What if Dreamcast Had Won?

15 years ago, Sega launched its final console, the short-lived Dreamcast. But what if it had survived?

Retrospective by Jeremy Parish, .

My favorite articles on the The Verge are the ones about "weird Sony"; they make a fascinating counterpoint to current Sony.

Over the past decade, Sony has seemingly lost its way, struggling from one failed project to another. Ten years ago, the PlayStation 4's bright success would have been simply a single hit in a vast portfolio; today, it's the company's sole bragging point.

"Weird Sony" describes the company's mindset at the height of its power. The days when you could walk into a Sony store like the one that used to reside in San Francisco's Metreon shopping center and be awed by the cutting-edge design of the company's innovative electronics even as their insane prices took your breath away. Did the world need Aibo, the interactive robotic dog? No, but it was as cool a gimmick as it was expensive, and helped project the image of Sony as a leader at the forefront of consumer electronics design. Owning a Sony product felt like taking possession of a shiny fragment of the future.

With a run of merely 18 months in the U.S. — Sept. 1999 to March 2001 — Dreamcast still managed to hang on long enough to create a loyal audience.

It may be difficult to reconcile today's ragged Sony with the behemoth it was in its halcyon days, but that impressive reputation had a powerful bearing on the outcome of an event that transpired 15 years ago today. On September 9, 1999, Sega launched the Dreamcast console in America. Dreamcast was an instant hit in the U.S. — yet just as quickly found itself discontinued by a meek and defeated Sega.

For all of Dreamcast's excellence, it simply couldn't stand for long in the face of Sony at its weird but elegant prime. The console's demise came at the hands of Sony's PlayStation 2. A more powerful piece of hardware, yes, but not so much more powerful that it made the Dreamcast instantly obsolete. Yet to the teeming masses who lined up on day one for PS2 and whose demand kept it in short supply for nearly a year after its debut, the compact black monolith represented that shiny fragment of the future Sony was so good at peddling. Dreamcast, on the other hand, seemed to many like the wheezing last gasp of a company that had made nothing but mistakes for half a decade.

The Best of Dreamcast: RPGs

"From my perspective, the Dreamcast's library revolved around replicating the arcade experience," says USgamer's Bob Mackey, "and that's not what I look for in a gaming console—especially in an era where I couldn't play enough RPGs." Perhaps that's true, but in its short lifetime the system still managed to give life to some role-playing greats.

Skies of Arcadia: Designed by Phantasy Star co-creator Reiko Kodama, Skies offered an upbeat, optimistic experience akin to the classic days — a wonderful counterpoint to 32-bit RPG doom and gloom.

Grandia II: Grandia II was much more the typical RPG experience of the era, but a great one; its dynamic battle system made each enemy encounter tense and interesting.

Shenmue: Although Shenmue doesn't play much like the traditional idea of an RPG, it was very much about taking on the role — and the life — of protagonist Ryo Hazuki. And little surprise; it began life in the guise of a Virtua Fighter RPG.

Phantasy Star Online: This week's big release, Destiny, owes a certain debt to this groundbreaking Sega RPG. While it had little to do with classic Phantasy Star, it introduced console gamers to the idea of cooperative gaming and persistent worlds.

PlayStation 2 won the console race before it ever reached the starting blocks, claiming victory on mindshare alone. The short-lived nature of Dreamcast's existence comes down to many different factors; its early demise was not a cut-and-dried matter but rather the result of many events that conspired to usher the system to an early grave. And while Sega soldiers on to this day, the company amounts to a mere shadow of its glory days. Once a haven for hardcore game fiends hungry for alternatives to Nintendo and Sony, today Sega is all ups and downs, the occasional victory followed quickly by another wearying disappointment.

Yet the system has its fervent supporters — some in spite of its short life, others because of it. Brendan Sinclair of sister site Games Industry is one such enthusiast. "Dreamcast was the best," he gushes. "It was my golden age of gaming. For a year and a half, I was treated to the most incredible, bizarre, and eclectic experiences of my gaming life. For the first time, I had disposable income to spend on whatever games interested me, to import them if need be. And with Sega getting increasingly desperate in its last days as a hardware company, it took all kinds of risks with its content. I haven't enjoyed this hobby as much before or since. I doubt I ever will again."

Meanwhile, USgamer's Jaz Rignall muses, "Because the Dreamcast's lifespan was so short, all of its games are all from a very specific era. They have a style that feels inherently Dreamcast. That makes it an almost perfect memory capsule of turn-of-the-century gaming. I think that's part of the reason why it's so well regarded.

"I also think that there's an element of unfulfilled potential. What would the Dreamcast have gone on to do had it had better backing from the industry at large?"

