Ramblings on the Dreamcast

There are few game consoles that have launched with games that when the console died, they are still considered “must plays”. You have the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) with Super Mario Brothers and the Xbox with Halo: Combat Evolved, but the system that exemplifies this statement is the Dreamcast.

Launched on 9/9/1999, in the US, the Dreamcast had 17 software titles available to the gaming populace:

1. Blue Stinger
2. Expendable
3. Flag to Flag
4. House of the Dead 2
5. Hydro Thunder
6. Monaco Grand Prix
7. Mortal Kombat Gold
8. NFL 2K
9. NFL Blitz 2000
10. PenPen TRiIceLon
11. Power Stone
12. Ready 2 Rumble Boxing
13. Sonic Adventure
14. Soul Calibur
15. TNN Motorsports Hardcore Heat
16. Tokyo Xtreme Racer
17. TrickStyle

While not all the DC launch titles were great, several are remembered fondly and still played to this day. It is easy to identify the popular titles, by simply looking at what has been rereleased on other consoles.

  • House of the Dead 2 (and 3) on the Wii,
  • Hydro Thunder  remake on XBLA,
  • Powerstone  (and the sequel) were released as a collection on the Sony PSP
  • NFL series tranitioned to PS2/Xbox/Gamecube until EA bought exclusive rights,
  • Soul Calibur was released on XBLA
  • Upcoming rerelease of Sonic Adventure is the worst kept PSN/XBLA secret.

So the question you have to ask yourself is, why? Why did the Dreamcast launch with so many games? Why were so many successful? Why was there not the usual tech demos (PS2’s Fantavision or Wii’s Wiiplay) associated with its launch?

Well to answer all these questions, we need to look to Japan. The Dreamcast launched in the land of the rising sun on November 27, 1998. Almost a full year before it hit American shores. Few would describe the Dreamcast Japanese launch as smooth. Sega was unable to meet their own shipping goals due to production issues with the graphics chip. In addition, the Japanese Dreamcast would only launch with 4 titles

1.       Godzilla Generations

2.       July

3.       Pen Pen TriIcelon

4.       Virtua Fighter 3tb

Famitsu, Japan’s premiere gaming magazine, reviewed all of these games, ranking them from good (Virtua Fighter) to atrocious (Godzilla Generations). So how did a company that failed at the local launch correct, turn around a year later and create the most successful console launch in video game history?

History reports that it is all thanks to this gentleman, Bernie Stolar. As the story goes, Bernie defied Sega of Japan’s demands for the console to be priced at $249.99. This price point would have allowed Sega to profit on each unit, but Stolar fought saying that the 199.99 price point would move more units. Also, that the 199.99 price would drive more software and accessories sales, which ultimately turned out to be true, with over $100 Million in sales occurring in the first week of the American launch. The irony of this successful launch is that Stolar resigned from Sega days before the Dreamcast launch, due to a disagreement with the new president of Sega.  Before leaving, Stolar had set up the Dreamcast launch, stock piling software from Japan to expand the number of titles available day one for the Dreamcast,  he was able to get the many game enthusiasts excited about the launch and he even used the calendar (9/9/99) to mark the significance of the Dreamcast launch.  The American launch ultimately proved to be the most successful launch of the Dreamcast. But in the end, even with all of this momentum, the console ultimately failed. The second part of this series will expound upon the Dreamcast’s early exit from the marketplace.

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