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Bernie Stolar interview: Dreamcast, Sega today, prank on Sony

Guy Legend

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Fantastic interview.

http://bitmob.com/index.php/mobfeed/qaa-former-sega-president-on-dreamcasts-failure-pranks-against-sony-his-ouster.html

Failure, Pranks Against Sony, His Ouster...

By Dan Hsu
Friday, 11 September 2009
Tags: Sega , dreamcast , Crazy Taxi

Dreamcastiversary

Sometimes, it can take a good decade to get a decent interview.

It's OK -- we're patient people.

BernardStolarIn 1999, Bernie Stolar's Japanese bosses let him go as President and COO of Sega of America -- right before the launch of a system he helped create.

Now, 10 years later, he talks to Bitmob about his ouster, how Sega dropped the ball on the Dreamcast after he left, EA's attempted bullying of Visual Concepts, what he thinks about today's Sega (it's not good), and a huge corporate prank he pulled on Sony -- one of the greatest the industry's ever seen.

Bitmob: If we could send you back in time, with the benefit of hindsight, what would you do to make the Dreamcast survive and thrive?

Bernie Stolar: It’s called money. And a commitment from the company.

When [former Sega President Hayao] Nakayama was pushed out of the company, the company really changed.

Bitmob: How so?

BS: The heart and soul of Sega came from him, and he really believed that software drove hardware -- which is true. He also believed that if you’re going to be a major competitor in the gaming world, you needed to own the hardware platform.

Bitmob: So what did Sega do wrong after you guys left?

BS: When Nakayama was pushed out and when I was pushed out, I think what took place was, Mr. [Isao] Okawa, who then became the chairman of the company -- he was an investment banker from CSK [Holdings Corporation].... I don’t believe he was committed to the hardware. He just believed it should be a software company.

Dreamcast

Bitmob: And that was ultimately the Dreamcast’s downfall....

BS: Yeah, the company didn’t put the money into it. The company basically abandoned the system.

At that time, it was the largest launch in the history of the industry! The consumer judged that it was the right hardware and the right software. Look at the software that was on that system. Look at the sporting titles that Visual Concepts built for the system -- after I bought Visual Concepts for Sega...those titles outsold EA’s titles. That tells you something about the software and the look, feel of the platform.

I fought to have a modem on the platform. Maybe it was early -- who knows. But I fought for a modem in the beginning because I wanted to have massively multiplayer online games on that system.

NFL_2K_DC

Bitmob: Could you see the Dreamcast struggles coming before you left Sega?

BS: No. When I was pushed out, I assumed that the company would continue [supporting the Dreamcast]. Mr. Okawa was very close friends with [Masayoshi] Son-san, who was the chairman of [tech investment firm] Softbank. They indicated to Mr. Okawa that if we have a modem put into the system -- we spend the extra money to put the modem in -- that we should just meld the hardware online and not go through retail...that we should just abandon retail.

So do I believe there could’ve been a turning point where they would abandon this? The answer is yes.

To this day, you still can’t abandon retail. Retail may have shrunk -- there may not be as many storefronts -- but retail’s the whole point. Look at what Best Buy’s doing. Look at what Wal-Mart’s doing. Look at what GameStop’s doing.

Bitmob: Does it surprise you that Dreamcast’s online capabilities didn’t catch on better at the time?

BS: It doesn’t surprise me, because there wasn’t software tied into it. They were not building and going after software to start that.

I mean, I was looking for developers and content providers to start doing that. Sega did not do that after I left. They just abandoned it.

Genesis-32X-Sega-CD

Bitmob: A lot of gamers swore off Sega hardware after the days of the Sega CD, the 32X, and to a lesser extent, a poorly supported Saturn. Do you think this backlash affected the Dreamcast?

BS: I don’t think there was a backlash at all. The Dreamcast was very well accepted. The consumer was thrilled that Sega was back with a great hardware system.

Bitmob: What are the biggest cultural differences between working at Sega and working at Sony? [Ed. note: Before taking over Sega of America, Stolar was the excutive vice president at Sony Computer Entertainment America.]

BS: [Long pause] That’s a question I’d rather not answer.

Bitmob: Were there a lot of differences in hardware-launch philosophies between Sega and Sony?

BS: I think both companies are very market-driven. Both their philosophies were, “Go big or go home.”

Sega_logo_with_Sonic

Bitmob: What do you think about where Sega is now, being a third-party publisher?

BS: I think they’re going through some really difficult times. I don’t believe they have the content, developers, and producers there that they had at one time. I don’t know their financial position, but they’re probably not spending the type of money they should be spending. You tell me the last time you saw a great Sonic game.

Bitmob: How do you see Sony?