Indeed, what if Dreamcast had lived? What if Sega hadn't bowed out of the console race, but instead had held its own against Sony's "weirdness"? How would the company — and games as a whole — be different today?

Sega's first ground-up third party title, Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, suggested they'd need a while to work the quirkiness out of their systems.

The Third-Party Malaise

The Dreamcast may have foundered for many reasons, but the quality of its offerings was never in doubt. The system represented Sega at the peak of its game, offering both excellent adaptations of some of the most outlandish arcade titles ever minted as well as inventive original creations. From bite-sized diversions like ChuChu Rocket and Samba de Amigo to more ambitious inventions like Skies of Arcadia and Crazy Taxi, the Dreamcast saw Sega's first-party output at its finest. They even made a solid 3D Sonic game — something we never really saw again.

The death of the Dreamcast seemed to suck the creative spark from Sega's internal studios. The system's library felt like the company's last hurrah, a do-or-die attempt to play all its cards and, as Nintendo would later describe their hopes for the DS system, either rise to heaven or sink to hell. DS rose to heaven. Dreamcast didn't, and it dragged the company's creative culture to hell with it.

Sega underwent a massive internal restructuring in the wake of the Dreamcast's dissolution. Its various and many first party studios were reshuffled, merged, split up, and generally destroyed. And with the gerrymandering of the company's innards came the abandonment of many of its key designers. Take United Game Artists, responsible for innovative wonders like Space Channel 5 and Rez. It was swallowed whole, and once that happened, studio boss Tetsuya Mizuguchi left the company. He was hardly alone. Today, the company continues to publish a number of excellent games, but the majority of them come from external studios like Creative Assembly. Many of the most successful tech companies to date have thrived thanks to the advantage inherent in owning all parts of the development process: Nintendo, Apple — and Sega, too, in better times. Being forced to surrender that boon seemingly took the wind out of Sega's sails.

The Best of Dreamcast: Shooting

The fact that none of the Dreamcast's best shooters fell nearly within the first-person shooter camp says a lot about how out of step Sega was with the rest of the industry — but that uniqueness is a huge part of what people love about the console.

Mars Matrix: This fascinating shooter took the hoary top-down format and reduced it to a system powered by a single button. Atavistic, maybe, but bursting with depth and technique.

Bangai-O: A typically weird creation by Treasure, Bangai-O looked tragically underwhelming with its tiny 2D sprites... until you unleashed a flurry of screen-filling missiles, at which point you began to appreciate the need for next-generation hardware.

Rez: A throwback to the old-school rail shooter, Rez could have seemed tragically dated if not for its shimmering visuals and amazing soundtrack, which throbbed and pulsed to the rhythms of the gameplay. Certain releases came with a special vibrating accessory that also throbbed and pulsed to the rhythms of the gameplay... much to some people's naughty delight.

Typing of the Dead: Yes, it's a shooter... played entirely with keyboard. Somewhere between a light gun game and a typing tutorial, Typing of the Death perfectly encapsulated Sega's fearlessly bonkers approach to game design. No one else would have made a game like this.

Witnessing Sega's slow dissolution felt to many like a tragedy. The system offered a versatile canvas for ambitious artists and their works, and the console's library managed to offer the same breadth and ingenuity as the original PlayStation, though on a far smaller scale. "Its specs were better than anything out there when it was released," says former Electronic Gaming Monthly writer Greg Sewart, who currently produces Sega history video series Generation 16. "Even when the PlayStation 2 launch games first came out, the texture quality on the Dreamcast seemed better. Although U.S. support was less-than-stellar, it appeared the system had good Japanese support at the start, which was great.

"Plus it was powerful enough that most of the arcade conversions on the system looked pretty much perfect. It was a bit of a throwback to the early days of the Genesis in that respect."

Had Dreamcast survived, would Sega remain a creative powerhouse today? Owning the console ecosystem grants publishers many advantages, from full control over concept approval to superior marketing. Immediately upon going third-party, Sega doubled down on its most popular and salable titles: Crazy Taxi, Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Monkey Ball. The company continued to explore a few of its Dreamcast concepts on PS2 and later Wii, both internal and external concepts; games as diverse as Headhunter and Samba de Amigo saw follow-ups. Sonic Team even revisited NiGHTS: Into Dreams a decade later. Yet slowly and steadily, the more adventuresome of Sega's games faded away.

Sega kept its old franchises alive well into its third-party days, but never with the same spark that we saw in the Dreamcast era.

The sea change in Sega's lineup wasn't entirely to do with Dreamcast. The very nature of the games industry has undergone a massive upheaval over the past decade, with rising development costs and solidifying tastes redefining players' expectations and with them the rules of what does and doesn't sell. Realistically, Sega's output would have changed no matter what.

