It’s 3 p.m.! Let The A.V. Club briefly make use of the waning hours of your productivity with some pop culture ephemera pulled from the depths of YouTube.
These days, Sega is a pretty quiet, conservative company. It just coasts along, content to cycle through its handful of modern series—a Sonic here, a Yakuza there, some Total War to spice things up for the PC-gaming dorks—and shove its classic games onto every platform imaginable. But go back a couple decades, to a time when Sega still had to worry about selling consoles and standing out from the competition, and you’ll find a much different, infinitely weirder company. That goes for the games themselves, but doubly so for Sega’s marketing campaigns. Everyone in the States remembers the snarky snipes like “Genesis does what Nintendon’t,” but over in the U.K., Sega was selling the Genesis (known there as the Mega Drive) with a series of whacked-out cyberpunk-inspired ads and, later, hyperactive commercial-spoofing montages known as Sega Pirate TV.
The quick-cutting, non sequitur nature of the latter seemingly served as a template for the Sega marketing machine’s crowning achievement: the E3 1995 announcement video for the Sega Saturn. With the first PlayStation set to be revealed during the same conference, the stakes were high, and although Sony may have won people’s wallets with the most iconic price announcement of all time, Sega’s ridiculous Saturn debut should have won their hearts.
A naked woman with rings around her bald head (you know, like the planet Saturn) welcomes us to the world of Sega Saturn and its “21st Century” graphics. When she’s done whispering and scaring the shit out of potential console buyers, she passes them off to her companions: a disembodied head, a dancing asshole in a fuzzy Jamiroquai hat, and a tutu-wearing biker who gets to introduce the games like he’s a carnival barker.
Just when it looks like the video is over, the frantic absurdity of the whole thing ratchets to another level after viewers are sent to “The Theater Of The Eye,” the setting for the Saturn’s bizarre, ’90s-as-hell TV ad campaign. With promotion like this—and Sega’s legendarily bad decision to launch the system the same day it was announced—it’s hard to believe the Saturn would turn out to be such a disastrous failure in America.