Sega in Saturn research fiasco

By Sharon Marshall

The 5m UK launch of Sega’s Saturn games system has backfired because of flawed market research.

Sega faces a backlash from customers and retailers because pre-launch research gave misleading information.

The dispute centres around the type of cable supplied with the Saturn machine to connect it to the television. Sega’s research suggests that the majority of family TV sets use a connection lead called SCART, so Sega packaged its 400 system with a SCART lead.

However, retailers say Saturns are not being used on a household’s main TV, but on older, secondary sets in people’s bedrooms. These typically need a cable known as RF.

Sega has only supplied a handful of RF leads to retailers. Stocks have since run out, leaving retailers with a week-long wait for more. In response, Sega has sent a mailer to retailers and set up a helpline.

“We were ecstatically happy with sales, but the launch was based on the wrong data,” says Will Copeland, director of retailer One Stop Beyond. Copeland says more than half of customers have asked for RF leads, and he is having to offer the 25 cables free to pacify customers.

HMV computer general manager Gerry Berkley says the store is also having to deal with customer complaints. “Personally, I don’t understand why they did not put it (the RF lead) in,” he says.

Saturn marketing manager Jeremy Crisp insists the machines are primarily used on main TVs and says the company is right to encourage the use of SCART because it is of a higher quality than RF. “Sega has taken a brave decision. The step had to be made,” he says.

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