The Sega Saturn was destined to surpass the success of the Sega Genesis and compete head-to-head against Nintendo and Sony. But its launch was so rushed that it left Sega in debt for years, and it went from being its greatest hope to hammering one of the final nails in its coffin.

Ok, I exaggerate, but, indeed, the Saturn was light years away from being what was expected, and it became one of the biggest stains in Sega’s history.

That’s why the console’s high price today is so striking. In general, old video game consoles always appreciate value over time, as many retro fans want to relive the old days or just want to add to their collection. 

But when talking about nostalgic retro gaming, you think of the NES, the Genesis, the Nintendo 64, and many others, but the Saturn is one of the last on that list. How is it that its value has increased so much? Why are there so many gamers willing to pay a high price for the console?

For the answers to these questions, stay tuned because today we are going to cover why the Sega Saturn and its games are so expensive despite its failed debut.

A Brief Review Of The Sega Saturn

Initially launched at the end of 1994 in Japan and the rest of the world in 1995, the Saturn was Sega’s next bet after its successful Genesis which conquered the youth with Sonic The Hedgehog and other gaming classics.

At that time, Sony’s PlayStation and Nintendo 64 were rocking the market, so Sega did not have it easy, although they had already surprised the world with their previous console.

The console emphasized combining 2D graphics with 3D, even though gamers were getting more accustomed to 3D. That generated a problematic architecture inside the console, but Sega was convinced that the mix between the old and the innovative could be revolutionary. In addition, they wanted to redeem themselves from their recent failure with the 32X peripheral for the Genesis.

In an attempt to steal the PlayStation’s thunder, Sega launched the Saturn months before Sony’s console. But because of the early release, it had few games available, and in addition, the maneuver did not please some key retail chains, which withdrew support for Sega.

The opposite was true in Japan, where the Saturn was a sales success at launch. Driven by the popularity of Virtua Fighter, Sega’s initial shipment of 200,000 Saturn units sold out on the first day. It went on to generate profits to become the second best-selling fifth-generation game console in Japan.

But the failure in America was beginning to weigh, along with a shortage of quality games, as developers never really knew how to take advantage of the console’s second processor.

The Saturn used quadrilaterals instead of triangles as its base geometry, and the industry’s base tools were based on triangles. While developers were trying to get around this obstacle and produce AAA games, the PlayStation was already ahead in the market.

As its early launch left out many retail chains such as Walmart and KB Toys, they began to offer support to the competition, totally refusing to sell a Sega product again for at least a good while.

In the four months that the Saturn had a head start, it sold approximately 80,000 units. The PlayStation, on the other hand, sold 100,000 units in the first weekend.

Sega gave up in this battle, discontinuing the console in America in 1998 to prepare for its great comeback with the Dreamcast, but that’s another story…

Knowing all the context, we can now move on to the main thing.

Why Is The Sega Saturn So Expensive?

Scarcity and high demand are what make the Sega Saturn and Saturn games so expensive making it difficult to collect for retro game collectors.

As time goes by, retro games become more valuable, but the Sega Saturn is especially striking, as it surpasses the value of other much more popular consoles of its generation or previous ones. And it is all classic supply and demand.

Just look at the sales during its stay in the North American market. While PlayStation exceeded 10 million units sold, and the Nintendo 64 came close, the Sega Saturn sold 1.5 million consoles.

Another factor for the high dollar amount is found in its games. As is well known, the Sega Saturn was a very complex system for third-party developers, who could not find the right way to bring the most popular games to this console.

Magic Knight Rayearth is an expensive Sega Saturn game

The situation was so critical to the point that the few quality games in its catalog were developed by Sega itself. Therefore, it is no surprise that Saturn titles are currently in the $80 range, doubling or even tripling the value of games from other retro consoles.

If before the Saturn’s internal architecture was one of the factors of its failure, now it is the main driver of its revaluation. Classic consoles like the Super Nintendo, N64, PlayStation, and many more are fairly easy to emulate on almost any device. 

In general, we tend to take it for granted that all retro game consoles can be emulated on even a household appliance (just ask the guy who ran Doom on a microwave) but the Saturn breaks that stereotype completely.

Even though there are emulators for this console like SSF or Yabause, they were traditionally not easy to program and are not free of problems.

That factor made software piracy less attractive, so the best option for Sega Saturn lovers is to buy original games, which are quite expensive and rare.

