In 1995, Sony’s head of development Steve Race gave what is arguably the best press conference ever at the E3 conference. It consists of one word, and it led to the demise of a major consumer electronics manufacturer, according to a piece by The Guardian’s Keith Stuart this week. (Thanks @tompardoen for alerting me to it).
Here’s the backstory.
The Console Wars
In 1995 Sega, Nintendo, Atari and Sony were battling over the market of game consoles.
At the time, Sega, Nintendo and Atari were the major forces in game consoles. But newcomer Sony – riding high on its reputation as the inventor of the Walkman – was about to release its first Playstation in the US.
Sony in 1995 was the equivalent of Apple circa 2007: Sony had revolutionized personal music with its Walkman, and it seemed that everything it touched turned to gold. And the Playstation showed that it was moving into games in a big way. The Playstation had already launched in Japan, and it was showing good traction.
Sega, which had moved about half a million Saturn consoles in Japan, had been planning to launch its Saturn console in the US in the autumn of 1995. A huge marketing campaign was in the works – including distribution deals with retailers, and games developed by top studios.
But all the action from the other players made Sega Japan quite nervous, and instead of sticking to its game plan, it slipped.
Sega wanted desperately to establish its presence in the US market before Sony launched.
“Two ninety nine”
So at the E3 conference, Tom Kalinske of Sega US went onstage to announce that the Saturn was not only launching earlier in the US. It was already in shelves, at the price of $ 399 – a bargain, given the fact that many Sega fans were getting Saturn consoles from Japan at prices over $ 800.
The answer from Sony was swift and deadly, and there’s footage from the press conference where they delivered their deadly blow. Watch the shortest press conference ever – the one that, according to game historians, was the beginning of the end for Sega:
Keith Stuart sums it up in his article: “That was it. Although Saturn was hanging on in Japan, the US market was essentially lost, and with it the big British publishers and developers too.“
If you have any great examples of historic press conferences, please let us know.