CELEBRATING THE 20th ANNIVERSARY OF THE SEGA DREAMCAST
After a mixed reputation with the SEGA Saturn, the company is hoping for a fresh start.
SEGA is ending the millennium full of confidence by releasing their brand new console SEGA ‘Dreamcast’ on November 27th 1998 in Japan, in the United States on September 9th 1999 and worldwide a month or two later. You figured it out, today we’re going to retrace the story of SEGA’s last video game console. So for the nostalgic, fasten your seat belts we are going back in time!
A PROMISING START
After tragic losses in the video games consoles market shares and with Sony and Nintendo controlling most of the market, SEGA’s last hope was to earn gamers’ hearts and they were pretty confident about the future success of the ‘Dreamcast’. SEGA’s first step was to hold a public competition to name its newest product. After considering thousands of names they finally decided to go with ‘Dreamcast’ a simple compilation of ‘Dream’ and ‘Broadcast’.
The second step for the company was to announce the upcoming release of ‘Sonic Adventure’ a new game starring the most famous hedgehog, that would be available for the release of the ‘Dreamcast’. With that promising start, public’s interest starts to grow and preorders flow in. The craze is such that the entire stock of 300,000 consoles is sold the day of the release. The company estimated that 200,000/300,000 more consoles could have been sell but a high misstep in the manufacturing process leading to a shortage of chipset caused SEGA’s failure to fulfill all the demand.
DELAYS THAT WILL DISTURB THE DREAMCAST SUCCESS.
Despite a fantastic start the console’s success quickly declined and many factors could explain SEGA’s breakdown. First of all only four games were released at the launch date and only Virtua Fighter 3 sold well, not a big success neither since it was already SEGA’s most sold game in Japanese arcade games. Secondly Electronic Arts choose not to develop any game on SEGA’S new console. Publicly it is said that a change in the configuration of the console, the decision to go with a judged unknown player over an established one and EA’s will not to work on SEGA’s system was pretty much it, but secretly a disagreement over EA’s exclusivity on sports brand for the ‘Dreamcast’ could be the real reason.
Thirdly the flagship games ‘Sonic Adventure’ and ‘Sega Championship Rally 2’ were delayed, they arrived in the following weeks but the hollow caused by the delay killed a bit the hype. SEGA’s president Shoichiro Irimajiri expected over a million sales four month after the release of the ‘dreamcast’ but numbers were below the expectations, only 900 000 consoles were sold. Last affront for the company, few Japanese customers decided to return their ‘Dreamcast’ to purchase additional Playstation Software.
ONE LAST STAND
SEGA quickly reacted to the trend and took measures. The price was reduced from JP¥29,000 to JP¥19,900, the release of ‘Seaman’ on July 1999 and ‘SoulCalibur’ on August 1999 helped a lot to prepare the success of ‘Dreamcast’ in the US.
For the US launch of the console on September 9th 1999, the ‘Dreamcast’ had eighteen games available, the price was set at $199 and a mass marketing campaign resulted in a success. 500,000 consoles were sold in two weeks and 225,000 the first 24 hours setting up a record in the video game industry. The success was the same in Europe on October 14th 1999, with 400,000 consoles sold within a month.
THE END OF AN ERA FOR SEGA
Just like what happened in Japan, the US and Europe were confronted to the same problem. After a wonderful start, the sales began to fall, with the tough competition opposed by Sony and its ‘Playstation 2’ that was exceeding by far ‘Dreamcast’ performances, Microsoft starting to develop their own consoles and Nintendo announcing their next generation consoles, SEGA couldn’t resist. Combined to Electronic Arts licenses being absent on ‘Dreamcast’ the console was doomed to failure.
Even with the nomination of a new president it was too late for SEGA, on January 2001 they announced that more games would come but the console itself was to be discontinued by March 30 2001. By the end of the production around ten millions of copies were sold but many more were still sitting on shelves and SEGA had to drop the price gradually to be sold in the end at a derisory price of $39.99. With no longer plans to develop another home console, ‘Dreamcast’ is SEGA’s last home console, they are now only producing games. Ironically enough with that announce, a cult started to grow. Collectors and hardcore fans asked for more consoles to be sure that they would have one at home.
THE GAMES THAT MADE THE DREAMCAST
To celebrate this anniversary, Mat Piscatella a video game industry analyst revealed that 4.1 millions ‘dreamcast’ were sold in the US, only in a large part due to NFL 2K the year’s best-selling Dreamcast game. An impressive number given the total number of 10 millions sales worldwide.
He also tweeted a list of ‘Dreamcast’ Lifetime top 20 games ranked on unit sales. This list may seem innocent, but it says a lot. Fourteen games out of twenty are developed by SEGA itself. The first game not produced by SEGA to appear on the list is ‘Soul Calibur’ ranked at 7th place.
We can interpret this ranking positively, saying that SEGA was strong enough to produce games that sells better than the legendary ‘Soul Calibur’ but we can also interpret that by a failure from SEGA. In fact this list is a little truncated, sports games dominated the market and even if here sports games are majority EA’s games are still missing from the list. The choice not to import EA’s games on ‘Dreamcast’ is one of the biggest mistake made. Reaching an agreement would have definitely help increasing the ‘Dreamcast’ sales
The ‘Dreamcast’ and SEGA had everything to be successful, strong games, a fantastic launch and it was the first console to have a built-in modem and supported online gaming over Sega.net. For the nostalgic even if the service is no longer available it is still possible with a device to play Quake 3 Arena or even surf the Internet with ‘Dreamcast’ to this day. But a couples of misadventures and bad decision like not getting EA on their console killed SEGA. Sony was too ahead of its time and other big companies started to catch up, SEGA couldn’t do anything.
However, over time the ‘Dreamcast’ seems to be regaining popularity to the public. Specialised journalists are ranking ‘Dreamcast’ among the best consoles ever created, some even stating that SEGA was ahead of its time and it suffered at retail for that reason.
We are hoping for a new edition for the nostalgic but also for the youngest so that they will have the honor to play with a piece of history. Did we make you want to play it?