BS: I’ll tell you the other difference between --

I’ll answer the question of the differences between Sony and Sega. Sony is a very corporate structure. It’s a real corporate company. Sega was really run by entrepreneurs. It was more of an entrepreneurial company. That’s the difference.

Bitmob: So how do you see Sony now? Do you still feel that way?

BS: It’s a very corporate culture. The team that’s there right now -- I hired a number of those individuals -- they’re terrific people. They’re really trying to make this work.

Bitmob: The big thing I think people would like to hear in your own words is, why were you let go from Sega right before Dreamcast’s launch? Why right then?

BS: As I said before, Mr. Okawa...he wanted to release this strictly on the Internet and I refused! He and I just went through major differences.

One of the problems also -- I had just bought Visual Concepts for $10 million. When we were signing up third-party publishers, Larry Probst came to me, and at the time, he was CEO of EA -- and also a good friend of mine.

Larry said, “Look, we’ll come on your platform, but this is the royalty rate we want to pay.” I asked what is it. He said, “We want to be the only sports franchise on Dreamcast.”

EA_Sports_logo

I said, “I’ll agree to that, but you’ll be the only third-party publisher that will have sports. But you’re going to have to compete with us because I just bought Visual Concepts.” And he said, “No, no, no, no...then you should not do the deal with Visual Concepts.”

I said, “No it’s too late.” [Laughs] “We’ve already signed the documentation. We’ve already taken the steps.” So because of that, he did not go onto the platform.

Bitmob: We once heard a story about you bringing some Sega branding to a Sony-sponsored golf event -- a Sonic mascot as well -- and this being one of the last straws in your relationship with Sega Japan. Is this true?

BS: Let me just say this. That had nothing to do with my ouster at Sega. That event took place in 1997, I believe. I was ousted in 1999.

But it is true that Sony was holding its first golf tournament -- I believe in Napa [California]...I forget which golf course. I had someone go to the golf pro, paid him money to take out all the Sony golf balls and put in Sega golf balls instead.

And I had somebody dressed up as Sonic driving around the course, and skywriters writing “Dreamcast is coming” up in the air. That part is true, yes.

[Current Sony Computer Entertainment President and Group CEO] Kaz Hirai and [current SCE Europe President and CEO] Andrew House both called me and said, “You’re a great friend and a great competitor -- and that was pretty damn funny.”

But that had nothing to do with my ouster.

Bitmob: Do you have an all-time favorite Dreamcast game?

BS: Probably Crazy Taxi.

Crazy Taxi

Bitmob: Is there anything else you’d like to add for our Dreamcast 10th anniversary celebration?

BS: Let me just say this: It was a great team of people who were there at the time. When I got to Sega, there were 300 some odd people, and I took the staff down to 91 people, and we built it.

I brought in people like [former Sega of America President] Peter Moore, who came from Reebok and is a great brand builder. [Former Sega Senior VP] Chris Gilbert came out of a hardware company and never sold games before, but he really understood retail.

And Sega’s always had some of the best development talent around. If you look at [Yuji] Naka, Yu Suzuki...those were tremendous talents!

And don’t forget, it’s all about software -- nothing else.
 

Mama Robotnik

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Bitmob: What do you think about where Sega is now, being a third-party publisher?

BS: I think they’re going through some really difficult times. I don’t believe they have the content, developers, and producers there that they had at one time. I don’t know their financial position, but they’re probably not spending the type of money they should be spending. You tell me the last time you saw a great Sonic game.
Its nice to hear someone in the industry, especially one with a background at Sega, voice this.
 

Zombie James

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BS: As I said before, Mr. Okawa...he wanted to release this strictly on the Internet and I refused! He and I just went through major differences.

One of the problems also -- I had just bought Visual Concepts for $10 million. When we were signing up third-party publishers, Larry Probst came to me, and at the time, he was CEO of EA -- and also a good friend of mine.

Larry said, “Look, we’ll come on your platform, but this is the royalty rate we want to pay.” I asked what is it. He said, “We want to be the only sports franchise on Dreamcast.”

I said, “I’ll agree to that, but you’ll be the only third-party publisher that will have sports. But you’re going to have to compete with us because I just bought Visual Concepts.” And he said, “No, no, no, no...then you should not do the deal with Visual Concepts.”

I said, “No it’s too late.” [Laughs] “We’ve already signed the documentation. We’ve already taken the steps.” So because of that, he did not go onto the platform.
Reading this reminds of how much of a dick move that was on EA's part. Ugh.
 
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Crazy Taxi for the win!

EDIT: The EA stuff isn't surprising, Microsoft got rid of Links golf and other sports titles in order to get EA to add Xbox Live play to it's sports titles. Remember when Tiger Woods had online play on PS2 but not on the Xbox? Peter Moore wouldn't do that now, he likes competition. Isn't that right, Peter?
 