Speculatively, though, a first-party Sega could well have been a force for good over the past decade. From the very beginning, the company always demonstrated a willingness — an eagerness, even — to defy expectations and play on its own terms. When Nintendo shut out Sega's third-party licensing efforts in the 8-bit days, the company shrugged and made its own versions of popular arcade titles (often more faithful than those on NES, to boot). When Nintendo locked down 90% of the U.S. gaming market, Sega made Nintendo games look terminally unhip.

More to the point, the past decade has seen a suffocating sense of conservatism sett;e over the games industry. Risk-averse publishers rehash the same concepts year after year, while outlier genres and releases receive far fewer marketing dollars than the likes of Destiny or Assassin's Creed. With the resources and clout to do its own thing, perhaps Sega could have once again offered a banner around which hardcore game enthusiasts could have rallied.

Despite not acquiring much of a following in Japan, Dreamcast saw plenty of games exclusive to its native territory, including the seven-party El Dorado's Gate RPG anthology.

The Japan Question

Sewart hangs much of the weight of Dreamcast's failure on the western market. "U.S. third-party support was a problem," he says. "In particular, no EA games. Sure, Visual Concepts and Sega picked up the slack in the sports department, but EA was always about more than sports games." And more crucial than that, he adds, was "Sega's terrible reputation in North America."

Certainly the company had squandered much of the goodwill it fostered during the Genesis era by fragmenting the the user base and bumbling the Saturn launch. The fall from Genesis to Saturn in terms of marketshare was a steep one, and eventually Sega spent more than a year as an effective non-entity: They killed Saturn support in 1998, and in the interim before Dreamcast's launch, most fans drifted over to the thriving PlayStation.

"Sega hadn't released a game stateside in something like 18 months," says Sewart, "the extremely low print runs of The House of the Dead, Panzer Dragoon Saga, etc. And [Sega president] Bernie Stolar himself said, 'The Saturn is not Sega's future,' at the 1997 E3."

Despite this, the Dreamcast did surprisingly well for itself in the U.S. Out of the gate, its launch marked what was cited as the "biggest day in entertainment history" as the console sold a record-setting 225,000 units. While the system didn't manage to achieve the saturation it needed to weather the PlayStation 2 launch, it sold almost twice as well in the U.S. as in Japan despite being supported for only about half as long.

The Best of Dreamcast: Fighting

"From just a fighting game perspective, the Dreamcast was a continuation of everything the Sega Saturn and its Extended RAM Cartridge offered," says Mike Williams. "After years of poor ports, Dreamcast gave me nearly arcade-perfect renditions. For that, I will always be a grateful consumer."

SNK Vs. Capcom: Millennium Fight 2000: The SNK-Dreamcast connection started strong thanks to the link feature between the console and SNK's Neo Geo Pocket Color. But the publisher's crowning moment on the system actually came courtesy of Capcom, who brilliantly married two wildly different schools of fighting games to create something truly remarkable.

Soulcalibur: This launch game remained one of the most technically impressive titles on Dreamcast at time of the system's demise. It's not that other games were so bad; Soulcalibur was simply that indescribably good. Perhaps the last launch game to ever feel like a true leap over its predecessors.

Marvel Vs. Capcom 2: This wild, chaotic brawler couldn't be more different than the mannerly SNK Vs. Capcom. Everything from the sprawling roster to the weird lounge-jazz soundtrack defied expectations — and no console port was better than Dreamcast's/

Street Fighter III: Third Strike: Yes, another Capcom fighter, but this might be the best of the bunch. Woefully underappreciated in its time, it was only years later that the world began to appreciate the technique and finesse inherent in this ultimate expression of the Street Fighter concept.

Despite being a Japanese company at heart, Sega never really had a truly successful console in its home territory. Saturn came closest to hit status, but even that was a distant also-ran behind PlayStation. On the contrary, the internal politics that resulted from Genesis' disproportionately western success played a huge part in dividing the company and leading to many of the Dreamcast's fundamental challenges.

Had Dreamcast held out against the PlayStation storm, would the company's fortunes in Japan have improved? Beside their niche status at home, or perhaps because of it, Sega's consoles had always been unusually friendly to intrinsically Japanese games. One of the launch-day releases for Dreamcast in Japan was July, a visual novel. In the vacuum left behind by Dreamcast, those titles migrated to PlayStation 2 and PSP/Vita.

