Tech Seriousmenu

Sega Dreamcast

Dreamcast of Doom

The history of the Sega Dreamcast is a tragic paradox. On one hand, reviewers found the home video game console ground-breaking, with a few innovations that would soon become standard in future like-minded devices. On the other hand, though, the Dreamcast sunk rapidly and forever drew the curtain on the involvement of its manufacturer, Sega, in the video game hardware business.

The release date for the Dreamcast in the United States was September 9, 1999. It was available to customers in other parts of the world within the next two months. It is notable for ushering in the 128-bit generation of video gaming. The other main entries of this era -- Sony's PlayStation 2, Nintendo's GameCube, and Microsoft's Xbox -- would follow within the next two or three years. Also, the Dreamcast started another practice: the inclusion of a built-in modem for supporting online play and enabling Internet access. Back then, such a concept was new and novel; since then, this concept has blossomed into a huge, vibrant online gaming world. Nowadays no major home video game console is without a built-in modem.

At a comparatively reasonable cost of $199, coupled with its status at the forefront of advanced gaming, the Sega Dreamcast initially sold very well. Also, the console had pretty decent games. Sonic Adventure, which was the first game produced for the console, was praised for its graphics, gameplay, and soundtrack. Another one of the Dreamcast's top games, the colorful 3D fighter Soul Calibur, was imported from the arcades to the system and, like Sonic Adventure, sold over a million copies in the U.S. But perhaps the most fabled of them all is Shenmue, which has landed on several "greatest video games of all time" lists for pioneering or introducing innovations that include open-world environments and quick-time events.

Eventually, though, it was hard taking considerable market share from Sony, which had over 60 percent of it thanks to the sheer dominance of its original PlayStation system. Indeed, the Dreamcast fell short of sales expectations, and prices were frequently slashed to move inventory. Worse, third-party gaming support was hard to come by; the worst blow came from the withdrawal of Electronic Arts, which is the most dominant third-party game developer in the U.S. By the time the 128-bit generation of gaming began to pick up steam with additional entries, Sega was ready to pull the plug on the Dreamcast, which it finally did on March 31, 2001. Since then, Sega has solely focused on developing video game software, while industry experts and historians have showered retrospective praise on the Dreamcast as a noble venture gone terribly awry.

Console Gaming