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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
Media CD, Mini CD, 1.2 GB GD-ROM
CPU Hitachi SH4 32-bit RISC clocked at 200 MHz
Memory RAM 16 MB, GPU 8 MB
Storage 128 Kbyte VMU
Graphics 100 MHz PowerVR2 CLX2
Online services SegaNet / Dreamarena
Predecessor Sega Saturn

The Dreamcast (Japanese: ドリームキャスト Hepburn: Dorīmukyasuto?) is a video game console that was released by Sega on November 27, 1998 in Japan, September 9, 1999 in North America, and October 14, 1999 in Europe. It was the first entry in the sixth generation of video game consoles, preceding other consoles of the same generation, the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube. The Dreamcast is Sega's last home console to date, with no successor released by Sega since the Dreamcast's discontinuation.

Constructed around "off the shelf" components including a Hitachi SH4 CPU and an NEC PowerVR2 GPU, Sega designed the Dreamcast to be a lower cost system, given that the expensive hardware of the Sega Saturn had been a commercial failure. Branding the system as "Dreamcast" and removing its name from the console's exterior, Sega tried to launch the console as part of a comeback knowing that the Saturn, Sega 32X, and Sega CD had damaged the company's reputation. With a strong marketing campaign and heavy promotion, the Dreamcast was initially well received with a very successful launch and strong sales. Its game library contained a number of original and innovative titles, as well as ports of games from Sega's NAOMI arcade system board that have been described as "arcade perfect". However, attracting third party developers proved to be difficult. Interest in the system later slowed as Sony built hype for the upcoming PlayStation 2, and as a result, Sega continued to take significant losses as a company despite significant price cuts of the console to boost sales. After a change in leadership in the company, Sega discontinued the Dreamcast on March 30, 2001, withdrawing from the console hardware business altogether and restructuring itself as a third-party publisher, although Japanese arcade companions continued to port games to the system. Overall, 10.6 million units were sold worldwide.

Despite its short lifespan, reviewers have considered the Dreamcast to be a console that was ahead of its time. Many new game series considered creative and innovative were released on the system, such as Crazy Taxi, Jet Set Radio, and Shenmue. It was the first console to include a built-in modem for Internet support and online play, as well as in-game voice chat. Some reviewers have considered the Dreamcast among the greatest video game consoles of all time.



The Sega Genesis (known as "Mega Drive" outside of North America) was Sega's entry into the fourth generation of video game consoles, released in Japan as the Mega Drive in 1988, North America in 1989, and Europe as the Mega Drive in 1990.[1] With 40 million consoles sold, Sega sold only 9 million consoles less than its main competitor, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.[2] The successor to the Genesis, the Sega Saturn, was released in Japan in 1994.[3] The Saturn was a CD-ROM-based console that displayed both 2D and 3D computer graphics, but its complex dual-CPU architecture made it more difficult to program for than its chief competitor, the Sony PlayStation.[4] Although the Saturn was released before the PlayStation in both Japan and the United States,[5][6] its surprise U.S. launch—which came four months earlier than originally scheduled—was marred by a lack of distribution, which remained a continuing problem for the system.[7][8][9][10][11] Moreover, Sega's early launch was immediately undermined by Sony's simultaneous announcement that the PlayStation would retail for US$299—compared to the Saturn's launch price of $399.[4][5][9][8][12][13][14] Nintendo's long delay in releasing a competing 3D console, and the damage down to Sega's reputation by poorly supported add-ons for the Genesis (particularly the Sega 32X), allowed Sony to establish a foothold in the market.[5][15] The PlayStation was immediately successful on launch, in part due to a massive advertising campaign that "[took] the game market by storm", and strong third-party support engendered by Sony's excellent development tools and liberal $10 licensing fee.[9][16] Sony's success was further aided by a price war, in which Sega lowered the price of the Saturn from $399 to $299 and then from $299 to $199 in order to match the price of the PlayStation, even though Saturn hardware was more expensive to manufacture and the PlayStation enjoyed a larger software library.[5][14][17] Taking losses on the Saturn hardware[18] contributed to Sega's financial problems, which saw the company's revenue decline from a 1992 peak through 1995 as part of an industry-wide slowdown, while Sega's focus on the Saturn over the Genesis prevented it from fully capitalizing on the continued strength of the 16-bit market.[5][14][19]