As such, it's not hard to imagine Sega's fortunes in Japan improving considerably in the current day if it still enjoyed first-party status. Or if not improving, then at least not suffering as badly as the competition. The Japanese video games market has shrunk in on itself, shriveling to a sliver of what it used to be, and outside of a few major tentpoles — Dragon Quest, Monster Hunter, Nintendo's all-inclusive casual titles — much of what dominates Japan's ragged sales charts amounts to the sort of niche content that appeared in remarkable numbers on Dreamcast.

Sega has done fairly well for itself with third-party releases; the decision to snap up the rights to "virtual idol" Hatsune Miku has paid dividends, and the likes of 7th Dragon 2020 and Phantasy Star Online 2 have kept the hardcore interested. But if the company managed to offer a continuous platform for such games, it almost certainly would have taken a bite out of Sony's grip over otaku-bait and similar titles — a modest but not insignificant portion of the market.

Japan has also gravitated predominantly toward mobile games, an area Sega had some experience with thanks to its 8-bit Game Gear and, more relevantly, both the Dreamcast VMU and the system's support for cross-linking with the SNK Neo Geo Pocket Color. While the VMU was a far cry from a cell phone, its integral role in the system's ecosystem demonstrated a genuine interest in the portable space and expanding the nature of games beyond the standard console format. To date, Sony remains the only first-party console maker to have ventured into the mobile market, and PlayStation Mobile has hardly been a rousing success. Could Sega have been the first to get it right?

Some gamers speculate that the Windows CE OS included in Dreamcast was just Microsoft warming up for Xbox.

The Microsoft Matter

Had Dreamcast remained a viable platform beyond its rapid expiration, the games industry of the early 21st century would have found itself in unprecedented territory: No less than four competing consoles would have been jockeying for consumer dollars. True, there have been four consoles on the market at once, but never four from major players with a genuine shot at profitability.

So: Could the market indeed have supported four different machines all at once? The Dreamcast's era marked the industry's shift toward multiplatform releases as a standard; perhaps Sega would have simply carved its success out of Sony's market share. But more likely, given history, is that Dreamcast's survival would have come at the expense of one of the less popular consoles of the era, GameCube or Xbox. But which?

GameCube might seem the obvious pick, having come in a few million units behind Xbox. But Nintendo has a deep war chest, a loyal fanbase, and perhaps above all a compelling need to survive in video games, given that it's the company's sole business. GameCube would have suffered, especially given that GameCube ended up being the beneficiary of Sega's initial third-party largess once Dreamcast flopped. But Nintendo and its devotees would have almost certainly followed the same path as in it did for GameCube: Ride out a rocky generation, then reinvent itself with the unconventional Wii.

The Best of Dreamcast: Racing

When it comes to racing, Sega may be known best for the Daytona series. But these other takes on the genre kept Dreamcast fans streaking along at top speed.

Crazy Taxi: The Dreamcast conversion of this arcade hit came bursting with the same manic energy and all the Dragula you could handle.

Jet Grind Radio: Along with its innovative cel-shading, Jet Grind Radio combined racing, chase gameplay, graffiti, and an intense urban vibe to create a wholly unique experience.

San Francisco Rush 2049: The most traditional racer of the bunch, this futuristic take on the Rush series still wasn't all the conventional.

Microsoft, on the other hand, might have had to contend with Dreamcast as a more direct and dangerous competitor. There would be a certain irony in that: Microsoft provided Dreamcast's operating system, a modified Windows CE, quite likely as a means to get their foot in the door of the console market in advance of Xbox. Since the Dreamcast dried up in advance of the Xbox launch, Microsoft never really had to compete with itself.

But Dreamcast and Xbox shared a more crucial similarity than their respective operating systems. "Even beyond the games, Sega stepped into the gap and brought online play infrastructure to the console," says USgamer's Mike Williams. "Sure, people weren't ready for it, but it worked the few times I tried it. Sadly, it wasn't until after Xbox Live's launch that online was normalized for the mainstream consumer. It was just too much, too early."

But how much of Dreamcast's online challenges were simply a factor of its turbulent life? Would it have fared better if the system had survived? Xbox Live didn't see it first hit until Halo 2, which launched more than five years after Dreamcast's debut. That's plenty of time for Dreamcast — which came with Internet connectivity out of the box, unlike any of its competitors — to have found its niche and established a user base long before Microsoft.

Would Dreamcast have prevented Halo 2 from being a massive hit? Nah. But it could have kept the game from feeling nearly so groundbreaking. And, more to the point, it could have undermined Microsoft's stomach for competition. The games division has always been a money-losing proposition for Microsoft, to the point that the company has recently talked aloud about the possibility of divesting itself of the Xbox division. It's not hard to imagine that with a third rival plundering their marketshare, such talks would have happened much sooner... and that the all-in-one set-top box ambitions of the Xbox One might have abandoned the Trojan horse pretense of being a gaming system altogether.

