Sega Dreamcast: Ahead Of Its Time?

Revolutionary ideas don't move consoles apparently.

 Way back in the late ’90s, video game empire Sega, in one last push after a series of flops in the hardware department, decided to not only learn from their previous mistakes, but to create a piece of tech that boosted features very bold and efficient for its time in the form of the Dreamcast.

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This fascinating product showcased some pretty revolutionary stuff, ranging from a modem that came with the box, enhanced definition outputting 480p, and even VMUs (Visual Memory Units) which acted as a second screen for your gaming experience (beat you to it, Wii-U.) If that didn’t already seem unorthodox for a 15-year-old console, Sega’s beast was cranking out an online game service before your PSN or Xbox live.

What a logo…

Even with all those futuristic specs and peripherals, as well as even having a pretty solid game library, the Dreamcast imploded the second the Playstation 2 hit the scenes. Although it cost more, and did not sport as many optimal features as the DC, the PS2 had what was perhaps the biggest addition to the casual consumer–a DVD player. With dedicated runners very costly, Sony’s decision to run the format, as well as house a great launch lineup, was a great package that proved too much for Sega to handle.

This, in turn, marked the last great console blunder for the former software giant, and so a mere 16 months after its 9/9/99 release, Sega revoked the Dreamcast out of circulation and bowed out of the system market to make games for others in the third-party. Many of Sega’s IPs were lost, and even sold, to their old competitor Nintendo; oh, the irony.

This was to be such a loss for creative unique game design however, as the upcoming systems (Xbox, Playstation 2, Gamecube) would blur together to form a line of somewhat bland, uninspired consoles, which would provide amazing gaming fixes; but so similar in execution and philosophy that they would be hard to tell apart for a person not in the gaming scene, apart from the color of the box.

A tragic ending for Sega, but if they were able to think so far ahead into the future that we still use many of their advancements to this day, why did their final system crash and burn so hard? The answer could vary immensely, but perhaps the final nail in the coffin to the Dreamcast’s brutal demise was simply not having the required bonus features the customer craved at the time.

Sega had improved just upon every aspect of their previous console iterations, except for one, which had stuck with the company to the bitter end–abnormality. 

This could be traced back to the 32X, a device meant to extend the life of their most succesful machine, the Genisis/MegaDrive. Sega has always tried to explore new ventures to promote their product and the 32X was the first to fail in the direction that Sega had planned.

The failed marketing decisions only further escalated with the Sega CD and Saturn, again repeating the same unorthodox directions that wouldn’t prove to be profitable with features unappreciated by the average buyer.

With all these missteps and flops, it was a miracle the Dreamcast had even lasted as long as it did, even more of a surprise with how it resonated upon the gaming community. Make no mistake though, the Dreamcast was a success in the form of providing powerful ideas for future iterations of consoles to benefit from. Truly a classic machine worthy of all the posthumous praise it still attracts today.

 


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