Due to long-standing disagreements with Sega of Japan,[20][13] Sega of America CEO Tom Kalinske became increasingly disinterested in his position.[21] On July 16, 1996 Sega announced that Shoichiro Irimajiri had been appointed chairman and CEO of Sega of America, while Kalinske would be leaving Sega after September 30 of that year.[22][23][24] Sega also announced that David Rosen and Nakayama had resigned from their positions as chairman and co-chairman of Sega of America, though both men remained with the company.[22][24] Bernie Stolar, a former executive at Sony Computer Entertainment of America,[25][26] was named Sega of America's executive vice president in charge of product development and third-party relations.[22][23] Stolar was not supportive of the Saturn due to his belief that the hardware was poorly designed, and publicly announced at E3 1997 that "The Saturn is not our future."[20] After the launch of the Nintendo 64, sales of the Saturn and Sega's 32-bit software were sharply reduced. As of August 1997, Sony controlled 47 percent of the console market, Nintendo controlled 40 percent, and Sega controlled only 12 percent. Neither price cuts nor high-profile game releases were proving helpful to the Saturn's success.[26] Due to the Saturn's poor performance in North America, 60 of Sega of America's 200 employees were laid off in the fall of 1997.[27]

"I thought the Saturn was a mistake as far as hardware was concerned. The games were obviously terrific, but the hardware just wasn't there."

—Bernie Stolar, former president of Sega of America giving his assessment of the Saturn in 2009.[20]

By March 1998, Sega reported losses of $309 million on the Saturn, and had begun to focus on a successor, the Dreamcast.[28][9] During 1998, Sega took an additional $450 million loss.[26] According to Stolar, his decision to abandon the Saturn was due to Sega's losses and his desire to rebuild with a new team.[20][27] The decision to abandon the Saturn effectively left the Western market without Sega games for over a year.[4] Rumors about the upcoming Dreamcast were leaked to the public before the last Saturn games were released.[29]


With the Sega Saturn losing against the PlayStation, Irimajiri decided to start looking outside of the company's internal hardware development division to create a new console. As early as 1995, shortly after the Saturn's release, there were rumors that Sega would team up with Lockheed Martin to create a new graphics processing unit.[30] In 1997, Irimajiri enlisted the services of Tatsuo Yamamoto from International Business Machines to lead an 11-man team to work on a secret hardware project in the United States, which would be referred to as "Blackbelt". Accounts vary on how an internal team led by Hideki Sato also began development on Dreamcast hardware; one account specifies that Sega of Japan tasked both teams,[31] while another suggests that Sato was bothered by Irimajiri's choice to begin development externally and chose to have his hardware team begin development.[30][32] Sato and his group chose the Hitachi SH4 processor architecture and the VideoLogic PowerVR2 graphics processor, manufactured by NEC, in the production of their mainboard. Initially known as "Whitebelt",[30] this project was later codenamed "Dural".[31]

Yamamoto and his group opted to use 3dfx Voodoo 2 and Voodoo Banshee graphics processors, as well as a Motorola PowerPC 603e central processing unit (CPU),[30] but was later asked to also use the SH4 chip.[31] Both processors have been described as "off the shelf" components.[30] According to former Sega of America vice president of communications and former NEC brand manager Charles Bellfield, presentations of games using the latter architecture showcased the performance and low cost delivered by the SH2 and PowerVR architecture, and stated that "Sega's relationship with NEC, a Japanese company, probably made a difference too."[31] However, the PowerVR structure was also unconventional for developers. In 1997, 3dfx began their IPO, and as a result of legal obligations unveiled their contracts with Sega, including the development of the new console.[33] Sega of Japan executives were angered by this. Eventually, the decision was made to utilize the Dural chipset, and Sega decided to cut their ties with 3dfx. According to Stolar, "I felt the US version, the 3Dfx version, should have been used. Japan wanted the Japanese version, and Japan won."I felt the US version, the 3Dfx version, should have been used. Japan wanted the Japanese version, and Japan won[31] As a result, 3dfx filed a lawsuit against both Sega and NEC claiming breach of contract, which would eventually be settled out of court.[30] The choice to use the PowerVR architecture puzzled Electronic Arts, a longtime developer for Sega's consoles; EA had invested in 3dfx but was unfamiliar with the selected architecture.[31] By February 1998, the Dural was renamed "Katana", although certain hardware specifications such as random access memory (RAM) were still not yet set in stone.[34]