Phantasy Star Online flung Dreamcast far into the future... of gaming.

Dust and echoes

"Despite the various challenges the system faced, I think the hardware and the software was good enough that the Dreamcast could have survived," says Sewart. "It could have carried Sega into another console generation. But Sega itself was bleeding money, apparently. In order to prevent the Dreamcast's, demise decisions that were made years before needed to be reversed. I don't think it was ever going to end well for the Dreamcast."

And so, all of this is simply idle musing. The Dreamcast is long dead, and Sega will never release a new console. The company's hardware division had been hemorrhaging money for years, with life support reportedly coming from an aging angel investor who decided to cut his losses when Dreamcast ended up dead on arrival in Japan. The chain of events that led to system's demise stretched back for years and were deeply woven into the company's history and business that it would be impossible to isolate any one factor and save the console. In truth, Dreamcast was doomed even before it launched.

It's a heartbreaking example of excellent hardware being suffocated by the realities and foibles of business. And hardware "was incredible," agrees Sewart. "Booting up Soulcalibur for the first time was like nothing else. Plus, the system promised online play out of the box, which was something console gamers hadn't seen on a massive scale up until that point.

"As a member of the press it seemed fairly obvious that the Dreamcast was fighting a steep uphill battle. The off-generation timing of the system meant that it was never going to hold up against the second or third wave of PlayStation 2 games. The system was going to be obsolete before the console generation it technically kicked off really got going."

"The Dreamcast was a beautiful star that burned out too soon," mourns Williams. But not too soon to build an impressive library of top-notch games and establish a loyal fanbase that gathers every Sept. 9 to mourn what might have been.

Could Dreamcast have survived? And how would the industry be different if it had? You've read our speculation — now it's your turn.

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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #1 brionfoulke91 4 years ago
    Great article. If I could sum up the Dreamcast in a single word, it would be "creativity." There was so much inventiveness going on with some of it's games, and it really is a crying shame that it didn't get the chance it deserved. I honestly believe that we missed out, and maybe gaming would be in a better place if it did.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #2 Roto13 4 years ago
    Dang, look at that list of fighting games. Dreamcast was a fighting game fan's dream come true. Arcade perfect ports of fighting games were almost unheard of at the time, but Dreamcast had plenty of them. (in SoulCalibur's case, it was actually significantly better than the arcade version.)
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  • Avatar for sean697 #3 sean697 4 years ago
    I bought Into the Dreamcast late. Well not at launch. But in that short time with I discovered such a great number of good games I quickly fell in love with it. There were such great concepts like PSO that gave me an experience that I never had anywhere before. I think it wasn't mentioned, but also of note, the piracy or Dreamcast games so early in its its life did t help eigther. With Broadband coming about in the US, lots of people were downloading games and burning them to CD. Cutting out music to make it fit. After that became prevalent, they got out pretty quick. They couldn't take a hardware hit and a software hit.

    Oh well. I greatly enjoyed it when it was out. I still like it better than the PS2.
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  • Avatar for IPA #4 IPA 4 years ago
    My favorite console ever. I make that judgment call with full awareness of the power of nostalgia. The games, the year 2000, where I was in my life -- it was a recipe for something special. Soul Calibur, Skies of Arcadia, RE: Code Veronica, Chu Chu Rocket, Powerstone, SF3, Shenmue -- a beautiful library and a beautiful time to be 19.
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  • Avatar for The-Fool #5 The-Fool 4 years ago
    Fantastic article, Mr Parish!

    It was really quite interesting, so thanks!

    Although, it needs to be proofread again as there are one or two typographical errors.
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  • Avatar for Hero-Protagonist #6 Hero-Protagonist 4 years ago
    Great article, I take it the next in these parallel universe retrospectives will be
    'What if the Virtual Boy fever swept the nation?'

    I for one see chiropractic and optometry practitioners thriving in a society rife with neck injuries and deteriorating eyesight.
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  • Avatar for pashaveliki #7 pashaveliki 4 years ago
    Oh Dreamcast...

    Man I love you. Thanks for the article, Jeremy.
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  • Avatar for kidgorilla #8 kidgorilla 4 years ago
    This is going to be a very unpopular thing to say, but I loved the Dreamcast for all of the wrong reasons: piracy. I never owned one myself, but friends of mind had, and all of them would routinely tell me how easy it was to make a boot disk, download ISOs, and play whatever they wanted when they wanted. When I was 19 and broke, this sounded amazing. I held out for a PlayStation 2 and waded through that rough first year of mediocre releases while my buddies were bootlegging Tech Romancer and Cannon Spike, occasionally playing a bit of Phantasy Star Online on the side -legit, but I think that was the only way.

