Ten Things You Probably Didn't Know About the Sega Dreamcast
The Sega Dreamcast was Sega's last best hope as a console maker after their Sega Saturn tanked badly. Released in 1998, it was the first of the sixth generation systems, the first major console to come with a modem and online play capability, and was far superior to not only everything then on the market, but was in many ways better than the systems that would eclipse it.
Less than a year after a highly successful release, the Playstation 2 came out and that was really the end of the console wars for a long time. The PS2 is the highest selling system ever, and Sega simply couldn't stay in the system business that now had not only their old rivals Nintendo, but giant corporations like Sony and Microsoft. The Dreamcast was quietly discontinued in America in 2001.
Still, it left behind a legacy, and several interesting tidbits that you may not know.
10. Dreamcast Games Were Almost Available on Xbox: Sega didn't want to go down without a fight, and they were actively trying to partner with Microsoft to see if the Dreamcast could survive along side the Xbox. SEGA Chairman Isao Okawa met with Bill Gates several times to try and make the Xbox compatible with Dreamcast games. Microsoft balked at providing online-play support for the Dreamcast titles, but otherwise seemed open to the idea. A deal was, obviously, never reached.
9. It Was The Most Easily Piratable Console Ever: The Dreamcast tried real hard to curb the rising wave of game piracy with its custom GD-ROM discs that were supposed to make piracy much harder. Instead, all it took to pirate games was a few free programs and a CD-R of the Dreamcast Disc Image. You didn't even need a mod chip to do it like on the Playstation. In fact, Sega finally gave up when...
8. An Employee Gave Instructions on How to Pirate Every Genesis Game on a Dreamcast: The group behind most of the Sega piracy was called Echelon. Whenever a game came out Echelon had it up within days for download. Finally, Sega Smash Pack: Volume 1 was released in 2001, a collection of seven old Genesis games. Hidden in the game's code was a .txt file named Echelon that gave instructions on how to pirate Genesis games onto the Dreamcast. It was signed "Gary" and is believed to be the work of the lead American programmer for Sega Smash Pack, Gary Lake.
7. It Had a Maraca Controller: Sega had an arcade game called Samba de Amiga that they wanted to port to the Dreamcast. The game was basically just you shaking maracas in tune to pop Latin songs in a way that cannot look anything other than lame. The home controllers used an ultrasonic transmitter to properly align your shaking motions, and actually worked pretty well. No other official releases supported the maracas, but they could be used in the game Mr. Driller.
6. And It Had a Train Controller Too: Densha de Go! is a long-running series of train simulator games in Japan from Taito that's recently been acquired by Square Enix. Densha de Go! 2 Kōsoku-hen 3000-bandai got a port to the Dreamcast, and it came with a pretty slick custom controller. Other controllers for PS2 and Wii are also available in Japan.
5. It Has An Official Backpack: Sega knows that there is a retro gaming dollar to be had these days, and is hoping to cash in on it with their line SegaKawai in Japan. It's a clothing line that has T-shirts and tank tops with Genesises on them, and a huge Dreamcast controller backpack.
4. It Had The Stupidest Pun Ever Built In: Console developers are like game makers in that they like their little in-jokes and Easter Eggs as much as the next nerd. For instance, the Nintendo Game Cube has a microscopic dolphin drawn on a microchip inside the system because Dolphin was its codename. Sega went far less elegant, having their chips printed with the word "potato."
3. It Killed a Previous Mascot: During the Saturn days Sega used a fictional martial artist superhero named Segata Sanshiro played by Hiroshi Fujioka who would train in seclusion using a Sega Saturn and by breaking Nintendo products with his head. His job was coming into cities and beating people up until they agreed to play the Sega Saturn. He would then make them explode... twice.
When the Dreamcast arrived, Sanshiro was deemed no longer needed, so Sega had him ride an exploding missile into space. I'd make a joke about respectfully retiring a mascot, but look at that commercial! That's obviously how he wanted to go out.
2. It Was a PC Gamer's System: The divide between console gamers and PC gamers continues to be a no man's land of whining, but the Sega Dreamcast actually perfectly bridged that gap. It was one of the only consoles to use a mouse and keyboard controller extensively, and first person shooters were ported to the system with PC keyboard controls in mind to make the transition flawless for established gamers. The games booted using a Windows operating system, and often used DirectX-based graphics. Since many programmers were already familiar with those, programming for Dreamcast was relatively simple. Which is probably why...
1. There Are Still Games Being Made for It: They only stopped making official Dreamcast games in 2006, more than five years after the system itself wasn't being sold. The Dreamcast is still very popular with indie game developers, and we've seen a host of games like Redux: Dark Matters, Gunlord, and Ghost Blade come out in the last couple of years or so. No matter what the market tells you, the Dreamcast never really died at all.
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