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The cost of a Sega Saturn development kit back in 1995

Krejlooc

Indie Game Dev
Verified
Oct 27, 2017
20,051


I've managed to get my hands on a Sega Saturn Cart.Dev Rev B in the last few days to begin Sega Saturn development with. It came with a giant binder that Sega used to give with the Cart.Dev featuring material for developers. One of the front pages is a flyer they included with the cost breakdown, showing how much cheaper it was to develop on the Saturn now that they offered an in-house Cross Products SNASM kit. Keep in mind that this is the cost breakdown for the "Cheaper" Cart.Dev Rev B, not the original Sophia dev box, and it doesn't include licensing fees or cert fees required to publish a title. This is for ONE dev kit:

Saturn Dev cost:
Sega Saturn Dev System I w/Hitachi E7000PC ICE - $30575
Cart.Dev development kit - $4800
Programming Target Box - $7475
Sound Target Box - $4800
Saturn Cart.Dev SIMM Buffer Board - $275
Modified Saturn for Cart.Dev - $700
Saturn Virtual CD Emulator Kit - $ 8100
Mirage Saturn CD Emulation System - $3000
Hitachi E7000PC Kit - $15000
SH2 CPU Board - $200
Yamaha 4x CD Encoder - $2500
Write-once blank CD box of 5 - $75

Total cost: $77,500

The flyer also suggests an SGI Indigo 2 workstation for 3D modeling, which is not included. That, in 1995, was about a $100k rig.
 
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HammerOfThor

Member
Oct 26, 2017
1,181
How much do dev kits cost today? I'd be interested in comparing it. Or are games just developed on PCs and tested on actual consoles?
 

Symphony

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,295
And that is cheaper. Just how much did dev kits cost for the Mega Drive and the Saturn's competitors?
 
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Krejlooc

Krejlooc

Indie Game Dev
Verified
Oct 27, 2017
20,051
Oh neat, I also have a cost breakdown of an N64 dev kit as well:

SGI O2 - $25000
Softimage/Alias Power Animator - $20000
System Development PartnerN64-PC - $3600
Partner-N64PC PCI Interface board - $350
IS-Viewer NUS - $1600
Control Deck Assembly1 - $200
Control Deck Assembly2 - $200
4 Meg Memory - $20
PC Sound Tools - $1500
Flash Rom Gang Writer - $2425
256M Flash Cartridge - $461
16k Eeprom - $2
IC 7101 CIC - $1
N64 Disk Drive + 5 disks - $ 650
Additional Disk for N64 Disk Drive - $20

Total Cost: $56,029

Like the Saturn, they also recommend an Indigo 2 for 3D modeling.
 
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Krejlooc

Krejlooc

Indie Game Dev
Verified
Oct 27, 2017
20,051
How much do dev kits cost today? I'd be interested in comparing it. Or are games just developed on PCs and tested on actual consoles?
They are similar in costs, typically between $50k-$100k.

These are JUST the debugging costs for the machines, btw. This isn't the PC you need to develop on. All devkits are just modified machines that let you connect them to a PC to do things like halt execution and examine RAM as the program runs. This is the cost for the custom Saturn (and N64) debugging hardware, that you still have to pair with a development PC (both recommend an Indigo 2 for your development PC - ~$100k).
 

Popstar

Member
Oct 25, 2017
440
How much do dev kits cost today? I'd be interested in comparing it. Or are games just developed on PCs and tested on actual consoles?
The cost of dev kits dropped a lot from the 90s to the 00s when they went from being specialized hardware to modified versions of the consumer hardware. An OG Xbox "Debug Kit" was the same circuit board with a different BIOS and more RAM.
 
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Krejlooc

Krejlooc

Indie Game Dev
Verified
Oct 27, 2017
20,051
Quick google says PS4 units were $2,500 at launch. Switch is apparently only $450. Did the whole "Every Xbox One is a dev unit" every shake out?
That's just the cost of the main unit.