    I was more than happy with my decision to go with the PS2, but there was always a small sense of misplaced jealousy knowing that people had CaseLogic books full of great DC games. It didn't take long, though, to realize that the prevalence of piracy on the Dreamcast, especially now 15 years removed, always seemed like it would kill it no matter how well Sega might have been doing at the time. Yes, it has that dreamy aesthetic that I'll always fondly remember, and playing Soul Calibur for the first time was totally brain melting, but the ease of cracking the machine's security felt just as much console kryptonite as corporate infighting and financial woes. Part of me will always love you, Sega, but the Doom spell was cast on this machine too easily.
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #9 cldmstrsn 4 years ago
    I don't think xbox would exist today if the dreamcast had done really well. there is barely enough room for 3 consoles out there and back then with how huge PS2 was and if you have dreamcast with the gamecube Microsoft wouldn't have had a chance in hell.
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  • Avatar for mobichan #10 mobichan 4 years ago
    I find it hard to speculate "if the Dreamcast had succeeded" because so many outside factors played into its demise. It wasn't like the games were the main reason. The online play was a nice feature, but the infrastructure was not there in the US for fast modem play (everyone was using LANs to play multiplayer then). And a successful Dreamcast would have meant Sega would need to release better modem add-ons, probably repeating their mistakes with the Genesis and ushering in a bunch of console variants. But at the end of the day, the online factor really didn't sell the console to the majority of Dreamcast owners. Sega was still competing with the PS1 install base, which was almost impossible to beat, even for Nintendo. And I think the promise of a PS2 on the horizon made a lot of people who were content with their PS1's think they should wait a year or two for the next iteration of the console they already had invested in. I think the PS2 launch was horribly overrated (come on, Evergrace?!) but it had a pedigree that carried it for a couple years until developers knew what they were doing.

    In some ways, I think Dreamcast wasn't born from the same fire that created Sega's previously successful consoles. I loved my Genesis and Saturn, but I knew why I had bought them. It wasn't to be the cool kid with the best thing on the block. It was because they had games I wanted to play. Dreamcast had a few games I wanted to play, but ultimately never felt as exciting as those previous consoles. Not that it was a bad system and maybe I was just getting older at the time of its launch, but the Dreamcast just didn't have the spark of inspiration I was looking for.
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  • Avatar for Vinheimer #11 Vinheimer 4 years ago
    Thanks for keeping the memory of the Dreamcast alive, Jeremy! PSO and Soul Calibur are both firmly in my personal top ten list of games.

    I think the Dreamcast could have survived if its designers had implemented DVD-ROM rather than GD-ROM. That would have meant that Sony would have no way to leverage the marketing power of multimedia. Strong, consistent sales would have meant more consumers with access to Dreamcasts and thus more support from third parties--perhaps even EA would have relented. Perhaps we'd have seen the online console gaming revolution come early! Sony would still have had Final Fantasy, Metal Gear, and a legion of loyal customers under their belt, but Dreamcast would have made such a worthy opponent that the Xbox might never have been able to get off the ground. Perhaps Microsoft would have partnered with Sega on a generation 7 console.

    Alas, Sega is all but dead now. Long live Sega!Edited 2 times. Last edited September 2014 by Vinheimer
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  • Avatar for Keldorek #12 Keldorek 4 years ago
    It's astounding to me to realize the system was basically done-for in 2001. My brother and I played it for so many years, that it never seemed less than alive. Wonderful article. It's strange how heartbreaking the whole thing feels even today. We Dreamcast fans were -- and are -- really attached to that strange, brilliant little whirring box.
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  • Avatar for Vinheimer #13 Vinheimer 4 years ago

