Today is the tenth anniversary of the release of the Sega Dreamcast in the United States.
In the end, I think there was one thing and one thing only that killed the Dreamcast: it didn’t play DVDs. Sony’s hype machine for the PS2 was absolutely incredible. If the Dreamcast had played DVDs it would have probably lasted until Sony’s hype wore off and people realized that the PS2’s “Emotion Engine” didn’t produce graphics significantly better than the Dreamcast’s. (Plus Shenmue II wouldn’t have had to come on four CDs.)
A lot of people don’t recall that the Dreamcast offered the first real console online multiplayer experience…unfortunately using 56k modems. Now, it’s not impossible to write online mulitplayer games that can run over a 56k modem…but it is hard, and “lag” wasn’t something console players back then were used to. Xbox Live’s success came from their willingness to explicitly state, “If you don’t have broadband, go away.”
So the poor thing was simultaneously ahead and behind its time. If it had played DVDs and been easily upgradeable to use broadband, we might still be playing it (or a backwards-compatible successor) today.
And now I’m off to play Jet Set Radio all day.