RurouniZel

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Bernie Stolar: It’s called money. And a commitment from the company.

When [former Sega President Hayao] Nakayama was pushed out of the company, the company really changed.

Bitmob: How so?

BS: The heart and soul of Sega came from him, and he really believed that software drove hardware -- which is true. He also believed that if you’re going to be a major competitor in the gaming world, you needed to own the hardware platform.

Bitmob: So what did Sega do wrong after you guys left?

BS: When Nakayama was pushed out and when I was pushed out, I think what took place was, Mr. [Isao] Okawa, who then became the chairman of the company -- he was an investment banker from CSK [Holdings Corporation].... I don’t believe he was committed to the hardware. He just believed it should be a software company.
What is Hayao Nakayama up to these days anyhoo?
 

Shig

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You'll excuse me if I don't quite swallow the insistences of the man that made the Saturn an absolute trainwreck in the US that he had it all figured out on how to make the DC into some phenomenal success.

That shit he pulled at the Sony golf event is pretty amazing, though. Talk about chutzpah.
 
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So essentially the, then, new SEGA head honchos didn't believe in the Dreamcast because they wanted to be software only?
 

vireland

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In denial.

Bitmob: A lot of gamers swore off Sega hardware after the days of the Sega CD, the 32X, and to a lesser extent, a poorly supported Saturn. Do you think this backlash affected the Dreamcast?

BS: I don’t think there was a backlash at all. The Dreamcast was very well accepted. The consumer was thrilled that Sega was back with a great hardware system.
Well, given that Bernie ACTIVELY WORKED TO KILL the Saturn 12-24 months prematurely to pave the way for the not-ready Dreamcast, what is he going to say? Whether he wants to own up to it or not, killing Saturn prematurely hurt him at retail and with the core base, both of which rightly felt abandoned. This, probably more than any other thing, messed up SEGA's market here, coming on the heels of the 32X debacle.

Also, at Sony he was the big fat zero that decreed no RPGs be approved on Playstation in the USA. Boy, that was smart, right? Thank god he went to SEGA, paving the way for a US Playstation RPG explosion that started practically the week he was out the door. And, of course, SEGA missed that initial surge. Oops. Thanks, Bernie.

Also, he and his troll* sidekick chick (whose name escapes me at the moment), DECIMATED the third-party division at SEGA, piece by piece. She was too retarded to grasp the software tracking system SEGA developed internally, so she just implemented a much more inefficient method that she could wrap her 92 IQ* around. Inefficiences multipled. Some really good people were demoralized, canned, or just left. Relationships with the software companies that he pretends to prize quickly deteriorated as a result, and surprise - support dwindled.

*mild hyperbole**

**oxymoron
 
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If that's even remotely a fair assessment of what went down, my understanding on how Sega went down has been dealt a big blow. Really interesting shit.
 
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Bitmob: A lot of gamers swore off Sega hardware after the days of the Sega CD, the 32X, and to a lesser extent, a poorly supported Saturn. Do you think this backlash affected the Dreamcast?

BS: I don’t think there was a backlash at all. The Dreamcast was very well accepted. The consumer was thrilled that Sega was back with a great hardware system.
Um... yeah. Is he living in an alternate reality or just not telling the truth? I'll guess the latter. Maybe he just4 doesn't want to admit his role in Sega's failure...

It's not the lead role or anything, lots of people and many decisions were involved, and it started well before he arrived at Sega in 1995, with the US v. Japan internal fighting within the company. Still, he definitely had a part. I'd particularly mention when he said "Saturn is not out future" in May 1996. Saying something like that two years and four months before your next console was going to come out is unbelievably stupid, no matter how much you like the current one.

But no, he admits nothing here.

I mean, I don't dislike him as much as many Sega fans do, he did plenty of things well... but he made some bad decisions as well,

Shig said:
You'll excuse me if I don't quite swallow the insistences of the man that made the Saturn an absolute trainwreck in the US that he had it all figured out on how to make the DC into some phenomenal success.

That shit he pulled at the Sony golf event is pretty amazing, though. Talk about chutzpah.
But didn't yout hear, there wasn't a backlash against Sega at all, the Dreamcast didn't suffer because of Sega's legacy! :lol

Shig said:
You'll excuse me if I don't quite swallow the insistences of the man that made the Saturn an absolute trainwreck in the US that he had it all figured out on how to make the DC into some phenomenal success.

That shit he pulled at the Sony golf event is pretty amazing, though. Talk about chutzpah.
Saturn was a trainwreck before he ever arrived at Sega. He really wasn't responsible for that.

