Sega Dreamcast Jul 20, 2014 16:19:41 GMT
Post by The Laird on Jul 20, 2014 16:19:41 GMT
After the failure of their Saturn console, against the unstoppable might of the Sony PlayStation, Sega wanted to get back into the game as soon as possible. So just 3 years after the release of the Saturn their new console, the Dreamcast, hit Japanese stores in November 1998 with the North American and European release just under a year later. The machine was initially very well received and in fact broke sales records for a new console. In the US alone a record 300,000 units had been pre-ordered and Sega sold 500,000 consoles in just two weeks, which included selling a record 225,132 units during the first 24 hours. In fact the machine was so popular that Sega suffered massive stock shortages and was unable to keep up with both pre-orders and retail demand for the console. However the success was sadly short lived thanks to Sony and their announcement of their new PlayStation 2. Surrounded by an ocean of hype and misleading marketing by Sony, as well as the genius of including DVD playback as standard, the PS2 almost killed the Dreamcast over night when it was released onto the market. On January 31, 2001 Sega announced that they were discontinuing Dreamcast production by March of that year. This was exactly 1 year after the worldwide launch of the PS2, showing just how quickly the machine met its demise. It would be simplistic to lay the blame of the Dreamcast’s ultimate failure solely at the feet of Sony, rampant piracy and EA’s decision not to support the console certainly didn’t help, but arguably the biggest nail in the coffin. Despite this early death the console continued to be supported by Sega up until 2004 and the last official 3rd party release came as late as 2007.
The Dreamcast brought several firsts to the world of console gaming. The most notable of these was online play. All models were shipped with dial-up modem allowing users to browse the net and play games online via dedicated server such as SegaNet or Dream Arena in Europe. These were a precursor to services such as PS2 Network and Xbox Live. ChuChu Rocket was Sonic Team's first online multi-player game and shipped with the machine, while Alien Front Online was the first online console game to feature live in-game voice chat. It was also the first service to feature downloadable content (DLC) for games such as Phantasy Star Online, Skies of Arcadia and Samba De Amigo. The regular 56k modem could be replaced with the Dreamcast Broadband Adapter that was sold separately. This upgraded the dial-up connection to high-speed broadband capability and games such as Phantasy Star Online are still supported by servers today! Another important feature of the Dreamcast was the VGA adapter, allowing Dreamcast games to be played on monitors or HD TVs in 480p. A special link cable was also produced allowing the Dreamcast to interact with the Neo Geo Pocket Color handheld. Unfortunately SNK’s machine was never very popular meaning very few games took advantage of this feature. The last feature of the machine that must be mentioned is the revolutionary VMU memory cards. These plugged into the back of the controllers and had a small screen that provided a variety of functions that even included special mini-games.
It was actually one of the Dreamcast’s biggest flaws that led to the whole creation of the homebrew scene on the machine. Early Dreamcasts had no copy protection and so could play games on CDr without any problem. While this was corrected on later units, the simple use of a boot disc bypassed any protection and allowed you to insert a standard CD afterwards. Another big advantage of the Dreamcast when it came to homebrew was the operating system was always supplied on the actual disc. One of the OS options developed for the machine was a special version of Microsoft’s Windows CE operating system. This meant that it was very easy to port existing PC Windows based games over to the machine leading to many Dreamcast releases of open source PC games such as Tyrian, Doom, Hexen and Another World. Several big teams continue to support the Dreamcast (such as Red Spot Games, Senile Team and NG:DEV.TEAM) with commercial quality releases that come with professional packaging and even special collectors editions.