The Sega Dreamcast

This is the first instalment of a new feature on the blog that looks back at classic technology and all the devices we used to use. It's not just about nostalgia though, as it should remind what a difference they made and what we should expect from manufacturers today. We can also see where things went wrong as well.

I thought the Sega Dreamcast was a great place to start, as it's a clear example of a device that really didn't deliver.

At the end of the last century, this shiny, white next-gen console was finally released in the UK. I have fond memories of the Dreamcast and after waiting a long time, and watching the rest of the world enjoy theirs, I got it on release day.

Sonic Adventure immediately blew me away as it was far beyond anything an N64, or even a PC, could offer at the time. Sega Rally was also awesome and Virtua Fighter was the supreme beat ‘em up, before the impressive Soul Calibur arrived from Namco shortly afterwards.

That was the problem though because aside from the latter Namco title, they were all in-house Sega titles. 

I think it’s fair to say that no one else really brought into the Dreamcast that year and this was a huge problem.

After buying the expensive hardware and a few AAA games, you were left with very expensive Playstation or N64 ports that really didn’t bother to make anything of its capabilities. I also remember shelves full of South Park games while searching for in-demand Sega titles that were out of stock.

 It wasn’t just the software that let it down though, as Sega seemed to make some awful decisions with the hardware and arguably ditched its greatest asset before it hit the shelves.

The Dreamcast was fitted with a potentially game-changing modem, but there was a late decision to downgrade it from a promising 54Mbps to a very underwhelming 28Mbps.

The complicated software add-on to get online didn’t help either, so the fact that none of the software bothered to really use this feature was pretty much immaterial. It still bothers me that there was a version of Quake 3 on this console that allowed online play against PC owners, but few people got to play it given all the hardware limitations.

The memory card also had its own screen and controller, which was very neat. The only problem was that aside from a Tamagotchi type game that had to be unlocked from Sonic, I don’t know of anything else that took advantage of this huge innovation.

By 2001 the Dreamcast was in trouble, and I think it’s safe to say that it was dead and buried everywhere by 2003.

Sega survived as a publisher, but I still think it’s a shame we didn’t get more out of this great little machine with its Windows CE architecture.

It would have taken a lot to even survive alongside the Sony and Microsoft consoles in the years that followed, but I think it would have had a chance to be an alternative with more support and effective use of its hardware.

For now though, I just look back on classic like Sonic Adventure and Sega Rally like I look back on NiGHTS and Daytona on the Saturn.