Knowing that the Sega Saturn had been set back by its high production costs and complex hardware, Sega took a different approach with Katana to use cheaper components and make programming for the system easier. The selections of hardware were more in line with what was common in personal computer hardware than that of video game consoles, reducing the system costs. According to Damien McFerran, "the motherboard was a masterpiece of clean, uncluttered design and compatibility."[30] A modem was also designed as an included part of the system, but not without debate due to cost issues.[31] Reports came out in September of 1997 that Sega's new console would be a 128-bit system, and that Microsoft would develop and provide the operating system for the Dural project, based on Windows CE. Known by the codename "Dragon", the new operating system included DirectX 5.2 and utilized a significant amount of system RAM. The intent of including the new operating system and DirectX was to make games for the system easy to develop,[34] although programmers would later favor development tools from Sega over those from Microsoft.[30] Rumors also circulated about the possibility of Dural games being playable on a personal computer as well,[35] although this would later turn out not to be the case when Sega selected to use the GD-ROM media format for the system.[36] Sega's choice to utilize a GD-ROM drive instead of a DVD-ROM was in order to reduce costs due to the expense of DVD technology at the time.[30]

The Saturn had tarnished the Sega name, so the company decided to remove its name from the console, similar to Sony's approach with the PlayStation. Over 5,000 different names were considered, the name "Dreamcast" was chosen.[30] In order to help market the Dreamcast in North America, Sega of America executive Bernie Stolar hired Peter Moore to advertise the new console. Moore, himself a fan of Sega and the attitude the brand used to inspire, worked with an advertising team in order to develop the "It's Thinking" ad campaign of 15-second television advertisements, to which Moore describes of the strategy, "We needed to create something that would really intrigue consumers, somewhat apologize for the past, but invoke all the things we loved about Sega, primarily from the Genesis days."[31] Over US$500 million was set aside for the new console, of which $50-80 million was spent on hardware development, $150-200 million was spent on software development, and $300 million was spent on worldwide promotion—a sum which Irimajiri, a former Honda executive, humorously compared to the investments required to design new automobiles.[30][37]


Despite taking massive losses on the Saturn, including a 75 percent drop in half-year profits just before the Japanese launch of the Dreamcast, Sega felt confident about its new system. The Dreamcast attracted significant interest and drew many pre-orders. However, NEC announced before the release that they were struggling to manufacture the PowerVR chipset due to a high failure rate in the manufacturing process.[30] As a result, Sega could not achieve their Japanese shipping goals for the Dreamcast's Japanese launch.[38] This caused Sega to stop pre-orders in Japan, leaving 150,000 units available in total for the launch with 80,000 of them pre-ordered. Development delays also plagued several high profile games, including Sonic Adventure and Sega Rally Championship 2. On November 27, 1998, the Dreamcast was launched in Japan at a price of JP¥29,000, and the entire stock of units was sold out by the end of the day. However, of the four games available at launch, only one—an "infamously botched" port of Virtua Fighter 3[39]— sold well.[40] Irimajiri hoped to sell over 1 million Dreamcast units in Japan by February 1999, but less than 900,000 were sold, undermining Sega's attempts to build up a sufficient installed base to ensure the Dreamcast's survival after the arrival of competition from other manufacturers.[41] Key software titles for the Dreamcast at the time, such as Capcom's Power Stone, also were commercial failures. Prior to a Western launch, Sega reduced the price of the Dreamcast to JP¥19,900, effectively making the hardware on its own unprofitable but increasing sales on the console. The price reduction and release of Namco's Soul Calibur helped Sega to gain 17 percent on its shares.[30]

"Let's take the conservative estimate of 250,000 Dreamcast units at presage—that's a quarter of a million units at $200. We'll have a ratio of 1.5 or two games for every Dreamcast unit sold. That's half a million units of software. We think we'll be .5 to one on VMUs and peripheral items such as extra controllers and what have you. This could be a $60 to $80 million 24-hour period. What has ever sold $60 to $80 million in the first 24 hours?"

