'We are killing Sony': A 272-page PDF of classified Sega of America docs from the mid-90s is now something you can just download

The Sega logo is pictured at the company's booth during the Tokyo Game Show in Chiba prefecture on September 15, 2022
(Image credit: YUICHI YAMAZAKI/AFP via Getty Images)

The strangest things will just drop onto the internet's collective lap. As highlighted on Twitter by MegaDriveShock, a whopping 272 page PDF of classified Sega of America documents from the mid-90s has simply materialised on the Sega Retro wiki, a community-ran database full of info that aims to "cover everything possible about Sega from the 1940s to today." 

One fascinating nugget of gaming history inside is an email sent by Tom Kalinske—former CEO of Sega America—on the subject of the Sega Saturn console. The Saturn was a flop in the US, unfortunately releasing just before the Nintendo 64 a year later and coming with a host of troubles otherwise. As MegaDriveShock mentions in the Twitter thread: "The retail margin was only 6%! Meaning retailers made only $15 per Saturn sold."

In the email itself, Kalinske wrote: "We are killing Sony. In every [store in Japan], Saturn hardware is sold out and there are stacks of Playstation. The retailers commented they can't compare the true sales rate because Saturn sells out before they can measure accurately. [...] I wish I could get all our staff, sales people, retailers, analysts, media, etc. to see and understand what's happening in Japan; they would then understand why we will win here in the U.S. eventually."

They would not win in the U.S. eventually. In fact, Kalinske would go on to leave the company later that year—the email was sent March 28, and he tendered his resignation July 15, less than four months later. In an interview with TimeExtension last year, he spoke about his departure after the Sega Saturn's drift from orbit.

"We’d been so successful, so I didn't understand why all of a sudden decisions were being forced on me from Japan, [...] I was forced to introduce [the Saturn], we didn’t have enough hardware, we didn’t have enough software, and then, to make matters worse, we were forced to introduce it five months earlier than we wanted — well, we didn’t want to introduce it anyway."

He then goes on to mention how Hayao Nakayama, President and CEO of Sega Enterprises at the time, would use Kalinske's success in the US to berate his staff in Japan. "And he would beat the hell out of all of the managers and directors over and say things like, ‘Why can’t you guys get the revenue up like Tom has in the United States?’ [...] after a while, you start to hate this guy Tom over in the United States."

The PDF, then, adds a fascinating footnote to this historical friction between the two sides of Sega. Kalinske was—according to his own account—forced into a situation where he needed to introduce a product before he was ready. The email itself serves as a glimpse into his frustration, just a few months before his resignation, a surprisingly emotional moment preserved in amber.

The rest of the PDF is a treasure trove for game historians: product planning reports, storyboards for advertisements, business strategies, and brand reviews. The internet has already hit a few goldmines, such as Sega changing their strategies for Nights based on Crash Bandicoot, a brutal slide talking about the scrap value of the Genesis 32X, and revelations about Sega Saturn versions of Shenmue, Jurassic Park, and VectorMan that never were.

There's over 270 pages of this stuff, and it just showed up. I'm always fascinated by the things people hold onto and then post online at random—though I can't imagine Sega is particularly pleased, even if the plans within are from a different age.

Harvey Randall
Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.