    There were new officially-licensed Dreamcast games coming out in Japan until 2007, believe it or not! Most of them are arcade shooters. Check out Trizeal, Radirgy, Under Defeat (this one is fantastic), Triggerheart Exelica, and Karous (last official title, released in 2007).
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  • Avatar for Keldorek #14 Keldorek 4 years ago
    @Vinheimer Definitely! I still play the system on occasion, but it seemed to be "officially" alive for so much longer than it was. Loved that thing. I will never forget seeing Soul Calibur for the first time on a tiny old CRT. It was astonishing. I adored the PS2 later, but there was nothing like that -- not even close. I always think back to what might have been if Sega had included DVD-playing capability in the DC. That was clearly a MASSIVE selling point for PS2 back then on top of all the hype from Sony about the horsepower.
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  • Avatar for RorschachCCCLX #15 RorschachCCCLX 4 years ago
    The Dreamcast is my all time favorite console. I purchased more games for it than I did for any other. I tried to single handedly keep Sega in the hardware business, and we see where that ended up.
    I think one reason I have a hard time jumping on the happy feels PS4 wagon is how dirty Sony played the game in 2000 to help push Sega out of the market in an attempt for a console market monopoly. They told some retailers to move all their Dreamcast games to the back of the store, to not prominently display Sega marketing materials, all at the risk not getting PS2s. I felt their initial struggles with hubris and horrible marketing with the PS3 was fair comeuppance and I don't much care how well it's successor does.
    The Dreamcast took many daring leaps forward that wern't just silly gimmicks (though were plenty of those too, hello Seaman) but innovations that would be the norm for consoles going forward. The Dreamcast will never get the recognition it deserves, but it will always be my favorite.Edited September 2014 by RorschachCCCLX
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  • Avatar for Monkey-Tamer #16 Monkey-Tamer 4 years ago
    I bought a Saturn, then Sega promptly ditched it. Being a teenager I didn't have much money, and was rather upset that my console I had saved for was to be obsolete so soon. I refused to buy a Dreamcast due to my experience with the Saturn. Lots of people had ill will after that move. I imagine I would have been furious if I had purchased the short lived Dreamcast. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I hope the industry learned a valuable lesson from Sega. As an adult I can afford what I want, but I know there's a kid out mowing lawns right now to pay for his video game habit just like I did.
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  • Avatar for hal9k #17 hal9k 4 years ago
    @Monkey-Tamer Yes, I had a very similar experience. I had always been a Nintendo kid, but by '94 I felt that Nintendo was missing the boat on CD-ROM. I shopped around (PlayStation was an unknown quantity and wasn't out yet) and ended up buying a Genesis for cheap, plus a Sega CD and 32X all at once. I seriously regretted the decision, and sold the whole mess only a year later to put the money towards my first PC. I felt burned by the experience, and resolved never to buy another Sega product.

    By '99, when I was about to get out of college and starting to get interested in buying another console, I still had bad feelings towards Sega and had been envying my friend's PS1. Sony just had more credibility as a brand than Sega by then, at least for me. I'd also like to think that with the wonders of the internet, I was a more informed consumer, so I ended up waiting for the PS2.@Vinheimer makes a great point about DVD playback being an advantage, and backwards compatibility meant a lot to me.

    It's a shame that the Dreamcast failed due to Sega's history and market forces, and not due to its own merits as a console. It looks like it had a lot of games that were underappreciated gems in their time, although at least many of them were later ported to other systems (Code: Veronica is possibly my favorite Resident Evil).
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  • Avatar for matthewdoherty31 #18 matthewdoherty31 4 years ago
    I notice one of the downfalls of the system was not mentioned and that is piracy. The Dreamcast was notoriously easy to pirate. Just copy the game onto a blank CD-R and you're good to go.

    Also a severe lack of marketing helped kill Dreamcast as well though this is likely due to the 'hemorrhaging money' issue. You can't exactly put advertising dollars in when you don't have cash to begin with. Yes, the Dreamcast started out strong with it's media blitz, but after 6 months you barely heard a word from Sega on the machine.

    Unfortunately I think the Dreamcast was always doomed to fail. I don't see how you could have had 4 consoles competing for market space let alone developer resources. It either would have caused another crash with over-saturating the market, made 3rd party developers second rate like in the 8-16 bit days because they would have spread themselves too thin or pumped out crap, but the most likely scenario is one of the 4 had to go. And given the powerhouse the PS2/Sony was and Halo boosting Xbox it would have been either Nintendo or Sega as the Gamecube was looked at poorly for the most part by gamers. So while it's possible Nintendo may have become the developer only company I just don't see that happening and so I think Dreamcast could have held on for a few years but downfall was always inevitable.
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  • Avatar for larrywitt03 #19 larrywitt03 4 years ago
    They didnt mention Quake 3.Loved the dreamcast just went the wrong route.
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  • I agree 99% with the article. Owned both US and Japanese units.........those REALLY were the days of gaming. Need to mention though that you missed one fighting game that all but immediately maxed out the DC's capabilities. TECMO's DOA2. If you want to get off the bandwagon of bashing it due to the oppai shakes, it also together with Soul Calibur was one of the most impressive games of its time.
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  • Avatar for nickdaniel17 #21 nickdaniel17 4 years ago
    Good lord, I did a double take when I saw that screen shot of Soul Calibur. I had remembered that game looking so good.
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  • Avatar for Namevah #22 Namevah 4 years ago
    Sadly, I missed the Dreamcast. I waited for the next Nintendo system while my friend purchased a PlayStation 2 (and The Bouncer, unfortunately), so I only played the DC at my local Target. I did grab some of the DC ports that hit other consoles (I can’t imagine the amount of hours I put into PSO on GameCube), but it was obviously far from the actual console and the collection of standout games.

