Friday, 6 October 2017

Once Upon A Time When Sega Were Literally Giving The Saturn Away...

Sounds too good to be true right? Sega, not a company known for savvy business practises, were never actually so insane that they gave away their 32 Bit powerhouse did they?  Well no, I've got you here under slightly false pretences, using a little hyperbole and exaggeration, but there is a kernel of truth in my outrageous claims!



They may have given a few out free in the board room to prospective clients and business partners, to tech magazines and TV shows from whom they were trying to court favourable reviews, and perhaps some as competition prizes in various promotions, but they never gave away entire consoles to ordinary saps like you and I, willy-nilly. They did, however, give away Saturn peripherals and system components, to anyone who asked. Free. For nothing. Nada. Gratis.

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Cast your mind back to late 1998, early 1999. It was a very difficult time for the average Saturn owner. Rather than feeling like loyal Sega fan-boys (or fan-girls), collectors of niche games, or tech-heads with an eye for a great 2D Japanese import...we saw ourselves as losers.


We had backed the wrong horse, and now with games stripped from the shelves, advertising stands dismantled, projects cancelled and hopes dashed, we were ripping up our betting slips in the paddocks. The Saturn had died. Kerb stomped violently by the 3D marvel that was the PlayStation. For a plethora of reasons, the Saturn was gone. The Dreamcast was on the horizon, but this was for many, scant consolation.

You see, the Saturn was a VERY expensive console at one time. The hardware was expensive, the games were expensive, the peripherals were... well you get the point. Many early adopters, especially those who had chosen to import from Japan before the European/US launch, had forked out a small fortune on the system. In fact they were paying comparable amounts of money in the mid 90s, to those being spent on gaming hardware and software today in 2017! Those that invested at the end of the console's life cycle may have been onto a bargain, but those who had invested at the beginning, certainly weren't.


Many people  had shamelessly "changed sides". The PlayStation or N64 was now servicing their gaming needs. There was one in my house, the kids having been embarrassed and unconvinced by the Saturn, long before it's eventual demise. But I was loyal! I Still played my Saturn regularly. Of course I had to move the kids PlayStation out of the way, from under the telly in the living room, which was where it permanently resided, as did my two eldest PS1 obsessed kids.


The console swap, necessitated the changing of leads, a boring chore, that involved reaching awkwardly round the back of the heavy, old, dust laden TV. The available time slots for a bit of Panzer Dragoon, Sega Rally, or Virtua Fighter were few and far between, usually when the lovely Mrs. K would take the boys swimming.

I remember one particular Saturday, detaching the PlayStation, only to stall as I realised the RF lead for my Saturn was missing. This was a disaster! There were no shops where you could just go and buy one... and whilst the internet was fully up and running in 1998, it may as well have not existed as far as I was concerned. I had no access to eBay, no knowledge of Play Asia or any other Japanese importer, and no idea what to do next.


Then, I did what had worked for me several times in the past. I picked up a pen and a piece of paper and wrote a polite letter to an unknown recipient. I, of course, have no idea what the actual wording of the letter was, but I know it will have expressed my love of the Saturn, how sad I was that it had reached the end of it's run and how I would earnestly like to purchase a spare RF lead directly from the company. I will have supplied my name address and telephone number, and offered to pay for said lead as well as postage and packing, without actually sending any funds.


And a few weeks later, a package plopped through the door. There was an equally polite and courteous letter, thanking me for my interest, explaining that since the system had been discontinued, they were no longer in a position to sell me one. They did however, have some spare leads laying about the office, as well as a couple of model one controllers(!) They hoped that this would allow me to carry on enjoying the Saturn, and wished me well for the future, offering to answer "any other queries that I may have." Having bought a later model of Saturn, I was used to the second generation, slimmer model. I was intrigued and curiously delighted by this fatter, 'newer' looking controller, and thought (wrongly) that it was a technical upgrade on the peripheral I was used to...

So there you go! We got to that kernel of truth in the end. One RF lead and two controllers for free, with love, directly from Sega UK. And this, my dear friends, is the actual box itself, unfortunately containing no lead, but still with the original instructions on use and functionality intact.


Coming soon: How I  had to argue with a salesman in Dixons, in order to buy a Saturn!




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