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Dreamcast logo.svg
North American Dreamcast with controller and VMU
Manufacturer Sega
Type Video game console
Generation Sixth generation
Release date
  • JP November 27, 1998
  • NA September 9, 1999
  • EU October 14, 1999
  • AUS November 30, 1999
Discontinued March 30, 2001
Units sold Worldwide: 10.6 million[1]
Media CD, 1.2 GB GD-ROM
CPU Hitachi SH4 32-bit RISC clocked at 200 MHz
Memory RAM 16 MB, GPU 8 MB
Storage VMU
Graphics 100 MHz PowerVR2 CLX2
Online services SegaNet, GameSpy (NA)
Dreamarena (Europe)
Best-selling game Sonic Adventure, 2.5 million (as of June 2006)[2]
Predecessor Sega Saturn

The Dreamcast (ドリームキャスト Dorīmukyasuto?) is a video game console that was released by Sega in November 1998 in Japan and later in 1999 in other territories. It was the first entry in the sixth generation of video game consoles, preceding its rivals, the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube. The Dreamcast was Sega's last home console to date.

Sega tried to launch the console as part of a comeback after its previous efforts with the Sega Saturn failed. With a strong marketing campaign and reformed studios to develop new creative content, the Dreamcast was initially well received with a very successful launch and strong sales. However when Sony announced the PlayStation 2, sales of the Dreamcast quickly plummeted, due in no small part to the console's inability to support movies on the new DVD format. Sega later came to the realization that it did not have the financial resources to compete. The company discontinued the Dreamcast in North America early in March 2001,[3] withdrawing from the console hardware business altogether and restructuring itself as a third-party developer. Support of the system continued in Europe and Oceania until the end of 2002, while in Japan, new licensed games continued to be released.[4] 10.6 million units were sold worldwide.[1]

Despite its short lifespan, the Dreamcast was widely hailed as ahead of its time.[5] It saw the release of many new game series which have been considered creative and innovative, such as Crazy Taxi, Jet Set Radio, and Shenmue, the most expensive game ever produced upon release.[6] Ports of games from other platforms were also praised for the system and the console introduced many aesthetic and software design features to be later emulated. It was the first[citation needed] game console to render full frames (as opposed to interlaced only) in VGA mode at 640×480, and features online console gaming; it was the first console to include a built-in modem and Internet support for online play.[7][8] The Dreamcast came to be held in high regard, and its influence can be greatly seen in Microsoft's Xbox, as Sega worked with the company before the Xbox's release and during its development.[9] As of 2014, the Dreamcast is still supported via small independent publishers such as GOAT Store Publishing and RedSpotGames. In 2009, Dreamcast was ranked #8 on IGN's list of the Top 25 Video game consoles of all time.[10]



In 1997, the Sega Saturn was struggling in North America, and Sega of America president Bernie Stolar was pressing Sega's Japanese headquarters to develop a new platform. Two competing teams were tasked with developing the console–a skunkworks group headed by IBM researcher Tatsuo Yamamoto and another team led by Sega hardware engineer Hideki Sato.

Sato and his group chose the Hitachi SH4 processor architecture and the VideoLogic PowerVR2 graphics processor for their prototype. Yamamoto and his Skunkworks group also opted for the SH-4, but with 3dfx video hardware. Initially, Sega decided to use Yamamoto's design and suggested to 3Dfx that they would be using their hardware in the upcoming console, but Sega later opted to use the PowerVR hardware of Sato's design. This was attributed to 3Dfx leaking details and technical specifications of the then-secret Dreamcast project when declaring their Initial Public Offering[11] in June 1997, a move which readers on Gamespy.com named "one of the dumbest mistakes in video game history".[12] Sega's shift in design prompted a lawsuit by 3dfx that was eventually settled.[13][14]

With Sega's machine, no operating system resides in the device until it is loaded in on a disc with each game. The advantage, Sega executives say, is that developers can always ship products that use the version of an operating system with the newest features and performance enhancements. The operating system used by some Dreamcast titles was developed by Microsoft after two years of work with Sega. It was an optimized version of Windows CE supporting DirectX. According to Richard Doherty, president of Envisioneering Group, "Microsoft had initially wanted Windows CE to be Dreamcast's main operating system. It isn't." [15] The Dreamcast's boot-up sequence was also composed by accomplished Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto.[16]

Hello Kitty Dreamcast


The Dreamcast logo is a swirl, with colours differing according to region. An orange swirl is used in Japanese and North American NTSC hardware and marketing, with a red swirl also occasionally appearing in North America. In PAL regions, the Dreamcast logo was changed to blue[17] so as to avoid a trademark dispute with German video game/DVD publisher Tivola, who already used an red swirl as their company logo.