He didn't make things BETTER, but I don't know if he made things worse... the system was already doomed when he arrived thanks to all of those mistakes Sega had previously made, really. I mean, he wasn't there at the Saturn's launch, or during its early months when the Saturn sold poorly while PSX sold well... he was in charge of SCEA then. He had nothing to do with the 32X's existence, the Saturn's expensive, overly complex, mashed-together hardware, the launch price, the early launch, etc. Sega of Japan was primarily responsible for those things, with Sega of America being responsible for some as well.

Stolar's task was to try to make the system sell in the US despite its poor start... but he couldn't, Sony was too strong. Was this his fault? I'm not sure, probably partially but not entirely. So he got tired of it early and gave up on the system midlife. And I already said how that was a significant mistake, it confirmed once again everything people had been saying about Sega liking to kill its systems off too early. If he hadn't done such a good job at driving away almost all of Sega's few remaining hardcore fans, there wouldn't have been quite a huge hurdle for the Dreamcast to have to leap... (the few who hadn't left after the messes that were the 32X and the early Saturn days)

But even so, Sega's core problem was that they were losing money on Saturn and Dreamcast. Would these small changes have been enough to turn that around and keep them as a hardware manufacturer for longer? That's the key question that leads me to let Stolar off a bit... I don't think his decisions were actually crucial there. He probably did make things a bit worse, but could anyone have actually pulled Sega out of the hole they were in by the end of 1995, with all of that internal fighting doing major damage?

I mean, one of the most important mistakes Sega made in that period was killing off the Genesis in late 1995, and that was a Sega of Japan decision entirely.

Really, I think that more than anything Sega fans hate him for the no-RPGs policy, which he had also done at SCEA in his time there. The difference is, from 1997 on the PSX began to get huge numbers of RPGs, while Saturn in the US never did. So they blame him... but while it was a bad policy, he probably was right that RPGs didn't sell all that well in the US, before FFVII at least. Americans did prefer other genres more. Still, the hardcore liked them, and angering your hardcore fans that much might not be a good idea... but still, it is true that back then RPGs didn't sell all that well.

Also, ultimately I find it hard to imagine how at the end of 1995 Sega could have gotten out of the mess it had gotten itself in. The Saturn wasn't the right platform, but that was a problem for years earlier... they had it now, dropping it too soon would be an even worse idea, as they would see when they tried it. If you're a PR person, you have to stick with your system and say it's awesome, even when you'd rather get rid of it... he didn't do that, and we saw the results.

But anyway, in the US up until the mid '90s, JRPGs were not a huge sales force. They were frequently passed over, and the majority of the fanbase didn't care much about that. Of course just not knowing they existed was part of that, but particularly on the Genesis, the fanbase just weren't RPG fans, they were sports and action game fans. Sega policy stayed the same on the Saturn, while their few remaining fans gained more interest in RPGs, particularly after FFVII made the genre really popular in the US. Sega policy on them, however, did not change, they (and Stolar in particular) were still opposed. Would things have been different had they pushed them more? Maybe, yeah, if they'd put the PR into it... but would it have been enough to make up for the investment? Was there anything on Saturn that could have fought FFVII? I mean, there wasn't in Japan, in Japan FFVII was one of the key moments in the PSX finally getting ahead of Saturn there... still, of course they should have tried. And that even AFTER FFVII Stolar continued to block RPGs and not make any definitely wasn't exaclty helping (because now he'd given up on the system and wanted to kill it, years before the next system would be ready).

.. But really, to prove that the "no RPGs" thing actually did hurt Saturn in the US, you'd have to show that it actually impacted sales. It seems to me that that was mostly complaining from people who already had the system... if Sega had pushed RPGs more, would it have actually sold many more systems? I doubt that any of the Saturn RPGs they could have ported would have become a FFVII, that's quite unlikely... I mean, yes, Saturn was hurt by all the negative press from its 'fans'. But how much did the lack of RPGs hurt Saturn in the key hardware base building time of its first year or so? Not much, I think, if at all. Playstation didn't have any of them either in its first year and a half, partially thanks to Stolar and partially because there weren't many early on because of how long RPGs take to develop. Playstation won for other reasons entirely unrelated to the RPG genre. Having more RPGs later on would have done nothing to get the Saturn to sell much better, I think. The main thing it would have done would be create a bit more goodwill with those few remaining Sega fans... which is something the company should have cared about. You can't anger your fans again and again and again without there being an impact! Sega went way too far in making its fans mad and suffered rightly for it. But I think that all the aforementioned reasons, like the price, early launch, poor graphics in comparison to Playstation, thin release lineup, and higher devlopment fees were much more important factors in explaining that than a lack of RPGs. Oh, and the 32X fiasco of course.

