’t adopt Sony’s system remain happy with the N64, knowing they’ll have something even more powerful in a year or two. Finally, Sega closes their hardware division and becomes a Namco-like company–awesome arcade games with home ports to various systems (though not their own). Bye-bye Sega. You had your shot.

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