Variations of the Dreamcast logo
Red swirl (NTSC regions) 
Blue swirl (PAL regions) 


The Dreamcast was released in November 1998 in Japan; on September 9, 1999 in North America and on October 14, 1999 in Europe and November 30, 1999 in Australia. Despite problems with the Japanese launch,[8] the system's launch in the United States was successful. A record 300,000 units had been pre-ordered in the U.S. alone[8] and Sega sold 500,000 consoles in just two weeks (including a record 225,132 sold during the first 24 hours). In fact, due to brisk sales and hardware shortages, Sega was unable to fulfill all of the advance orders. Sega confirmed that it made $98.4 million on combined hardware and software sales with Dreamcast following the September 9, 1999 launch.[18] Four days after its launch in the U.S., Sega stated that 372,000 units were sold bringing in $132 million in sales.[8]

Launch titles such as SoulCalibur, Sonic Adventure, Power Stone, Hydro Thunder, Marvel vs. Capcom, The House of the Dead 2, and NFL 2K helped Dreamcast succeed in the first year.[19] Sega Sports titles helped fill the void left by a lack of Electronic Arts sports games on the system.[20] Dreamcast sales grew 156.5% from July 23, 2000 to September 30, 2000 putting Sega ahead of the Nintendo 64 in that period.[21] However, the launch of Sony's PlayStation 2 that year marked the beginning of the end for the Dreamcast.[22]

Financial troubles[edit]

Despite strong North American and European sales, the poor Japanese launch ultimately left Sega with its enormous US$412 million net loss in the quarter ending March 2000 - double the loss Sega first expected.[23] Sega made a ¥17.98 billion (US$163.11 million) loss for the 6 months ending September 30, 2000, and a yearly loss of ¥42.88 billion (US$388.9 million), making it Sega's third consecutive annual loss.[24] These losses greatly contributed to its discontinuation, and Sega continued to bleed money annually until posting a profit in October 2003.[25]

End of production[edit]

On January 31, 2001, Sega announced that they were discontinuing Dreamcast production by March 30 of that year.[3] The last North American release was NHL 2K2, which was released in February 2002. According to Bernie Stolar, former President and CEO of Sega of America, the Dreamcast was discontinued because the new chair of Sega wanted the company to focus on software.[26]

Sega Europe continued to support the Dreamcast until mid-2002, with BigBen Interactive publishing the last batch of PAL titles such as Rez, Evil Twin: Cyprien's Chronicles, Cannon Spike, Heavy Metal: Geomatrix, Razor Freestyle Scooter and Conflict Zone [27] During the following years, unreleased games like Propeller Arena, Hellgate,[citation needed] and Half-Life were leaked to the Internet in essentially completed, playable forms.

Although production of the Dreamcast ended in 2001, Sega of Japan continued selling refurbished systems and releasing new games until 2007.[citation needed] Many of the games were initially developed for Sega's NAOMI arcade hardware, including Sega's final first-party Dreamcast game, Sonic Team's Puyo Puyo Fever, released on February 24, 2004.[4]

The last Dreamcast units were sold through the Sega Direct division of Japan in early 2006. These refurbished units were bundled with Radilgy[4] and a phone card. The last Dreamcast games published by Sega of Japan were the 2007 releases Trigger Heart Exelica and Karous.,[4] nine years after the release of the console.

Three other NAOMI games—Exzeal, Illmatic Envelope: Illvelo and Mamonoro—were supposed to be ported to the Dreamcast, however Sega abruptly decided to discontinue the production of GD-ROMs.[28]

As of 2014, the console is still supported through various MIL-CD independent releases[29] with releases from small studios such as Hucast, RedSpotGames and NG.DEV.TEAM. New commercial games are released now on CD-ROM instead of GD-ROM and without official Sega license, most notably Rush Rush Rally Racing and Last Hope.