All in all, given how strong the Playstation was, Saturn was likely never going to do well in the US as it was, but at least they could have tried. Sega didn't. Instead they started with bad ideas (the hardware itself, the early launch, the price), continued with bad ideas (no RPGs, the hardware, the smaller install base), and finished with bad ideas (killing it early). It was a mess from beginning to end, and Stolar was responsible for the middle and latter phases of that, on the US side.

... Or listen to someone who would know. :)

vireland said:
In denial.



Well, given that Bernie ACTIVELY WORKED TO KILL the Saturn 12-24 months prematurely to pave the way for the not-ready Dreamcast, what is he going to say? Whether he wants to own up to it or not, killing Saturn prematurely hurt him at retail and with the core base, both of which rightly felt abandoned. This, probably more than any other thing, messed up SEGA's market here, coming on the heels of the 32X debacle.

Also, at Sony he was the big fat zero that decreed no RPGs on Playstation. Boy, that was smart, right? Thank god he went to SEGA, paving the way for an RPG explosion that started practically the week he was out the door. And, of course, SEGA missed that initial surge. Oops. Thanks, Bernie.

Also, he and his troll sidekick chick (whose name escapes me at the moment), DECIMATED the third-party division at SEGA, piece by piece. Some really good people were demoralized, canned, or just left.
 

vireland

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A Black Falcon said:
... On that note, did you know that, in the US, Quest 64 outsold all Saturn RPGs combined?
Quest64 was about 500k, right? I think your statement has to be wrong. I know that we sold about 250,000 units of the 4 Saturn RPGs we did, and that would mean we sold HALF of all RPGs on Saturn? I don't think so.
 
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Great post Black Falcon. Killing the Saturn was by far the dumbest thing they did. I mean yeah you may be a very distant place from your competitors but at least have your system survive. A great comparison is the current PSP. (NOTE: I'm talking up until now) The system usually struggles to stay above 100,000 in the NPD while having a game in the top 10. Not only that but it just seems to embarrassing when comparing it to its competitor, the Nintendo DS.

However at least the system is still alive. At least there is a steady stream of games still being released for it. Yes most are merely niche games and multiplats but at least they're SOMETHING. The only thing worse than having a console being labeled as "weird" or "out of the ordinary" to have is having it seem like a zombie. Because if you have that "other" console at least you know your still going to have games for it. IMO it would have been wise if SEGA would have just focused on trying to form a cult market for the Saturn and mostly focus on getting a steady release of games while trying to recoup losses as much as possible
 

IrishNinja

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yeah, Stolar rightfully gets hate for his anti-RPG trip...niche or not, i didnt understand the policy. was it about localization costs or what? Yamanuchi seemed to have just as much venom for them, but they still leaked through.

bit OT, but wasnt Stolar also part of the early "no 2D games on PSX" thing as well? ive always had mixed feelings about that...the birthing pains of Toshiden and the like did suck, but looking back, i wonder if (assuming im recalling this right) getting past this hurdle/pushing the effort was a worthy venture.
i mean, we still got SotN.

ps victor ireland is the fucking man.
 

AZ Greg

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As a young kid who was a Saturn only owner (and didn't have the disposable income to own anything else), I have nothing but bad memories involving Bernie Stolar. I remember reading nothing but depressing pieces of news almost every month up until the Saturn's death. And he seemed to be at the head of all the bad news. After discovering JRPGs through WD's Alberty Odyssey and Shining Wisdom, it sucked hearing about how Bernie had soured the relationship with WD and allowed them to go to the Playstation. On the bright side, his moves led me to grab a Playstation, which was an awesome investment.
 

TheSeks

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vireland said:
Quest64 was about 500k, right? I think your statement has to be wrong. I know that we sold about 250,000 units of the 4 Saturn RPGs we did, and that would mean we sold HALF of all RPGs on Saturn? I don't think so.
Yeah, I'll remove that. I can't remember exactly where I hard that, and it's obviously wrong. Looking around the only "source" I can find at the moment is an old sales thread here, which yeah, obviously isn't exactly accurate, unsurprisingly. I don't know if that's the only thing I saw or if there was something else... there must have been something more, but oh well, it doesn't really matter much, it was most likely wrong. The general point was about how before FFVII JRPGs were a much less important genre in the US than they became afterwards, and about how that earlier period is what got Bernie Stolar to believe that Americans didn't like RPGs, but that he was unable to change his position on them as American gamers' tastes did. And hence the problem with the core base.

I mean, how many Genesis fans complained about the RPGs we missed THAT generation? Very, very few... yet there were JRPGs that weren't released here, outside of the action-RPGs and Phantasy Star titles. It's just that gamers weren't as interested in the genre then. Working Designs had its fans, sure, but outside of that most Genesis fans didn't care much... but that wasn't true several years later, while Sega's policies hadn't changed or got even worse.

