The dreamcast turned 15 today. To be fair, it really turned 15 on November 27, 2013, based off of the Japanese release, but North American audiences first experienced the Sega’s final console September 9th, 1999. The industry was coming out of the fifth generation of video game consoles, which saw the rise of remarkable consoles like the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, as well as some less notable consoles like the Atari Jaguar, Sega Saturn, and 3DO Interactive Multiplayer. Sega was still reeling from the estimated $309 million lost from the poor performance of the Sega Saturn, and undertook an additional $450 million loss in 1998 to develop the Dreamcast. The Dreamcast would be the first console on the market in the sixth generation, followed by the PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox.
In November 1998 the Sega Dreamcast launched in Japan, but with lack-luster pomp due to Sega being unable to meet hardware demands. The North American launch faired better, with over 300,000 console preorders. While the North American and European sales were strong upon release, the poor Japanese launch left Sega with a $412 million loss for the first quarter of 2000, which contributed to a yearly loss of $388.9 million. At the end of January 2001, Sega officially announced that they were ceasing production of the Dreamcast at the end of March 2001, in an effort to focus exclusively on software.
So, what happened that made the Dreamcast fail? In March 1999, after the Japanese release but prior to the North American and European launches of the Dreamcast, Sony CEO Ken Kutaragi announced and demonstrated the PlayStation 2. The original PlayStation had a huge impact on gamers, and the PS2 promised to be better. When the PS2 launched in March 2000 (Japan) and October 2000 (North America), it not only offered faster hardware and more media options, but also allowed backwards compatibility for original PlayStation games. Most notably, the PlayStation 2 allowed the playback of DVDs, something the Dreamcast lacked. DVDs were just starting to become popular, and the PS2 served as both a console and DVD player, resulting in booming sales for Sony, and dwindling sales for Sega.
CPU: 200 MHz SuperH SH-4
GPU: 100 MHz NEC/VideoLogic PowerVr CLX2
RAM: 16 MB SDRAM / 8 MB Video RAM / 2 MB Sound RAM
Media: CD / GD-ROM (1.2 GB Capacity)
Output: VGA / SCART / S-Video / Composite
Online: Sega Net (’00-’02) / Dreamareana (’00-’03)
Operating System: SegaOS / Windows CE / KallistiOS
Allowed a maximum of 4 controllers at once
There are 688 official games released for the Dreamcast. Many of the titles initially released for the console were conversions or ports of Sega’s hit arcade titles. Some of the most successful titles were:
Dead or Alive 2
House of the Dead 2
Metropolis Street Racer
Power Stone (1 & 2)
Viruta Fighter 3tb
Samba De Amigo
Jet Set Radio
NFL 2K Series
NBA 2L Series
Quake III Arena
Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike
Crazy Taxi 1 & 2
Resident Evil: Code Veronica
Marvel Vs Capcom 2
Space Channel 5
Phantasy Star Online
Ecco the Dolphin
Sonic Adventure 1 & 2
Sega Rally 2
Skies of Arcadia
Shenmue (1 & 2)
The final official game to be released for the Dreamcast in North America was NHL 2K2 in 2002, but several independent developers continue to release MIL-CD format games for the Dreamcast. This post would be way too long if I (MG) decided to go into detail about the games, but I’ll work up some small reviews about some of my favorites!
Controller + Accessories
The controller for the Sega Dreamcast featured a directional-pad, an analog joystick, 4 buttons, two triggers, and a start button. It allowed two slot accessories to be used per controller. The Sega Dreamcast had a ton of accessories. Some analysts suggest that the number and specificity of some accessories contributed to the Dreamcast’s death. Games were saved onto Visual Memory Units (VMU). The VMU acted as a memory card, but treated users with mini games and extra information about the game being played. Similar to the Nintendo 64, accessories like light guns and rumble packs were produced. Sega also produced a broadband adapter to allow High-speed internet play, replacing the built-in modem accessory. Additionally, a VGA box was produced that allowed the Dreamcast to output video at 480p resolution to EDTVs and computer monitors.
Despite not being produced for over a decade, the Dreamcast is still readily available on Amazon, Ebay, and at stores like 2nd & Charles. Games are also still available, but time has taken it’s toll on the discs; several games purchased from Ebay and Amazon resulted in video and audio problems, and abrupt game crashes. But don’t despair! Because of the Dreamcast’s compatibility with the MIL-CD format, games may be burned to CDs and played without mod chips. I (MG) take a firm stance on video game piracy, but feel that it is more acceptable in the case of the Dreamcast, considering it hasn’t been produced for 10+ years.
While the Dreamcast died commercially, I believe that it’s impact on the video game industry was significant. I strongly urge all reading this to buy a Dreamcast. In my opinion it was way ahead of it’s time graphically, and has a fantastic lineup of games. Tune in to the Season 6E03 Episode of The Experience Points Radio Show (9-10-2014), where RedBear and I discuss some of our fondest Dreamcast memories!