How The Sega Dreamcast Was Ahead Of Its Time And Still Failed

Some of you might remember the Sega Dreamcast or for that matter, when Sega was known for not only developing video games but consoles as well. The video game console that would ultimate be Sega’s last release into the market before becoming strictly a video game development studio was short lived by less than two years. Though it didn’t last long into the market, the Dreamcast was a trend setter bringing out features that consoles still use to this very day. Find out why the Dreamcast was ahead of its time but ultimately failed and lead to Sega never releasing a video game console again.

Why Dreamcast Failed

The Sega Dreamcast officially launched back in 1999 and gamers were looking to get a console much like the successful Sega Genesis. During this period of time, Sega was bringing out consoles and additions that were not particularly popular. This included the Sega 32X and even Sega’s previous console at the time, Sega Saturn.

Sega Saturn

Upon the grand reveal of the Dreamcast, it was clear that Sega was starting to get back on track and was developing something that gamers would purchase. There were a number of things going on for Sega’s Dreamcast. For one the marketing campaign was a delivering hit after hit with viral videos of the next big video game console release. Again, we’re talking about a time where viral videos were not used as a marketing campaign but the different videos left gamers wondering what was to come but also kept media and gamers talking about Sega.

Included in the system was something that would become the norm for every console, online connectivity. Sega released each and every console unit with a modem that would allow gamers to connect online and play against other gamers, something that wasn’t a massive hit until the Dreamcast for consoles. I’m sure for younger gamers out there, it would be hard to imagine a console without the ability to connect online and play against friends or gamers around the world.

Upon the launch, Sega met fans of all video game genres with a number of different titles. These selected video games included Soulcalibur, Sonic Adventures, NFL Blitz 2000, The House of the Dead 2, Ready 2 Rumble Boxing among several others. This was a key element in moving units fast when the system launched, the more AAA titles that were available for pick up the better. Once the launch date came to North America, it went over incredibly well. Sega found themselves breaking a world record for biggest media launch of all time. After launch, the Sega Dreamcast hardware and software made over an astonishing $98 million!

Even the memory card was different. Sega developed a device known as the VMU or Visual Memory Unit. The device featured a LCD display, directional pad and even a few buttons that allowed gamers to play little minigames. Several video games used the memory card to display additional information in-game that ranged from health, inventory items or even noted gamers when they were accessing a special area. Furthermore, gamers were able to connect VMU’s and play against one another in different multiplayer minigames or to transfer files.

VMU Dreamcast

So what went wrong? What stopped Sega from manufacturing additional Dreamcast Units after more or less one year passed? We’ll really narrow it down to two key points, for starters: the Dreamcast suffered from piracy. During the time of the Dreamcast release, PC users were getting more used to the ability of burning their very own CD’s.

Gamers were finding out that they could easily rip the image from a Dreamcast disc through the use of the console’s SATA-HDD. With these images, gamers could either upload them on the internet for others or make illegal bootleg copies of the game. Because the Dreamcast console didn’t require any restrictions on CD-R discs, pirated copies of Dreamcast games were not only easy to obtain but making them was simple for anyone with a disc burner. Gamers were now getting video games for a fraction of the price in retail or in some cases completely free.

Another reason and possibly the final nail to the Dreamcast coffin, Sony’s PlayStation 2. When Sony announced that the PlayStation 2 was currently in development, the specifications were vastly better when compared to the Sega Dreamcast. Let’s go over some comparison specs between the PlayStation 2 and the Dreamcast.

Sony stated that their upcoming console would offer 60 million polygons per second while Sega’s Dreamcast only offered 3 million polygons per second. Disc based games were far different as well with Sony’s DVD disc offering 4.7 GB of data on a single layer with 8.5 GB being offered thorough dual layer discs. Sega in this case only offered 1.2 GB of data on their GD based ROM disc. Furthermore, Sega found that they were no longer offering a suitable console for online gameplay support. Broadband Internet support was being offered in Sony’s PlayStation 2 while the Dreamcast simply only offered 56K Dial Up support.

More importantly the PlayStation 2 offered DVD playback and was backwards compatible.

Still after the announcement, Sega kept moving on knowing that the PlayStation 2 would soon be arriving in the market soon. By the time Sony launched the PlayStation 2, Sega had sold about three million Dreamcast units between Japan and North America. Sony however found themselves selling 600,000 PlayStation 2 units after the first day of sales. Furthermore, Microsoft had announced their entry into the video game console market with the Xbox and Nintendo revealed their latest console release, the Gamecube.

Dreamcast, PS2, GameCube, Xbox Controller

Sega was now fighting to have their console stay relevant. In order to move units, Sega was offering all kinds of new deals like the announcement of SegaNet, an online service to offer fast reliable multiplayer gameplay and web browsing. There was even a deal for a free Dreamcast unit and keyboard for those who purchased a two year subscription but gamers were still growing a disinterest for the system.

On March 31, 2001 Sega officially discontinued the Sega Dreamcast. Not only did Sega announced that they would be officially pulling out of the hardware department completely but would instead be a software company offering multi-platform video game titles.

Sega only managed to sell 10 million units worldwide before the system was discontinued. Nintendo later went on to release the Gamecube in 2001 with the system lasting until 2007 where it managed to sell 21 million units world wide. Microsoft’s first console release Xbox lasted from 2001 to 2008 selling 24 million units. Sony was the clear winner with the PlayStation 2 being the most successful console between the other three. The PlayStation 2 released back in 2000 and wasn’t discontinued until January 4, 2013. During the production of the PlayStation 2, Sony sold over 155 million units!

Even though the Sega Dreamcast had a very short lifespan, it did beat everyone to the race for online gameplay, interactive memory card units and for at one time held the record for biggest media launch. Did you own the Sega Dreamcast and if so, did you enjoy the short lived console? Let us know in the comment section down below!