As Sega Enterprises Ltd announces its latest brace of acquisitions to push the new home arcade market, the company’s chief executive officer has promised to keep the 16bit consoles alive. Talking to Computer Trade Weekly, Sega chief Malcolm Miller said he was still committed to developing the 16bit system despite the froth surrounding the newer […]
As Sega Enterprises Ltd announces its latest brace of acquisitions to push the new home arcade market, the company’s chief executive officer has promised to keep the 16bit consoles alive. Talking to Computer Trade Weekly, Sega chief Malcolm Miller said he was still committed to developing the 16bit system despite the froth surrounding the newer 32bit and forthcoming 64bit consoles. One of the things we’ve decided to do this year, slightly different to last year, is come out with a number of very strong [16bit] titles, of which Toy Story has been the first, he asserted. We’ll also re-release titles at lower prices to drive the market at a lower end. Nintendo Co Ltd was the first to get swept up by the apparent affection that remains for the 16bit machines when it announced at the Shoshinkai show last November that it would have to delay the Ultra 64. Shares fell promptly, followed closely by Sega whose 32bit Saturn had proven too expensive for the average pocket. It was generally thought that last Christmas would have been the 16bit generation’s last selling season, but Miller’s intentions for the firm spell a longer future for the low-grade gaming machine. It has to be said that this may be a clever move to undermine Sony Corp’s fantastically successful PlayStation by recreating a low end market for which Sony is unprepared. Or, more likely, it may be that supplying highgrade games consoles across the world excludes those areas not rich enough to pay for the 32bit. Miller conceded that now that Master System was at an end, many territories are saying to us that they want a low-price product, pointing particularly to Greece, Portugal and Eastern Europe. For these territories he would be pushing the MegaDrive. Sony has enjoyed unrivalled success with the PlayStation. Even within its own ranks, with sales expected to top a million by the summer, the console launch is now more successful than any other product it has run with, including the Walkman. Sony’s president of Computer Entertainment Europe, Chris Deering, is thankful for the recent upsurge in popularity of consoles due to 32bit consoles. The rejuvenation that the 32bit products brought into the marketplace helped draw people’s attention back to gaming, he said. 32bit machines came out at as much as three times the launch price of the 16bit machines but in spite of that they have matched what was achieved by 16bit machines in their first calendar year. As to the forthcoming spectacle of the 64bit consoles in general and Nintendo’s Ultra in particular, Deering was less than congratulatory: Certainly it’s a high quality machine, but in my view it’s not worth waiting for, he said, alleging that too few titles would be available for the Nintendo machine to capture the imagination of the shopper.
Aggressive on price
Nintendo has plans to launch the Ultra 64 with its MIPS Technologies Inc R4400-derived processor before Christmas at around $250. Sega has recently dropped the price of its Saturn and Deering intends to remain aggressive on price but admits that it’s very difficult to predict future pricing decisions. That 16bit will remain strong is not a surprise to everyone. Last year, research firm Gerard Klauer Mattison & Co discovered that just over half of the console-owning households intended to buy as many or more 16bit games in the next year (1996) as in the last (1995). The result? 16bit machines are expected to account for 70% of 1996’s estimated $3,850m sales in the US. This is despite the fact that only around 50 new 16bit games are expected to be launched over the 12 months, which means that a few lucky Nintendo developers should see sales well in excess of $1m.