Internal view of a Dreamcast console including optical drive, power supply, controller ports, and cooling fan.
Mainboard of a Dreamcast console.

The system's processor is a Hitachi SH-4 32-bit RISC at 200 MHz with an on-die 128-bit vector graphics engine, 360 MIPS and 1.4 GFLOPS (single precision), using the vector graphics engine. The graphics hardware is a PowerVR2 CLX2 chipset, capable of 7.0 million polygons/second peak performance and trilinear filtering. Graphics hardware effects include gouraud shading, z-buffering, spatial anti-aliasing, per-pixel translucency sorting (also known as order independent translucency) and bump mapping. The system supports approximately 16.78 million colors (24-bit) color output and displays interlaced or progressive scan video at 640 × 480 video resolution.

For sound, the system features a Yamaha AICA Sound Processor with a 32-Bit ARM7 RISC CPU operating at 45 MHz,[30] 64 channel PCM/ADPCM sampler (4:1 compression), XG MIDI support and 128 step DSP.

The Dreamcast has 16 MB 64-bit 100 MHz main RAM, 8 MB 4 × 16-bit 100 MHz video RAM, 2 MB system ROM, 128 KB flash memory and 2 MB 16-bit 66 MHz sound RAM.[footnotes 1] The hardware supports VQ texture compression at either asymptotically 2 bpp or even 1 bpp.[31] The VRAM, RAM and ROM (amongst other areas) and all mapped in to a single address space accessible by the CPU.

The system reads media using a 12x maximum speed (Constant Angular Velocity) Yamaha or Samsung, in later hardware revisions, GD-ROM Drive.


The limited-edition black "Sega Sports" model.
Rare Divers 2000 CX-1 Dreamcast, Released only in Japan. The Divers 2000 was a special edition of the Dreamcast that had a built in television set by Fuji.
Accessories that came bundled with the Divers 2000 Dreamcast in Japan.

Due to its short production span, only a few official models were released. The primary models throughout the Dreamcast's lifespan were white in color. A few rare models produced late featured a modified BIOS that had its support for MIL-CD discs removed to prevent piracy.

Some special Dreamcast models were released in certain regions. In North America, a limited edition black Dreamcast was released with a Sega Sports logo below the Dreamcast logo on the lid with matching Sega Sports-branded black controllers.[32] Electronics Boutique offered a blue Dreamcast through its website.

There were many Japan-only models made, including a Sakura Taisen version. A Hello Kitty version was also released in 2000, which, due to its limited production, has become an extremely rare collector's piece. The package contains a keyboard, controller, VMU, mouse, and a Hello Kitty trivia game. Two limited edition Dreamcast models based on Capcom's Resident Evil Code: Veronica game were also released, one a clear pink "Claire Redfield" model and VMU limited to 1800, and the other a clear dark blue S.T.A.R.S model and VMU limited to 200 numbered units; both included a copy of the game. The R7 model ("Regulation#7", referring to the regulation seven in the Japanese penal code pertaining to businesses affecting public morals) consisted of a special refurbished Dreamcast unit that was originally used as a network console in Japanese pachinko parlors, in a newly designed black case. The final Dreamcast models were released in gold.

To celebrate the millennium Sega released the Japanese Divers 2000 CX-1 Sega Dreamcast, a blue TV/Dreamcast combo with flashing lights on the side.


The Dreamcast controller has two dock connectors for use with multiple accessories, like the VMU
Main article: Dreamcast accessories

One of the most notable accessories for the Dreamcast was the VGA adapter, allowing Dreamcast games to be played on computer displays or Enhanced-definition television sets in 480p (progressive scan). In addition, other accessories included a vibrating jump pak and a VMU accessory which was a memory card with a small screen that provided a variety of functions for various games. Also made available for specific games were the arcade stick and light gun controllers.

In most regions, the Dreamcast included a removable modem. The original Asia/Japan model and all PAL models had a transfer rate of 33.6 kbit/s, while consoles sold in Japan and the US after September 9, 1999 featured a 56 kbit[20] modem. Brazilian models manufactured under license by Tec Toy did not include a modem, which was available separately. The regular modem could be replaced with the Dreamcast Broadband Adapter, that was sold separately. This upgraded the dial-up connection to high-speed broadband capability.

