Header Ads

SEGA Dreamcast: The Rapid Decline Of Gaming's Most Innovative Console

SEGA dominated the early nighties gaming scene, they had a fast rise but an even faster fall.

The SEGA Megadrive was a huge hit, the edgier answer to Nintendo’s SNES, with more gaming variety and a focus aimed at teenagers that sparked the greatest console war in history. The warning signs were there though, even with its popularity, SEGA had an obsession with add-ons. The SEGA 32X was meant to upgrade the system to a 32bit monster but in reality it sucked and no one bought it. Nintendo kept strong and let the momentum of consistent strong titles and franchise entries keep it afloat.

When the time came to launch the next generation of consoles, SEGA fumbled (or perhaps got cocky), they announced the SEGA Saturn at E3 1995 with immediate effect, people could buy the system that same day! One snag however, they forgot to include most developers in their plan and the console limped out the gate with sparse limited quality software and little on its horizon to get fans excited. Fast forward to 1999 and SEGA were now in deeper waters than they had ever been before, they needed a new hit and this time they were determined to get it right.

After a limited Japanese release the year before, On September 9th 1999 the Dreamcast was released worldwide.

Bold Marketing
It was a huge success, it had the first ever modem for online play, a completely re-designed controller with an expandable slot and a great launch library. The attach rate was huge; people could not get enough of it. It was firmly aimed at gamers, while Nintendo kept the kids market on lockdown, SEGA was catering to a wider audience. Games such as Crazy Taxi, Virtua Fighter and most excitingly they excellent fully 3D Sonic Adventure got chins wagging. Some of the games however did seem a little far-fetched, catering very much for the eastern gaming audience where SEGA called home, however this meant it was a quirky machine and people loved it because of this.

There was one small snag on launch though as one of the largest most prolific mega-publishers made a bold move and didn’t come along for the ride, and that publisher was EA. Deciding not to develop for the platform because of the fallout from the aforementioned SEGA Saturn. This was a big blow for SEGA, as the publisher and its subsequent bevvy of developers went looking for a new home elsewhere.

Shenmue: Fantastically Ambitious
When people found out about this, it was certainly a hit to the public’s perception and trust of SEGA as a console manufacturer. Because of this, SEGA knew they had to do something and ramped up their own 1st party development. The result of this activity was Shenmue which at the time was the most expensive game ever made, rumoured to have had a total development and marketing cost of $70 million dollars. It certainly was a bold move, and SEGA pinned the future of the console on the game. When Shenmue came out, the feelings were mixed. A fantastically ambitious title it boasted that you could live someone’s life, go to work, play and have relationships as well as solve a mystery. The problem however was that the game was so hard to get into and really didn’t catch on with anyone other than hardcore gamers. Casual players just could not be persuaded to pick it up, ending in less than stellar results for SEGA.

Finally as if the final nail in the coffin looming over the slowly dying Dreamcast came Sony’s PlayStation 2. The follow up to the popular PlayStation struck a chord in the market by not only being backwards compatible opening up a huge library of games, but furthermore would ship with a DVD Player. At the time having a DVD player was a luxury most could not afford but the PS2 had one and would be the cheapest you could buy anywhere on the market. Coupling this with a hugely hyped new console sank the Dreamcast, and this one oversight in hardware was its downfall, SEGE rushed it to market too soon and paid the price.

After a change in SEGA's upper management, the Dreamcast was discontinued on the 31st of March 2001 . It had a 2 year life span in which it sold an impressive 9.13 million units and was cherished by every gamer that owned one. Yea the library was a bit odd but it had charm, it dared to be different and showed real innovation. We at GAMR salute the Dreamcast, it will be forever known as the little console that could.

What did you love most about the Dreamcast? Have you still got one and what are your favourite games? Let us know in the comments.

Jake Buchanan | @HDD_Heart

No comments

Powered by Blogger.