"The reasons why the Dreamcast will never see its third birthday." - by Retrovertigo - Page 1/2
I'm sure everybody has watched one of those inspirational sports comedy movies like The Bad News Bears, The Mighty Ducks, or Major League, about a team of unlikely and unconventional "athletes" who overcome their inferiorities and develop an unbreakable bond, which eventually leads up to the movie's finale where they challenge and defeat the evil and pompous "Number One" team. The outcome of these movies are very predictable and the content is extremely clichéd, but they deliver the same positive message - if you try hard and learn to work together, you can succeed at anything.
Unfortunately, the real world is not as forgiving and as malleable as Hollywood portrays it. Sometimes, working hard doesn't guarantee a good life or a positive outcome. In reality, when an athlete performs poorly, whether he misses too many field goals, causes too many errors, or causes a game losing fumble, the management could bench the player indefinitely or cut him from the team roster altogether. Sometimes the best efforts still aren't good enough.
The world is a business now - everything is a business venture - and the business world is a savage industry. Television shows, despite how good they critically may be or how popular the actors in them are, can be cancelled in a heartbeat if nobody is watching. The entertainment industry can be very unforgiving, and sometimes the only guarantee for success is a good first-impression.
Much like the sports, television, and movie industry, the video game industry has been growing bigger by the year, and is quite a big money maker. Nintendo and Sony have been experiencing a lot of success with their video consoles throughout the 90s and are still going strong today.
However, for a struggling company like Sega, even its great games for their Dreamcast console, were not enough to save the ill-fated console.
What went wrong to cause Sega's Dreamcast to fail as a video game console despite all of the engineered improvements that Sega did to make it more appealing to the mainstream gamer and user-friendlier for software developers?
Believe it or not, the Sega Dreamcast was in trouble from the beginning.
Before the Dreamcast's September launch, Sega's credibility with the mainstream industry was tarnished because of the disappointments of their previous systems, the Sega Saturn and Sega CD. There was a general sense of mistrust from the mainstream gaming community towards Sega because of this, and with the reigning success of the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, many gamers continued to support those systems. The only people who really supported the Dreamcast were the gamers who enjoyed Sega's other systems, and unfortunately, that is a very small minority in the gaming industry.
Think of the Sega as a popular Hollywood actor, like Kevin Costner. Some of you may be rolling your eyes at me choosing Kevin Costner as a "popular actor", which is exactly my point. Before Kevin Costner directed and starred in the over-budgeted Hollywood "bomb" Waterworld, he was a fairly popular actor. After the movie was released, his credibility as an actor and director was stained. When he released his other big-budget post-apocalyptic film The Postman, many people didn't go to see it, because they felt that it was going to be another overly ambitious Hollywood venture on Costner's behalf. Today, even though Costner may star in some good movies, he's not the big name in Hollywood that he used to be.
This is the same with Sega. After years of being the underdog in the gaming industry, and after tons of bad press, especially surrounding the Sega Saturn, Sega became a company that many people scoffed at and showed little respect for. Even though the Dreamcast promised better graphics and a faster processor, many gamers rolled their eyes and returned to playing their Nintendo 64s and PlayStations. I've witnessed the rolling of eyes from friends of mine when they see that I have a Dreamcast. "Oh, you have the Dreamcast?" they say condescendingly. They just don't understand.
But it wasn't only the gaming audience who didn't support the Dreamcast. Several powerful third-party developers like Electronic Arts and Konami, chose not to support the console. As a matter of fact, Konami was supposed to release Castlevania: Resurrection, but for technical reasons the game was cancelled. However, in retrospect, Konami may have been the first developer to see that the Dreamcast was not going to be a big moneymaker, and bailed out. Some developers chose to take a "wait and see" approach, to see how well the system did before they would show support for it or were unenthusiastic about supporting the Dreamcast after the notoriety of the difficult-to-program-for Sega Saturn.
One thing that gamers today may have begun to notice with the release of next-generation consoles by Microsoft and Nintendo is that the marketing and advertising for both systems has begun and will be in full swing by next week (the days before the launch of both systems). Sega did a poor job promoting their products in the media outside of magazines. Around the time that NFL 2k1 and Seaman came out, Sega began promoting their Dreamcast and their new SegaNet online service, and they even brought back the "Sega Scream" to their commercials, which gave fans a lot of hope for Sega. But those commercials were short-lived, and eventually ended. I think the last Dreamcast commercial I saw on television was for Sonic Adventure 2, back in June or July.
Sega has been a struggling company for many years, and had been continually reporting losses every fiscal year during the Dreamcast's run, and their stock portfolio was not too impressive.
I respect Sega for having the courage to go out on a limb with new and innovative titles, but I think that some of these odd "games" like Seaman, the microphone-interactive frogman simulation, were only attractive to the more diligent gamers. I think there were too many experimental titles and not enough recognizable franchises to appeal to the mainstream audience. The Dreamcast also didn't have enough sequels to popular franchises. Besides Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2, Phantasy Star Online (which wasn't really a true sequel to the RPG series), and the Dreamcast's version of Ecco the Dolphin, there weren't a lot of popular Sega titles that could catch the attention of the mainstream audience. Why didn't Sega release an official Phantasy Star RPG sequel, or sequels to popular Sega franchises like Space Harrier, Shinobi, Hang-On, or Afterburner? Nintendo has a lot of success with their systems because they release a lot of franchise games that feature their most popular characters.
Sega also had too many ambitious add-ons for the Dreamcast that never saw the light of day. Remember the zip drive, which would plug into the serial port of the Dreamcast, and supposedly would allow you to save information onto the zip disks instead of the VMUs? Never happened. Speaking of VMUs, does anybody remember the Dreamcast VMU that was going to be able to store over an hour of MP3s? Did you know that it was supposed to hit store shelves last December? How about the DVD add-on that Sega announced they'd have after Sony announced that their PlayStation 2 could play DVD movie discs? Never saw the light of day. Sega had been criticized in the past for having too many add-ons with the Sega 32X and the Sega CD, and they repeated the same mistake with the Dreamcast with these ambitious products that never made it to store shelves. Sega made too many promises of great and innovative accessories, and delivered on nothing.
Who can forget the Dreamcast chip that was supposed to bring the ability to play Dreamcast games on "set-top boxes," DVD players, and PCs? Even if that idea was still in the works, would people be able to get a hold of old Dreamcast games in 6 months to a year, without digging through bargain bins or searching online auctions? More importantly, would people care?
Next: More On The Dreamcast