Regarding "every blah is a dev unit" -- that's true of almost every console ever. For example, you still need a retail Sega Saturn for the above dev kit. There is an unpopulated breakout board on the retail saturn for an NMI connector. To use this devkit, you need to solder a connector onto a retail saturn to connect to the unit. Those costs you quoted are just for part of the kit. For comparison, those parts would have been about $700 for the saturn as indicated above.
 
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Krejlooc

Krejlooc

Indie Game Dev
Verified
Oct 27, 2017
20,051
How much do dev kits cost today? I'd be interested in comparing it. Or are games just developed on PCs and tested on actual consoles?
I got to see the development computers the Houston Rockets use for all their stuff in the Toyota Center. The machines are the size of an upright refridgerator, with something like 20 GPUs in SLI, and a cost well over $200k.
 
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Krejlooc

Krejlooc

Indie Game Dev
Verified
Oct 27, 2017
20,051
And that is cheaper. Just how much did dev kits cost for the Mega Drive and the Saturn's competitors?
There were no officially distributed devkits for the Mega Drive (or Super famicom). Third party developers were forced to fend for themselves, create their own kits from scratch. A company called Cross Products actually became the dominant SDK producer for a long while, until Sega bought them to make Saturn devkits. Their Megadrive devkits were known as the SNASM2 range, and they would typically cost about $60k or so. There were other third party devkits, though, like one from PsyQ. With the Megadrive, it was recommended you worked with an Amiga 3000 computer for developing the graphics and programming.

The PS1 had the cheapest devkit of the era, but still comparable to the N64 and Saturn dev cost.
 

skeezx

Member
Oct 27, 2017
7,146
dedicated gaming hardware, serious business. good reason there's only three players left
 

Vark

Member
Oct 27, 2017
158
How much do dev kits cost today? I'd be interested in comparing it. Or are games just developed on PCs and tested on actual consoles?
These days it's just a couple grand for the kit itself then you need a decently beefy PC (usually RAM, CPU, HDD space). It's just decently beefy PCs are way cheaper than they were back in the day. Most places I've worked have used Dell XPS / Alienware level machines with the RAM maxed out.
 

Vagabond

Member
Oct 26, 2017
1,340
United States
Extremely fascinating. Thanks for the insight

With how fucking hard it was to program for, Sega should have given the dev kits away.
You know, when Xbox came into the scene and were literally giving their dev kits away to so many developers and publishers, people were saying they were buying their way into the industry.

Now it's pretty common practice. They even turned their console into a devkit of sortsin the XB1 era after giving away devkits to indies in the 360 era
 
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Krejlooc

Krejlooc

Indie Game Dev
Verified
Oct 27, 2017
20,051


the larger white binder is the development book for the cart.dev
 

inguef

The Fallen
Oct 28, 2017
13,378
Very cool setup image in the OP. This is the epitome of NEAT to me.

These prices seem very reasonable.
 

muteKi

Member
Oct 22, 2018
10,858
a sunken pirate ship
Seems like part of the increased cost (aside from the Saturn being more expensive in general) compared to the N64 is expecting to use both cartridge and CD-ROM writing for dev purposes. More up-front costs, but then you're also not having to spend as much money on game production, so I'd imagine it evens out over the long term anyway.
 

in4m8ion_man

Member
Mar 11, 2019
54
Extremely fascinating. Thanks for the insight


You know, when Xbox came into the scene and were literally giving their dev kits away to so many developers and publishers, people were saying they were buying their way into the industry.

Now it's pretty common practice. They even turned their console into a devkit of sortsin the XB1 era after giving away devkits to indies in the 360 era
true, studio i worked about about 10 years ago still had a whole closet of about 15 xbox og dev units that they couldn't do anything with. Cant let them out but no one wanted them back lol
 

Lant_War

The Fallen
Jul 14, 2018
11,268
It's crazy to think how much these things used to cost when you can now make a Genesis game on your laptop.
 

nitewulf

Member
Nov 29, 2017
2,128
Ridiculous. How would small developers afford that kind of a kit? Only if business people realized subscription business models back then. Sega could have rented these kits out to mid/small developers and would have had more native games for the system itself.
 