Finally, the Saturn consoles have such a high cost because of its fan base, that little by little more and more are adding that point to this console as an underappreciated one despite all the problems it had at its launch.

From YouTube and Twitch channels dedicated to retro that influence gamers, to the lack of Mini reissues as other consoles have had, the Saturn has all the necessary ingredients to justify its high price which usually hovers around $160 for used units with its box, some games and accessories, and up to more than $1000 for the few sealed ones.

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It is worth mentioning that due to its scarce distribution in North America, many of the ones you find in online stores are Japanese Saturn. Undoubtedly, Sega Saturn collecting is one of the most expensive, but…

Is It Worth Buying A Sega Saturn Nowadays?

The Sega Saturn has an awesome game library and it is worth buying one for your collection. That is if the price is right.

Despite its checkered past, the Saturn has many things going for it. Some of the advantages of the console are its particular catalog of games, which although most of them never left Japan, includes titles such as Virtua Fighter, Panzer Dragoon Saga, Nights into Dreams, Radiant Silvergun, Sonic R, and many more hidden gems. 

And part of the fact that third-party developers ignored the console, forced Sega to produce ports of arcade games, one of the most successful areas at that time, especially in Japan. This is why the Saturn is one of the best options if you want to relive the experience of the extinct arcades. 

The Saturn controller is very peculiar but also functional. With 6 front buttons, 2 side buttons, and the typical directional pad, the controller was perfect for fighting games, and boy were those titles popular on the Sega Saturn.

Even with all the current technological advances, many fighting gamers prefer to play the games on the Saturn.

In addition, the console was highly praised at the time for the speed of its loading screens, something that the competition had a much harder time with. Add to this, that more than one fighting title plays at a comfortable 60 fps.

A more secondary factor, but not less important, is that the Saturn, as was Sega’s custom, has many accessories to expand its possibilities. From cards that increase RAM, the Virtua Gun, the Arcade Stick, Racing Wheel, and many more peripherals that make the gaming experience more fun.

Of course, if the console is already hard to get, you can’t even imagine finding peripherals, but some of them are worth it if you pair them with the right game.

Daytona USA for Sega Saturn

Ultimately, the last word will always be up to you, but I’d say it’s worth buying a Sega Saturn, as long as you’re willing to pay the high prices. Although for casual gamers who just want to enjoy retro games, it may be better to opt for cheaper consoles.

Perhaps for nostalgia, it is widely surpassed by other consoles, but curiosity plays in its favor because those who gave it a chance either at launch or today do not regret their purchase. 

If you are convinced that a Sega Saturn is in your future, you will want to see this…

What Should I Take Into Account When Buying A Sega Saturn?

The first thing will always be the basics, and that is that the console looks good, works well, and if it includes its original box, (if you are that type of collector).

The price is the other factor to take into account, but for less than $200 on eBay, you can get a Sega Saturn with its box, original accessories, and one or two games, although the latter is the most expensive part.

Since the Saturn had few titles in North America, Sega made sure to only release high-quality ones, so if you want to enjoy the best adventures like Guardian Heroes or Burning Rangers, be prepared to spend at least $100.

As soon as you find a Saturn you’re interested in buying, keep the following caveats in mind:

  • CD player: it’s a fact of life that most of these consoles are failing CD players, mainly due to age and wear and tear. Make sure that the model you are going to buy does not have problems playing the discs because repairing this failure is not fun.
  • Controls port: make sure they are clean and in good condition.
  • MK-80001 controller: for North America, two versions of the Saturn were released. The only differences between each one are aesthetic aspects, but definitely, the controller of the second model is more comfortable to play with, especially the side buttons.
  • Check the audio and video connection.
  • Buy a bundle: it is complicated to get this console together with a good number of games, but it is worth that extra expense considering that the games separately are much more expensive and difficult to get.

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Final Thoughts On The Price Of The Sega Saturn

The Sega Saturn will always be remembered by most as Sega’s biggest stumble, and while they are right to some extent, today this console and its games are the greatest treasure of a collection. 

You have to have money and a lot of passion for retro gaming if you want to enjoy the Saturn, but it is quite rewarding to get one at a cheap price. 

The same goes for its catalog, because when you find a quality game at a relatively decent price, you are really getting a gem and you are not overpaying, because the titles of this console are very rare.

Undoubtedly, the Sega Saturn will continue to be the talk of the retro and collecting community for years to come.

Last update on 2024-07-18 at 22:29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API