—Peter Moore, speaking to Electronic Gaming Monthly about the upcoming launch of Dreamcast.[42]

In North America, Stolar successfully managed to repair relations with many major US retailers, many of whom were previously hostile to Sega due to being excluded from the launch of the Sega Saturn.[31] Before the launch in the United States, Sega had already taken extra steps in displaying Dreamcast's capabilities in stores nationwide. 17 launch titles were available for the Dreamcast in the U.S.[43] Prior to the launch, Sega had posted a US$378 million net loss during the 1998 fiscal year, but Moore showed optimism coming up to the North American launch of the Dreamcast, stating "This arguably could be the biggest launch the entertainment history has ever seen. I'm talking the biggest sales of a product here in its first 24 hours, be it a movie or CD or merchandise. We can't think of anything that came close to our projected numbers." In the United States alone, a record 300,000 units had been pre-ordered[38] and Sega sold 500,000 consoles in just two weeks (including 225,132 sold on the first 24 hours which became a video game record). The system launched in North America on September 9, 1999 at a price of US$200.[42] Due to brisk sales and hardware shortages, Sega struggled to meet the initial demand for the system. Sega confirmed that it made US$98 million on combined hardware and software sales with Dreamcast with its September 9, 1999 launch.[30] Four days after its launch in the US, Sega stated 372,000 units were sold, bringing in US$132 million in sales.[38] It was Sega's most successful system launch in North America.[30] By Christmas, Sega held 31 percent of the North American video game marketshare.[44]

The European release of the Dreamcast came on October 14, 1999,[45] at a price of GB₤200.[30] By November 24, 400,000 consoles had been sold in Europe. Sega had announced that they had reached one million consoles sold six weeks ahead of their prediction. Chris Gilbert, the senior vice president of sales at Sega of America, said on November 24, 1999: "By hitting the one million units sold landmark, it is clear that the Dreamcast consumer has moved beyond the hard-core gamer and into the mass market."[45] By Christmas of 1999, Sega of Europe reported selling 500,000 units, placing them six months ahead of schedule.[30] As part of Sega's promotions of the Dreamcast in Europe, the company sponsored four European football clubs: Arsenal F.C. (England),[46] AS Saint-Étienne (France),[47] U.C. Sampdoria (Italy),[48] and Deportivo de La Coruña (Spain).[49]

Game development[edit]

Before the launch of the Dreamcast in Japan, Sega announced the release of its New Arcade Operation Machine Idea (NAOMI) arcade board, replacing the previous Model 3 used to that point. NAOMI shared many hardware similarities to the Dreamcast, albeit with twice as much RAM. This allowed for home conversions of arcade games that were nearly identical to their coin-op versions.[4] Sega would take advantage of this to port some of its own arcade titles such as F355 Challenge[50] and Crazy Taxi, the latter of which was designed to bridge the gap between arcade and console games by rewarding skilled players with additional playtime.[51] In addition, several leading Japanese arcade companies, such as Capcom, ported their games developed for the NAOMI to the Dreamcast, such as Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Power Stone[4] and Project Justice.[30]

Electronic Arts was one of the notable developers that did not publish games for the Dreamcast. During negotiations, EA was irked by Sega's indecision over hardware, including which graphics chipset and whether to include a modem. One EA executive said, "There was a push from Sega, which was having cash flow problems, and they couldn't afford to give us [EA] the same kind of license that EA has had over the last five years. So EA basically said, 'You can't succeed without us.' And Sega said, 'Sure we can. We're Sega.'"[31] Similarly, there was disagreement between Sega and EA over sports games. EA president Larry Probst—a close friend of Stolar—noted wide competition to EA's sports franchises and wanted five year exclusive rights for EA to be the only sports brand on Dreamcast. However, Stolar had a strategic plan that included Visual Concepts, which Sega had purchased for US$10 million, as a key element for the Dreamcast.[43] Sega offered to lower the royalty rates that EA would pay for publishing its titles on the Dreamcast, but Probst would not budge on the exclusivity deal.[31] While the Dreamcast had none of Electronic Arts' popular sports games after Sega rejected giving EA an exclusive deal, Sega Sports titles developed by Visual Concepts helped to fill that void. This started with one of the launch titles of the Dreamcast, NFL 2K. Compared to its biggest rival which was the non-Dreamcast Madden NFL 2000, NFL 2K boasted a new graphics engine while Madden retaining the same solid engine of previous incarnations, and Stolar considered NFL 2K superior to Madden NFL.[31] The competition continued on for their sequels where Sega Sports came out ahead, according to a press release which stated that NFL 2K1 outsold Madden NFL 2001 by 49,000 units in its first two weeks of release, selling a total of 410,000 by November 2000, two months after its debut.[52]

Launch titles such as Soul Calibur, Sonic Adventure, Hydro Thunder, Marvel vs. Capcom, The House of the Dead 2, and NFL 2K helped Dreamcast succeed in the first year.[53] Later titles developed by Sega would start to experiment with game design and genres, such as Samba de Amigo, a maracas-based music title. Online games were supported by the SegaNet service, which launched in September 2000 and supported titles such as Phantasy Star Online and Quake III Arena. Sega also took the opportunity to bring back franchises from the Genesis era, with games such as Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future.[31]

