Requiem for a Dreamcast

Russ Pitts | 20 Feb 2007 11:00
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In other words, it's the games, stupid.

Sega, sensing a weakness in the market for their Saturn console, which they had originally counted on to see them through a five-year cycle, pulled the plug in favor of an advanced launch timetable for the Dreamcast. The third-party developers, annoyed at having thrown resources behind a now-defunct console, were reluctant to commit again to Sega's new platform, costing the company the support of the third-party developers they needed to ensure the Dreamcast's success. No third-party games, no publisher support, no audience. Cause, effect, close the doors and turn out the lights. Had Sega been less skittish over Saturn's long-term prospects, or developers more bullish on the Dreamcast's, maybe they'd still be in the game. But they weren't, and that's that. Sega now makes games, end of story. What happens when you throw a perfect console launch and no one shows? Dreamcast.


TechTV shared office space with a few of Sega of America's divisions, notably, Dreamcast. In the spring of 2001, they closed their doors and moved out, shedding inventory in an inter-office fire sale. I cleaned up. It was the most Dreamcast merchandise I'd seen in one place since buying the damn thing, and the most I'd see ever again. I carried my treasures home and played them over and over. They were great games: Jet Grind Radio, Sonic Adventure, Ecco the Dolphin, Crazy Taxi, Shenmue, Seaman, Soul Calibur, etc. Sega had never failed as a game designer, and their machine felt like it was made for their games. The games that actually made it to shelves, however, were only half the story. Half-Life, Max Payne, Tropico ... the list of games slated for 2001 release on the Dreamcast reads almost exactly like the list of games I ended up purchasing and playing on my PC. Between the PC and the Dreamcast, I weathered the first few years of the new millennium, never once sparing a thought for Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo. But it didn't last.

Eventually, I caved and bought an Xbox and let the Dreamcast go in some tumultuous breakup or another. I never did drink the Kool Aid and buy a PS2. Not for a long time anyway. Not until it came with a plastic guitar. Personal allegiances run deep, after all, and although I (and Sega) lost that round, I couldn't admit it. Couldn't concede. Then again, as has been well established, prophecy has never been one of my strengths. Nor has forgiveness.

Russ Pitts is an Associate Editor for The Escapist. He has written and produced for television, theatre and film, has been writing on the web since it was invented and claims to have played every console ever made.

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