But anyway, it'd be much more useful to compare them relative to the number of systems out there, not just absolute numbers... 21 million N64s sold in the US, versus like 2 million or something Saturns (I don't know if we know the exact number... but if we do I forget). Of course N64 game sales are going to be higher. The better question is which one sold more games compared to the number of systems, I think, if you're looking at how well JRPGs sold then. Not that we have any of the numbers to be able to make that comparison, we don't, so it's all just theoretical really. :)

Quest 64 obviously sold far better than any Saturn RPG, but the system sold far better, it was the first true RPG on the N64 in the US, and there was demand as a result. Saturn software sales were just poor across the board thanks to how badly the system sold here... though obviously, as I said, had Stolar supported them it'd probably have helped, for sure. But the fact that JRPGs weren't huge in the US before FFVII is true, really... which is where Stolar got the idea from in the first place.
 

androvsky

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A Black Falcon said:
... On that note, did you know that, in the US, Quest 64 outsold all Saturn RPGs combined? Of course it's not a fair comparison given that the N64 sold ten times more systems than the Saturn did here, but it does say something about how poorly the RPGs that were released here sold. Would things have been different had they pushed them more? Maybe, yeah, if they'd put the PR into it... but would it have been enough to make up for the investment? Was there anything on Saturn that could have fought FFVII? I mean, there wasn't in Japan, in Japan FFVII was one of the key moments in the PSX finally getting ahead of Saturn there... still, of course they should have tried. And that even AFTER FFVII Stolar continued to block RPGs and not make any definitely wasn't exaclty helping (because now he'd given up on the system and wanted to kill it, years before the next system would be ready).
Yeah, they should have tried, and they should have tried with Sakura Taisen. No, even I don't think it would've beaten FFVII, the FF series was already huge. But it certainly would've drawn more attention to the Saturn, especially in the early days of the west's budding fascination with anime.
 

Cobra84

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Kittonwy said:
EA's biggest cashcow was being threatened, what would you have Probst do?
Actually make a quality product? Though that might be asking too much of 3rd rate developer like Tiburon.
 

Fuzzy

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vireland said:
Quest64 was about 500k, right? I think your statement has to be wrong. I know that we sold about 250,000 units of the 4 Saturn RPGs we did, and that would mean we sold HALF of all RPGs on Saturn? I don't think so.
Is it possible that NPD severely under tracked those games? BTW NPD numbers put Quest64 a lot lower than 500K.
 
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Fuzzy said:
Is it possible that NPD severely under tracked those games? BTW NPD numbers put Quest64 a lot lower than 500K.
Yeah, those old NPD numbers put Quest 64 at 300 something thousand in the US, and all Saturn RPGs all combined at under 300,000, Working Designs being like a third of that... but if the four Working Designs ones alone actually sold 250,000, obviously those numbers are way off or were wrong from the start. Hmm, odd...

androvsky said:
Yeah, they should have tried, and they should have tried with Sakura Taisen. No, even I don't think it would've beaten FFVII, the FF series was already huge. But it certainly would've drawn more attention to the Saturn, especially in the early days of the west's budding fascination with anime.
I just rewrote that paragraph to remove the beginning part... here is it now. The point's the same though.

A Black Falcon said:
.. But really, to prove that the "no RPGs" thing actually did hurt Saturn in the US, you'd have to show that it actually impacted sales. It seems to me that that was mostly complaining from people who already had the system... if Sega had pushed RPGs more, would it have actually sold many more systems? I doubt that any of the Saturn RPGs they could have ported would have become a FFVII, that's quite unlikely... I mean, yes, Saturn was hurt by all the negative press from its 'fans'. But how much did the lack of RPGs hurt Saturn in the key hardware base building time of its first year or so? Not much, I think, if at all. Playstation didn't have any of them either in its first year and a half, partially thanks to Stolar and partially because there weren't many early on because of how long RPGs take to develop. Playstation won for other reasons entirely unrelated to the RPG genre. Having more RPGs later on would have done nothing to get the Saturn to sell much better, I think. The main thing it would have done would be create a bit more goodwill with those few remaining Sega fans... which is something the company should have cared about. You can't anger your fans again and again and again without there being an impact! Sega went way too far in making its fans mad and suffered rightly for it. But I think that all the aforementioned reasons, like the price, early launch, poor graphics in comparison to Playstation, thin release lineup, and higher devlopment fees were much more important factors in explaining that than a lack of RPGs. Oh, and the 32X fiasco of course.
Perhaps you're right and releasing Sakura Taisen would have attracted a bit of interest, but I find it hard to imagine it making a huge difference... though when you're talking about trying to minimize losses, and given that Sega lost hundreds of millions of dollars on the Saturn they sure should have been, anything that could have reduced those losses really should have been on the table, including keeping Saturn alive even though it was doomed. Keep it around until you're within six months of the Dreamcast launch if you're sane! Or to the end of 1998 at least, with real effort. That "Saturn is not our future" speech should have been in late 1998, not May 1997, pretty much. I mean, obviously it was clear years earlier that Saturn wasn't working, but admitting that hurts you more than continuing to push what you have until something else it ready, I think. Doesn't Sega's experience in the mid '90s prove that? If you only have one system left, dropping that too isn't a good idea. Otherwise the long downtime will just hurt you so much that it'll be incredibly hard to recover... as Sega found out, when their first problem with the DC was convincing people that Sega actually meant it this time. And they succeeded in regaining that trust, at least for hardcore gamers, as the continuing love for the Dreamcast proves.