In what has been called "a brief moment of remarkable creativity",[4] Sega restructured its arcade and console development teams into nine semi-autonomous studios headed by the company's top designers.[39][54] Combined with American partners such as Visual Concepts—and a newly-founded French affiliate, No Cliché, which developed titles including Toy Commander for the European market[4][55][56]—Sega became "the most prolific publisher in the business."[54] Moreover, Sega's design houses were encouraged to experiment, resulting in titles such as Rez (an attempt to simulate synaesthesia in the form of a rail shooter),[57][58][59] Typing of the Dead (a version of House of the Dead 2 remade into a touch typing trainer),[60][61] Seaman (a pet simulator in which players use a microphone to interact with an ugly humanoid fish voiced by Leonard Nimoy),[62][63] and Shenmue (the first part in a planned 16-part interactive novel and a striking attempt at creating a detailed in-game city, which cost an estimated $50 million or more to develop).[4][54][64] Sega's internal studios were consolidated starting in 2003, with designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi leaving the company following the merger of his United Game Artists with Sonic Team.[4][65][66]


The PS2 provided stiff competition to the Dreamcast.

Though the launch of the Dreamcast had been quite successful, Sony still held 60% of the overall video game market share with the PlayStation as of the end of 1999.[45] In March 1999, Sony unveiled its PlayStation 2 (PS2).[38] The actual release of the PS2 was not until March 4, 2000 in Japan, and October 26, 2000 in the United States. Sony's press release, despite being a year ahead of the launch of the PS2, was enough to divert a lot of attention from Sega. The PlayStation 2 launch in Japan took place with only six unimpressive titles, but sales were strong. This raised expectations for a strong North American debut, plus Sony had substantial press and game developer support for the North American launch.[31] The Dreamcast's 56K modem and software for connecting to the Internet and SegaNet online gaming was not enough to counter Sony who touted the PS2's pioneering DVD capabilities.[67] The PS2 provided DVD playback at the same price or less than dedicated DVD players at the time, making it a low cost entry into the home theater market,[43] in contrast to the Dreamcast's GD-ROM which was a cost-saving measure that also limited its multimedia capabilities to CDs.[36]

As part of an advertisement campaign to take advantage of PS2 supply shortages, Sega cut prices on the Dreamcast from US$199 to US$149 in the second half of 2000. This move helped to grow sales 156.5% from July 23, 2000 to September 30, 2000, putting Sega ahead of the Nintendo 64 in that period, but this did not generate sufficient sales momentum nor achieve critical market mass before the PlayStation 2 launched in the United States. By October 2000, Sega had only sold 2.6 million Dreamcast consoles, far below the 5 million mark which was considered by analysts to be the installed base needed to attract new developers. Even though the Dreamcast had 200 titles to the PS2's 50 at that point,[44] as well as being considered much more developer-friendly than the PS2 which was considered difficult to program for, the initial release of games were not as important as the PS2's potential as Sony succeeding in delivering its much hyped graphics.[68] Sega had lost an estimated $163 million, which was too much to make back on game sales and royalties, despite the Dreamcast having several titles that sold over one million units.[43] Observers generally regarded Sega as an underdog against Sony.[44]

Sega continued with their aggressive pricing strategies with relation to online gaming. In Japan, the Dreamcast was packaged with a free year of internet with every console purchase.[69] In the United States, Sega offered a US$150 rebate to Dreamcast purchasers who signed up for two years of SegaNet.[30] At the end of 2000, there was the announcements of the upcoming Microsoft Xbox and Nintendo GameCube to be launched in the fourth quarter of 2001.[70][71] It was reported that at the time of Microsoft and Nintendo's announcements, Sega was cash strapped, being able to run few magazines and TV adverts, being unable to give marketing support to innovative games, and could not pay third-party developers to make exclusive content or games for the Dreamcast.[31] As sales diminished, more developers began to pass on developing for the Dreamcast in favor of other consoles. Eventually, Sony and Nintendo held 50 and 35 percent of the US video game market, respectively, while Sega held only 15 percent.[30]


"We had a tremendous 18 months. Dreamcast was on fire - we really thought that we could do it. But then we had a target from Japan that said we had to make x hundreds of millions of dollars by the holiday season and shift x millions of units of hardware, otherwise we just couldn't sustain the business. So on January 31st 2001 we said Sega is leaving hardware. We were selling 50,000 units a day, then 60,000, then 100,000, but it was just not going to be enough to get the critical mass to take on the launch of PS2. Somehow I got to make that call, not the Japanese. I had to fire a lot of people; it was not a pleasant day."

