Sega Dreamcast

Sega Dreamcast

6th Generation Competitors
Gamecube Playstation 2 XBox
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 27th Nov 1998 2001  9.13M
North America 9th Sep 1999 2001
Europe 14th Oct 1999 2001

The Saturn had caused Sega a lot of issues.  Not only was it largely a flop, being massively outsold by the Playstation and beaten by Nintendo.  But it also caused Sega numerous issues with publishers, distributors and retailers.

Several large retailers in North America, upset at being missed out of the Saturn launch, refused to carry Sega products, and that refusal carried on through the Dreamcast.

Although most publishers eventually did produce games for the Dreamcast, one especially damaging holdout was Electronic Arts.  Whilst they weren’t quite the size they are today, they were still an important figure with a lot of popular IP.  Most importantly for the North American market their sports licenses that had proved very popular in the previous generation.

Initial sales of the Dreamcast were strong though, helped by some solid arcade conversions from Sega and their partners.  Indeed it was considered to be one of the strongest launches in software terms up to that point.  The sales continued strong up until the Playstation 2 was announced.

As soon as Sony gave a launch date the Dreamcast sales started to dry up.  They did get a minor boost when Sony were unable to meet demand, but not enough for Sega to continue.

To add to their problems a flaw was found in their copy protection system, a routine created to cope with a special form of Japanese disc allowed discs to be created on normal CDs that bypassed region and copy checks.

This was the final nail in the coffin, Sega reduced the price of the Dreamcast to sell the back stock.  Once it was gone, they removed the Dreamcast from sale and left the console world for good.

The Dreamcast was certainly a powerful console, easily able to match the Playstation 2.  A lot of this was due to the custom  PowerVR GPU created by Imagination Technologies.  It was designed to pair with the SH4 processor perfectly and that meant there was very little bottleneck in the system.

Online play was a feature built-in to the console.  All consoles came with a dial-up modem, but a broadband option was also available.  Notably it was the first time that Quake had online play outside of the PC.

Sega produced a unique memory card system called Visual Memory Units.  These memory cards had little screens that games could use to display information and even install mini games onto.  Unfortunately, this also meant the VMUs cost quite a bit more than other consoles memory cards.

Specs

Processor Hitachi SH-4 32-bit RISC @ 200 MHz
RAM 16MB
ROM 1MB
Custom Chips IT PowerVR2 GPU @ 100MHz
Video 16.8M Colours, 3M Polygons
Audio 64 x Stereo Channels
Removable storage  Custom 1GB GD Optical Drive

 

Sega Dreamcast
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