Of course though, ironically, they didn't really mean it, and ditched DC even faster than they had Saturn. At least that time they had a better excuse though, the losses had gotten so high that they couldn't really afford to keep making systems anymore without risking bankruptcy or something.

But anyway, on the RPG thing, I guess i'm just not completely convinced that it was a huge factor. Could Sakura Taisen have been big in the US, or even a mid-level success here? Something that Japanese? I don't know... but yeah, they should have tried, with some actual effort behind it too. It could have paid off, who knows?

Similarly, it really was true that Americans wanted 3d games, not 2d. Thus both Sony and Sega had in the US anti-2d policies. That's what I meant about the hardware being one of the main problems, obviously one of the Saturn's biggest issues was its poor 3d performance in comparison to Playstation. But I've discussed that whole "Sega was really dumb from 1994 on" thing before, so I won't get into that... more to the point here is the question of what to do with those 2d games. Should you release them even though they aren't popular anymore?

I mean, that's what people here would want them to have done, because a lot of those 2d games were some of the better, and better-looking to us now, games on the system. But Americans then really did want 3d from their major consoles. I doubt those 2d games would have attracted much interest compared to 3d ones. The ones that were released mostly didn't, I doubt that more would have changed that much. And when it's all you have, that's a real problem and leaves you with little to release, an issue Sega definitely ran into.

The question really would be whether it would have been profitable to release those games even though most console gamers weren't all that interested in 2d. And I don't think that's a question I can answer, I don't know the details and really aren't very good at economics.
 

Hellraizah

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vireland said:
In denial.



Well, given that Bernie ACTIVELY WORKED TO KILL the Saturn 12-24 months prematurely to pave the way for the not-ready Dreamcast, what is he going to say? Whether he wants to own up to it or not, killing Saturn prematurely hurt him at retail and with the core base, both of which rightly felt abandoned. This, probably more than any other thing, messed up SEGA's market here, coming on the heels of the 32X debacle.

Also, at Sony he was the big fat zero that decreed no RPGs be approved on Playstation in the USA. Boy, that was smart, right? Thank god he went to SEGA, paving the way for a US Playstation RPG explosion that started practically the week he was out the door. And, of course, SEGA missed that initial surge. Oops. Thanks, Bernie.

Also, he and his troll* sidekick chick (whose name escapes me at the moment), DECIMATED the third-party division at SEGA, piece by piece. She was too retarded to grasp the software tracking system SEGA developed internally, so she just implemented a much more inefficient method that she could wrap her 92 IQ* around. Inefficiences multipled. Some really good people were demoralized, canned, or just left. Relationships with the software companies that he pretends to prize quickly deteriorated as a result, and surprise - support dwindled.

*mild hyperbole**

**oxymoron
I LOVE insider gossip like that. Tell more.
 

vireland

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A Black Falcon said:
But anyway, on the RPG thing, I guess i'm just not completely convinced that it was a huge factor. Could Sakura Taisen have been big in the US, or even a mid-level success here? Something that Japanese? I don't know... but yeah, they should have tried, with some actual effort behind it too. It could have paid off, who knows?
Well, I've wanted to do Sakura Taisen since the beginning. Hojo from Red (a pretty big deal there) asked me personally to do the game for the USA in that timeframe, but by that point SEGA was radioactive for us and I had to (very, VERY reluctantly) say it wasn't possible. Still, I think it could have been a 100k-ish mild success, even with the problems.

If NPD said WD only sold 100k of RPGs (Dragon Force, Shining Wisdom, Rayearth, Albert Odyssey combined), they SEVERELY under-guessed.
 

Fuzzy

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vireland said:
If NPD said WD only sold 100k of RPGs (Dragon Force, Shining Wisdom, Rayearth, Albert Odyssey combined), they SEVERELY under-guessed.
I wish I could look up those NPD numbers for you but the only Sega numbers I have are for the DC.
 