—Peter Moore, on the Dreamcast's discontinuation.[72]

Despite strong North American and European sales, the poor Japanese launch ultimately left Sega with a US$412 million net loss in the quarter ending March 2000—double the loss Sega first expected.[73] Sega suffered a JP¥17.98 billion loss for the 6 months ending September 30, 2000, and a yearly loss of JP¥42.88 billion, making it Sega's third consecutive annual loss.[74] These losses greatly contributed to its discontinuation, and Sega continued to bleed money annually until posting a profit in October 2003.[75] According to Bellfield, "We had the content right. We had the marketing right. The product was designed right. The philosophy of networked capabilities was right. The team was right. The partners we had were right. But we didn't have the budget to be able to build the confidence of the brand in the eyes of our competitors that we were going to be around. That, to me, is the Achilles Heel of the Dreamcast."[31] Bellfield noted that while the Internet was growing in 1999, it was still in its infancy, and Sega had to rely upon traditional TV and print media for advertisement.[31]

After the launch of the Dreamcast, Irimajiri was replaced as the CEO of Sega by the head of Sega's parent company, CSK Holdings Corporation chairman Isao Okawa, and former Sega CEO Hayao Nakayama, who had guided Sega with its previous consoles but backed away to focus on arcade games, left Sega altogether. Unlike Nakayama and Irimajiri, Okawa was not as interested in Sega's home console hardware as were his predecessors. According to Kalinske, "Okawa was telling [Nakayama] to get out of hardware; just become a software company; it's not worth it to keep fighting the hardware battle. He started saying that right from the beginning."[43] Stolar also claims that he had difficulties working with Okawa, stating, ""I had a relationship with Nakayama and [Shoichiro] Irimajiri that was about constantly understanding vision. I just don't feel like I had that with Mr. Okawa."[43] At one point during development, Stolar suggested that Sega should have sold their company to Microsoft, who worked with Sega to craft the system's operating system. Nevertheless, shortly after the launch of the Dreamcast, Stolar was removed from his position and replaced by Peter Moore, who was Sega's head of marketing at the time.[43]

Moore, who was elevated to president and Chief Operating Officer of Sega of America, made the difficult decision to discontinue the Dreamcast mainly due to Sega's limited financial resources, which initially caused a rift between Japanese and U.S. executives.[31] On January 31, 2001, Sega announced that production of Dreamcast hardware was to be discontinued by March 30 of that year.[76] The announcement came with another price cut of the Dreamcast to US$99.95 in order to liquidate remaining Dreamcast stock. Also announced was Sega's exit from the manufacture of video game hardware, and its reinvention as a "platform agnostic third-party publisher" dealing only in software. According to Moore from his announcement, "The video game economy is changing, and it's becoming harder and harder to become profitable in the hardware business."[77] Though Dreamcast was officially discontinued in early 2001, commercial games were still developed and released afterwards, particularly in Japan. In the United States, game sales continued until the end of the first half of 2002.[43]

Overall, the Dreamcast is estimated to have sold approximately 10.6 million units during its lifetime.[78] Although production of the Dreamcast ended in 2001, Japanese coin-op developers continued to port games to the console due to the ease of doing so by the console's hardware similarities to NAOMI. The last title to receive media attention was Last Hope, released in 2007. As of 2014, the console is still supported through various MIL-CD independent releases.[79]

Technical specifications[edit]


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

Physically, the Dreamcast measures 190 × 195.8 × 75.5 mm (7.48 × 7.71 × 2.97 in) and weighs 1.5 kg (3.3 lb). The Dreamcast's main CPU is a Hitachi SH-4 32-bit RISC at 200 MHz with a 128-bit vector graphics engine, 360 MIPS and 1.4 GFLOPS using the vector graphics engine. The graphics hardware is a NEC PowerVR2 CLX2 chipset, capable of drawing more than 3 million polygons per 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 16.77 million colors 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. The Dreamcast has 16 MB main RAM, along with an additional 8 MB of ram for graphic textures, and 2 MB of RAM for sound. The system reads media using a 12x speed Yamaha GD-ROM Drive, capable of running at its maximum speed when in constant angular velocity mode. A customized version of Windows CE serves as the system's operating system.[36] In most regions, the Dreamcast included a removable modem for online connectivity. The original Japanese 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/s modem.[53]


The limited-edition black "Sega Sports" model.
The Divers 2000 CX-1 was a special edition of the Dreamcast that had a built-in television set.