A special link cable was produced allowing the Dreamcast to interact with the Neo Geo Pocket Color,[33][34] but the Neo Geo Pocket Color was unsuccessful in western regions, reducing its usefulness. In addition, very few games took advantage of this feature.


Among the official games are Dreamcast's online games that could be played over the Internet. The online servers were run by SegaNet, Dreamarena, and GameSpy networks. Online game support was particularly popular in Japan, with releases of network compatible games such as Tech Romancer and Project Justice. Web browsers were developed by independent companies such as Planetweb to allow access to web sites and included features like Java, uploads, movies, and mouse support. Dreamarena came with games such as Sonic Adventure and ChuChu Rocket!.

There are seven games that can still be played online on the Dreamcast. These are: 4x4 Evolution, Maximum Pool, Phantasy Star Online, Quake III Arena, Sega Swirl (using play by e-mail), Starlancer and Planet Ring (which was brought back online in 2013).[citation needed]

Game library[edit]

As of November 2007, the Dreamcast has 688 official games available in its library, and unofficial, independent games continue to be released by certain companies.[35] Games were sold in jewel cases. In Europe, the jewel cases were twice as thick as their North American counterparts, possibly to allow more space for thick, multilingual instruction manuals. Unlike US jewel cases usually featuring one door, European cases had two doors and could store two disks.


The Dreamcast introduced numerous features that would be standard to future consoles. All models were shipped with modems allowing users to browse the net and play games online via dedicated server through SegaNet (Dreamarena in Europe), a precursor to services such as PS2 Network and Xbox Live.

Alien Front Online was the first online console game to feature live in-game voice chat. NFL 2K1 was the first football game to feature online play.[36] Phantasy Star Online, the first console MMORPG, has been cited as one of the most groundbreaking and influential games of the generation.[37] Jet Set Radio popularized cel-shaded graphics.[38] Shenmue is regarded as a major step forward for 3D open-world gameplay,[39][40][41][42][43] introduced the quick time event mechanic in its modern form,[44] and has been widely cited as one of the best and most influential games ever made.[45][46][47][48]

IGN named the Dreamcast the 8th greatest video game console of all time,[49] and Edge named it the 10th best console of the last 20 years [50] while PC Magazine named it the greatest ever.[51] In retrospect, gaming historian Steven L. Kent stated that "SEGA supported Dreamcast better than any single company has ever supported any console".[52] 1UP.com's Jeremy Parish opined that "When the Dreamcast died, so too did the concept of videogames as the exclusive province of the hardcore."[53]

Independent commercial games such as Feet of Fury, Last Hope and DUX have also been released.[54] On June 10, 2010, at E3 Sega announced that Dreamcast titles would soon be available on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. The first two titles to be released are Sonic Adventure and Crazy Taxi, followed by Sega Bass Fishing and Space Channel 5 Part 2.[55]


Throughout the years since its discontinuation, there have been rumors suggesting that Sega was working on a Dreamcast 2,[56][57] which Sega has repeatedly debunked.[58][59][60][61]

Microsoft's Xbox has been described as the Dreamcast's 'spiritual successor',[9] and received sequels to Dreamcast games including Shenmue 2, Jet Set Radio Future, Crazy Taxi 3, The House of the Dead 3, Sega GT 2002 and Project Gotham Racing (the spiritual sequel to Metropolis Street Racer[62]). In addition, popular Xbox titles Fable[63] and Ninja Gaiden[64] started development on the Dreamcast. Similarities between the Xbox 360 and Dreamcast have also been noted.[9][65]

At one point, the two companies could have been so bonded when then-Sega President Isao Okawa wanted Microsoft's Xbox to be backwards compatible with Dreamcast software, and held talks with Microsoft chairman Bill Gates shortly before Okawa's death on March 16, 2001; negotiations eventually fell apart.[66] Microsoft also worked together with Sega to develop the custom Dreamcast port of the DirectX-based Windows CE as an alternative to Sega's proprietary operating system and development libraries, which were used by many of the releases for the console.[67]


  1. ^ In this article, the conventional prefixes for computer memory denote base-2 values whereby "kilobyte" (kB) = 210 bytes, "megabyte" (MB) = 220 bytes.


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External links[edit]

Media related to Sega Dreamcast at Wikimedia Commons