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vireland said:
If NPD said WD only sold 100k of RPGs (Dragon Force, Shining Wisdom, Rayearth, Albert Odyssey combined), they SEVERELY under-guessed.
Here's the old thread I referred to, from Square2005 back before the NPD got him permabanned. http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=115532 (hopefully it's okay to mention the link, if not I'll get rid of it...)

He claimed there to have the actual NPD numbers, and said that they said that, as I and Fuzzy said here, total Saturn JRPG sales were about 272,000 and no single title sold over 40,000 copies (Working Designs total is like 91,000 or so), while Quest 64 sold 330,000. The Saturn numbers are all "Projected" ones and not raw NPD data though, so there is some wiggle room there... but not enough to explain a disparity of like 150,000 units.

That is, if the numbers in that thread were actually real numbers, and not some kind of ioi-like thing. I forget, which is why I'm hesitant and removed it from that post (if that was indeed what I was remembering when I said it, but it's probably at least part of it so good enough). :)

Well, I've wanted to do Sakura Taisen since the beginning. Hojo from Red (a pretty big deal there) asked me personally to do the game for the USA in that timeframe, but by that point SEGA was radioactive for us and I had to (very, VERY reluctantly) say it wasn't possible. Still, I think it could have been a 100k-ish mild success, even with the problems.
:(
 

Augemitbutter

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vireland said:

good read, much better than the interview.

there was lots of talk amongst the hardcore about sakura taisen back then. too bad we never had a chance to give the series a serious try, it could've been a real cult classic by now.

but what really pissed me off was when SEGA cancelled Shining Force III ep. II and III in the west. that was the first time i've got seriously angry at them. that's when the chain started for me....
 

vireland

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Augemitbutter said:
but what really pissed me off was when SEGA cancelled Shining Force III ep. II and III in the west. that was the first time i've got seriously angry at them. that's when the chain started for me....
Not to mention Shining Force III bonus disc - so they actually passed on THREE of the four parts to Shining Force III.
 

vireland

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Kusagari said:
Bernie Stolar should never be allowed to speak after the No RPGs debacle. Wonder what he thinks of FF7 :lol
Google has to be relieved he's out of their (inherited) employ. Poor GetFugu.com...
 

Augemitbutter

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vireland said:
Not to mention Shining Force III bonus disc - so they actually passed on THREE of the four parts to Shining Force III.
yea, i forgot to mention that. i had to order my premium disc directly from camelot and import ep. 2 and 3. i beat the games with partial translations printed out back then.
 

androvsky

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vireland said:
Well, I've wanted to do Sakura Taisen since the beginning. Hojo from Red (a pretty big deal there) asked me personally to do the game for the USA in that timeframe, but by that point SEGA was radioactive for us and I had to (very, VERY reluctantly) say it wasn't possible. Still, I think it could have been a 100k-ish mild success, even with the problems.

If NPD said WD only sold 100k of RPGs (Dragon Force, Shining Wisdom, Rayearth, Albert Odyssey combined), they SEVERELY under-guessed.
I assume this is after Sega of America turned down localizing Sakura Taisen? I'm not entirely clear on Sega's chain of command, especially with what appears to be a multiple-company IP, but it seems odd to me that Red would have to find someone to localize it in the first place.

Too bad you couldn't bring it over though, playing Sakura Taisen with a translated walkthrough really saps the enjoyment of trying to pick the right dialog choices. I just pray that NISA's efforts with 5 pay off enough for them to keep going with the series...
 

vireland

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androvsky said:
I assume this is after Sega of America turned down localizing Sakura Taisen? I'm not entirely clear on Sega's chain of command, especially with what appears to be a multiple-company IP, but it seems odd to me that Red would have to find someone to localize it in the first place.
I don't think it was Red's mission per-se, but we had a mutual friend and he introduced us with the intention of giving Hojo the opportunity to ask me to do it because they appreciated the success we had with niche RPG stuff. Really, really awful to have to say no to that offer.
 

androvsky

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vireland said:
I don't think it was Red's mission per-se, but we had a mutual friend and he introduced us with the intention of giving Hojo the opportunity to ask me to do it because they appreciated the success we had with niche RPG stuff. Really, really awful to have to say no to that offer.
Ah, that makes a lot of sense. I think I can understand a little bit how difficult that would've been to turn down; it was a big project on the wrong platform, but it was such a good game. If it makes you feel any better, I still blame Sega for the whole thing. :)

At least we got Valkyria Chronicles...
 

GillianSeed79

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Who was the asshole who announced saturn was in stores as a suprise like six months early? i have a special kind of hate for that man.
 

vireland

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