The Dreamcast was constructed in several variations by Sega. Most variations were exclusive to Japan. The R7 model, consisting of a special refurbished Dreamcast unit that was originally used as a network console in Japanese pachinko parlors in a black case, has been noted for its exterior being similar to the Mega Drive. Another unique model, the Divers 2000 CX-1 possesses a shape similar to Sonic's head and includes a television bundled in, as well as software for teleconferencing. A Hello Kitty version, limited to 2000 units produced, was targeted at Japanese female gamers.[30] A special edition was created for Seaman,[80] as well as two for Resident Evil Code: Veronica.[81] Several color variations were also sold through the Dreamcast Direct service in Japan.[82] Toyota also offered special edition Dreamcast units at 160 of its dealers in Japan.[83] 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, along with two games.[84] An unofficial Chinese variant called Treamcast was a portable version of the system.[30]


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

The Dreamcast's controller includes both an analog stick and a digital pad, as well as four action buttons and two analog triggers. The system itself has four ports for controller inputs, but only included one packed in with the console. Various third-party controllers, such as one made by Mad Catz, include extra features such as additional buttons for performance on different genres of games. Third-party companies also manufactured arcade-style joysticks for fighting games, such as Interact's Alloy Arcade Stick. Steering wheel controllers were also created by companies such as Mad Catz and Agetec for racing games. Sega themselves refused to put out a light gun,[85] despite having done so with the Menacer for the Sega Genesis before,[86] though third party developers such as Interact had done so. The Dreamcast also hosts a "fishing controller" designed specifically for fishing games, as well as a keyboard for text entry. Additional packs were created to be inserted into controllers to give force feedback, including Sega's "Jump Pack" and Performance's "Tremor Pack".[85]

Memory storage is provided for the dreamcast by way of the VMU, which functions both to store data and provided a small LCD screen for mini-games or game information. Various third-party cards also provide storage; some provide only storage while others also contain the LCD screen addition. Another proposedperipheral for storage for the Dreamcast was a Zip drive manufactured by Iomega and could store up to 100 MB of data on removable discs.[85] However, the Zip drive never made it into stores for consumer purchase.[30]

Video for the console can be supplied by several accessories. The console itself came with A/V cables, considered at the time to be the standard for video and audio connectivity. Sega and various third parties also offered up RF modulator connectors, as well as S-Video cables. An alternate method of video display for the Dreamcast is the VGA adapter, allowing Dreamcast games to be played on computer displays or Enhanced-definition television sets in 480p.[85]


Main article: SegaNet

The Dreamcast was the first video game console to contain a built-in modem for Internet and online game play.[87][38] Supplied by a removable 33.6 kbit/s modem in the European versions and a 56 kbit/s modem in the Japanese and North American versions,[53] the Dreamcast was able to connect to the Internet via SegaNet, an Internet service provider known as Dreamarena in Europe.[88][89] The service allowed users to play games online, send email, and browse the Internet. In North America, the service was announced on September 7, 2000, at a price of US$21.95 per month, and those who committed to at least 18 months of service were issued a US$149 rebate for the price of a Dreamcast console, as well as a free Dreamcast keyboard.[88] Likewise, Sega packaged a free year of Internet with every purchase of a Dreamcast console in Japan.[69] Okawa believed that Sega's future was closely linked with online games[90] and tasked Sonic Team with developing a title that would demonstrate their value, which became Phantasy Star Online.[91]

Game library[edit]

Sonic Adventure was a noted title for the Dreamcast as the first 3D platform game in the Sonic the Hedgehog series.