    We still see a few Sega games that remind me of the Dreamcast era, like Rhythm Thief and the three Valkyria Chronicles games. Bringing Hatsune Miku to North America also reminds me of a move that the DC-era Sega might do. Hopefully they continue releasing these odd, enjoyable games. (Personally, I’d kill for more Valkyria Chronicles. Maybe give it to Atlus.)
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  • Avatar for pdubb #23 pdubb 4 years ago
    This article is so right, but it feels like such a tease compared to everything there. It's just no way to talk about it all. Just a screen shot of PSO brought a warm and fuzzy feeling to me.

    I'll babble on and on about the Dreamcast and it's games so I'll just list stuff that didn't make the cut, some of which others mentioned, but all of which hold a special spot in gaming for me. Edit: and still a wall of text

    The VGA box, Samba de Amigo and the maracas, too many hours virtua tennis, 4 player power stone, Virtua On: Oratario Tangram with twin sticks ah...., the first time I saw some play seaman, the PSO theme, BACK OFF ALPHA STOOOOORM!!, chu chu rocket, hours of crazy taxi, quake 3, NBA and NFL 2k, ALIEN FREAKIN FRONT ONLINE!!!, how loud the disc motor was, the dread of yet another random battle in skies when you heard the drive start up and you were on the over world screen, rocking out to Jet Set Radio instead of actually playing, wanting to break your TV everytime that birthday cake song played, that time you rented Evolution and was super pissed because you thought everything on Dreamcast was gold, seriously thinking about importing Sakura wars, armada with three friends, the heart break when you realized that armada 2 online was never gonna be released.

    I miss the Dreamcast so much, if you had lots of friends in close proximity, nothing could match it as a party system, not even the Wii. Watching first time non gamers play Samba de Amigo in 2000ish was just magical.

    RIP Dreamcast we miss you.Edited September 2014 by pdubb
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #24 jeremy.parish 4 years ago
    @nickdaniel17 I had the same reaction. Like... whoa, who replaced that ultra-realistic cutting-edge video game I remember with mid-period PS2 jank?
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  • Avatar for abuele #25 abuele 4 years ago
    I remember reading about the release of Dreamcast in other countries, I do not know how SEGA faired in Latin America as a fertile market. The Master System faired quite well even in bigger retail stores, which gave quite a push for the Genesis to be fairly successful in retail, and allowed a boom in the informal markets during the 90's, but the 32X and Saturn brought a drag to what the Genesis did for the budding videogame market in Latin America.

    Sony Play Station on the other hand started breaking ground. Piracy of PS One games reached surreal levels, that it appeared the not only Sony allowed it, but would encourage it, even though Corporate Sony in Latin America did not gave support to consoles sold in those countries. This allowed to pave the success path for the PS2. Piracy in the PS2 was harder to achieve, but the games reached a mainstream status that you could acquire games anywhere. This also helped Microsoft set in countries like Mexico since it was a brand giving ample support to many of its products, so when the XBOX launched in those countries, post sale support reach out to a more mature audience in those countries which also help for the customer's to start avoiding the piracy traps.

    Companies settling other types of products and providing support that reached the consumer helps sustain a market for new products, not the case for the Dreamcast.
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  • Avatar for alexb #26 alexb 4 years ago
    Thanks for the nostalgia trip, Parish. Farewell, Arcadia of my youth...
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  • Avatar for metalangel #27 metalangel 4 years ago
    The Dreamcast had a cavalcade of varied, fun, colourful, innovative titles. Yet people were clamouring for the PS2 which had a pretty lousy launch, IMHO. They were worked into a frenzy over all the stuff like the pressure sensitive buttons on the controller, the vertical orientation (and the pointless stands), the weird swirling effects on the menu... it feels like they bought the PS2 hype as opposed to the tangible goodness of the DC which was right there already.
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  • Avatar for jeffspurlin95 #28 jeffspurlin95 4 years ago
    So this article basically is saying Apple is the new Sony, or sony used to be apple-esque, stupid expensive, makes you feel like your social status is better bc of it, and that it really isn't better then the others
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #29 SargeSmash 4 years ago
    What really put the PS2 over the top, outside of the last generation going so poorly for Sega and well for Sony, was DVD playback on the system. I know a LOT of people that bought the system for gaming plus the bonus of a DVD player, as those weren't exceptionally common at the time the PS2 came out. Imagine if the Dreamcast were somehow able to fill that niche.
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