32-bit Game Console - Dismantled for reference and curiosity
In late 1994 SEGA launched the SEGA Saturn to the Japanese market, then in 1995 to North America, Europe and Australia. The Saturn was SEGA's follow up console from the Mega Drive/Genesis but sadly never saw the same market success.
Historically the Mega Drive didn't sell very well in Japan as Japanese consumers were far too enamored with the NES And Master System to give it a chance. In complete contrast the Megadrive/Genesis sold extremely well in the West and was still doing so when the Saturn was forced into those markets.
Its main competitors were the Sony Playstation, the Nintendo 64 and to a much lesser degree SEGA's own 32X hardware add-on for the Mega Drive and Genesis. While it was an impressive piece of tech, the Saturn was also a pain in the butt to code for. The console had been designed around a single CPU architecture but on hearing the Playstation was going to use a dual CPU set up it was redesigned to also run with two CPUs. In addittion the Saturn also has six other processors that deal with graphics, sound, etc. It all sounds great, however they were non-proprietary, off the shelf chips that were never specifically intended to work together. This made coding for the Saturn even more convoluted and a limited number of developmental tools and software libraries in the early days left game designers coding in assembly language.
Even the Saturn's dual CPU set up caused developers headaches as both chips used the same bus causing issues with them trying at access RAM simultaneously. The practical solution for some software designers was to just code for one CPU and leave the other idle. Games such as 'Virtual Fighter' cleverly made use of both processing one character per CPU. Coding for the Playstation was much easier and as a result more attractive to software developers.
Arguably SEGA made another fatal mistake by not capitalising on the popularity of their franchised 'Sonic the Hedgehog' character on the Saturn.
While the Saturn predominantly loaded software from its CD ROM drive there were two titles that made use of the cartridge port for part of their game software; 'King of Fighters '97' and 'Ultraman: Hikari no Kyojin Densetsu'. These ROM cartridges carried some of the game data due to the Saturn not having enough onboard RAM for the game to be fully loaded from CD ROM. Other RAM expansion carts were released (1MB and 4MB) for use with a slim number of other popular titles; mainly sprite based fighting games, eg. 'Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter'.
The Saturn's cartridge port was also used for connecting the SEGA NetLink (SEGANEt in Japan) MODEM to the console. This allowed gamers to connect to other players and play online for the limited number of titles that supported the feature. While this was nothing new, it was the first time players could use such a feature and elect to dial their own ISP rather than be locked into the one that specifically supported the hardware.
Even though the Saturn had been released just before the Playstation, consumers were already skeptical about SEGA's ability to deliver quality and descent library of game titles after being burnt with the Mega-CD and 32X. Bringing forward the release date to beat the Playstation's release saw only six titles available when it went on sale in the US. None of this warmed customers to the Saturn.
While it wasn't a failed console, its popularity was akin to budget Playstation even though it retailed at a higher price. The main market it excelled in was arcade ports of heavily sprite orientated games; mostly fighting games. The Saturn handled these extremely well seeing it developed a small yet strong following from gamers of that genre. This saw console and game sales peak and fall as new titles were released.
Sadly due to the mainboard's architecture it was extremely difficult to downscale the design to cut costs for future revisions resulting in the Saturn staying at a higher RRP long after other consoles' prices had dropped to a more competitive level.
Had it been released a year earlier people would have been amazed and likely created a foothold the Playstation would have needed to work to shake loose.