‘We’re killing Sony’ and ‘we’re going to win here’ said Sega in an email of the 90s

Sega Saturn console

Sega Saturn – Not much bigger than the PlayStation (Photo: Sega)

Hundreds of leaked emails and internal documents reveal exactly what happened at Sega during the launch of the PlayStation.

Complex legal documents aren’t usually a rich source of new game information, but it’s pretty much all we’ve heard about in the past few weeks, thanks to Microsoft’s court battle over whether they can buy Activision Blizzard.

Although the verdict has not yet arrived, the public part of the case is over, and now the Internet is flowing through a different set of documents: leaked emails and internal messages from Sega of America in the mid-90s.

That is not a good time for Sega and there is also one of the most interesting emails talking about Sega’s confidence to beat the original PlayStation console, with CEO Tom Kalinsky confident that Sega is ‘killing Sony’ in Japan and that ‘we will win here. In the United States at last.’

It is true that the Saturn initially did very well in Japan, mainly due to the release of the title Virtua Fighter 2, with the original version being a huge phenomenon in Japan at the time.

However, once the excitement died down, and was not replaced by other major new games, the Saturn quickly began to lose ground to the PlayStation. Overall, it was still more successful in Japan than anywhere else, narrowly beating the N64, but by the end of production the PlayStation had sold more than four times as much.

In the West, though, no one cared at all about Virtua Fighter and the Saturn was an immediate and embarrassing flop. And yet, the leaked documents clearly show that Kalinsky expected success as well as Japan.

‘I only visited 10 retail stores in Tokyo (mostly in Akihabara); Now it’s spring break, so the crowd of teenagers/college kids is huge. We are killing Sony. In every store, Saturn hardware is sold out and there are more PlayStations,’ he wrote.

‘It is not unusual to see 40-50 copies of the Panzer [Dragoon] Zwei or Virtua Fighter 2 kept in small stores and they sell fast. I hope I can bring all our employees, sales people, retailers, analysts, media, etc. to see and understand what is happening in Japan; Then they will understand why we will finally win here in the United States.’

Business Plan Goals Failed (Image: Sega Retro)

The email shows that Kalinsky and others clearly see that this will not happen, as they try to make an impact in the US despite the Saturn being $50 cheaper than the PlayStation.

What is interesting is that the email is obsessed with what Sony is doing constantly, constantly reacting to them and trying to give them alone, instead of being active.

‘Needs to dramatically improve third-party support to achieve parity with Sony,’ bemoans one email. ‘Sony’s third-party library is significantly stronger than Saturn’s.’

They also complained about their marketing budget being reduced by 40% and more competition from the Nintendo 64, which launched later than the other two consoles.

What is interesting is that, in one year, they are not obsessed with the bad games of the Saturn and the fact that the PlayStation versions of third-party titles look better than their Saturn equivalents.

All the documents are hosted by the Sega Retro website, if you want to trawl through them yourself, as there may be more secrets that have yet to be found.

Although we all know how this story ends, because of the first, high-confidence email in March 1996, it will be only five years later, after the Dreamcast was only a small success, Sega gave up on creating consoles altogether.

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