Mendinso

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,693
It's funny because I remember seeing the cost break down for one of the dev kits for for Saturn and N64, and I think it was the more expensive one than the one you had for the Saturn. Really insane, honestly. I'm not surprised a lot of developers avoided it.

Did Sega in Japan assist with the costs at all? There was a LOT of Japanese dev support back then so I can't help but wonder if that was a key factor in the support.
 

AtomicShroom

Tools & Automation
Verified
Oct 28, 2017
1,520
I kinda miss the days when making games required very advanced hardware, like how Rare took the giant risk of shelling out 160,000£ for two Silicon Graphics stations to try and make something out of them. These days games are made on your very common high-end PC and it’s kind of boring.
 
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Krejlooc

Krejlooc

Indie Game Dev
Verified
Oct 27, 2017
20,051
Ridiculous. How would small developers afford that kind of a kit? Only if business people realized subscription business models back then. Sega could have rented these kits out to mid/small developers and would have had more native games for the system itself.
they couldn't. People don't get why things like Steam are a huge deal. The ability for tiny studios to make "big games" that sit on shelves with other retail software from enormous outlets is a relatively modern thing. You basically couldn't break into game dev on your own without some capital back in the mid 90's.
 

Vipershark

Member
Oct 28, 2017
179
Krejlooc, what do you intend to develop with this dev kit?
I've always been interested in Saturn development.

Is the actual development computer required to have a special japanese version of Windows/DOS on it or can you just install it on whatever?

I often see videos like this with the large japanese font (what font is that????) and assume it's custom hardware.
 
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Krejlooc

Krejlooc

Indie Game Dev
Verified
Oct 27, 2017
20,051
Krejlooc, what do you intend to develop with this dev kit?
I've always been interested in Saturn development.

Is the actual development computer required to have a special japanese version of Windows/DOS on it or can you just install it on whatever?
I have a game development framework I have put together that unifies Sega Genesis, Dreamcast, and modern PC game development, I suppose I'll work the saturn into it all.

You use plain old Windows 95 (or Windows 98) with it. or Mac OS9.

I often see videos like this with the large japanese font (what font is that????) and assume it's custom hardware.
It's called the bios font, both the Dreamcast and the Saturn have it built in. It's a tile based font that directly manipulates the framebuffer, it's meant for emergency and debug info, like if your game crashes and it doesn't have a console to output to, you can always be assured the bios font is available since it resides in ROM on the motherboard itself and use it to write directly to the screen.

You can dump the bios, and thus the bios font, with a sega dreamcast using an SD card adapter pretty easily.
 

Vipershark

Member
Oct 28, 2017
179
I /thought/ that seemed like a "Sega Font" to me!
Thanks for the information!

The cross-generational Sega game framework sounds great, please post more info about that
 
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Krejlooc

Krejlooc

Indie Game Dev
Verified
Oct 27, 2017
20,051
Why did I think these kits were free? What a fool I am.
"Development" is how console makers make their money. The console market exists, in so much that it creates a market for them to sell their equipment and licensing for. They make money from every game developed for their ecosystem, not just games sold.
 
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Krejlooc

Krejlooc

Indie Game Dev
Verified
Oct 27, 2017
20,051
Again: This is why things like steam were mindblowing and revolutionary. It provided a way to get your game from your bed room to the same "shelf" as AAA blockbusters, with zero development cost. It costs $100 flat rate to get a game on steam these days.

All that lead to "indie" programs at the console manufacturers, starting with XBLIG on the Xbox 360. With these indie programs, the console manufacturers will allow people who register as developers to relax their home consoles restrictions to use them as stripped down dev kits. This dramatically lowered the cost and barrier to entry.

it's legitimately a great thing that it's easier to get games out there and made at much, much cheaper costs. If you still want a big, high end devkit for AAA development, though, those still exist and are different than the kits you'll use for an indie game.