Games for the Dreamcast are in the GD-ROM format, which can hold over 1 GB of data per disc.[36] This was 500 MB over what the CD-ROM format at the time could manage, and was designed specifically for the Dreamcast.[92] However, third-party developer support proved to be difficult to obtain due to the failure of the Sega Saturn and the profitability of publishing for the PlayStation. Namco's Soul Calibur, for example, was released for the Dreamcast because of the relative unpopularity of the Soul series at the time; Namco's more successful Tekken franchise was associated with the PlayStation console and PlayStation-based arcade boards.[4] Online connectivity was a feature for Dreamcast titles, but Sega was slow to release SegaNet to consumers and the modem speed was considered slow. Sega also had the support of arcade conversions from its NAOMI arcade system board in its library, to which Damien McFerran of Retro Gamer says of NAOMI and Dreamcast title Crazy Taxi, "The thrill of playing Crazy Taxi in the arcade knowing full well that a pixel-perfect conversion (and not some cut-down port) was set to arrive on the Dreamcast is an experience gamers are unlikely to witness again."[30]

Several games for the Dreamcast have been identified as particularly influential on the video game industry. Selling 2.5 million copies, Sonic Adventure was the first full 3D platform game in the Sonic the Hedgehog series and the first platform game to feature a multi-story viewpoint and varied forms of play for each storyline.[93] NFL 2K1 was the first football game to feature online play.[94] Phantasy Star Online, the first console MMORPG, has been cited as one of the most groundbreaking and influential games of the generation.[95] Jet Set Radio popularized cel-shaded graphics.[96] Shenmue is regarded as a major step forward for 3D open-world gameplay,[97][98][99][100][101] introduced the quick time event mechanic in its modern form,[102] and has been widely cited as one of the best and most influential games ever made.[103][104][105][106] Virtua Tennis is considered to have set a new standard for its genre.[107][108]

In January 2000, three months after the system's North American launch, Electronic Gaming Monthly offered praise for the game library, stating, "...with triple-A stuff like Soul Calibur, NBA 2K, and soon Crazy Taxi to kick around, we figure you're happy you took the 128-bit plunge."[109] In a retrospective, PC Magazine referred to Dreamcast's games as a "killer library" and emphasized Sega's creative influence and visual innovation as being at its peak during the lifetime of the system.[110] The staff of Edge also agreed with this assessment on Dreamcast's original titles, as well as Sega's arcade conversions, stating that the system "also delivered the first games that could meaningfully be described as arcade perfect."[111] GamePro writer Blake Snow referred to the library as being "much celebrated".[78] According to author Steven L. Kent, "From Sonic Adventure and Shenmue to Space Channel 5 and Seaman, Dreamcast delivered and delivered and delivered."[112]

Reception and legacy[edit]

In December 1999, Next Generation rated the Dreamcast 4 out of 5 stars and stated, "If you want the most powerful system available now, showcasing the best graphics at a reasonable price, this system is for you." However, Next Generation rated the Dreamcast's future prognosis as 3 stars out of 5 in the same article, noting that Sony would ship a superior hardware product in the PlayStation 2 in the next year, and that Nintendo had said it would do the same with the GameCube.[113] At the beginning of 2000, Electronic Gaming Monthly had five reviewers score the Dreamcast 8.5, 8.5, 8.5, 8.0, and 9.0 out of 10 points.[114] By 2001, the reviewers for Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the Dreamcast scores of 9.0, 9.0, 9.0, 9.0, and 9.5 out of 10.[115] BusinessWeek recognized the Sega Dreamcast as one of the best products of 1999.[116]

IGN named the Dreamcast the 8th greatest video game console of all time, giving credit to the innovations and software for the system. According to IGN, "The Dreamcast was the first console to incorporate a built-in modem for online play, and while the networking lacked the polish and refinement of its successors, it was the first time users could seamlessly power on and play with users around the globe."[92] Edge named the console the 10th best console of the last 20 years, highlighting innovations that the Dreamcast added to console video gaming, including in-game voice chat, downloadable content, and second screen technology through the use of VMUs. The staff of Edge also explained the Dreamcast's poor performance by stating, "Sega’s console was undoubtedly ahead of its time, and it suffered at retail for that reason... [b]ut its influence can still be felt today."[111] PC Magazine named the Dreamcast the greatest video game console ever, emphasizing that the system was "gone too soon".[110] In retrospect, author Steven L. Kent stated that "SEGA supported Dreamcast better than any single company has ever supported any console".[112] 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."[39]

From a business perspective, former Sega chairman David Rosen stated that he had been advocating for Sega to become a third-party publisher and abandon hardware prior to the launch of the Dreamcast, and that Sega felt that they had a headstart with Dreamcast development to stay in the hardware industry.[117] Writing for GamePro, reviewer Blake Snow noted reasons for the failure of the Dreamcast as being based on Sega's reputation at the time, stating, "The much beloved console launched years ahead of the competition but ultimately struggled to shed the negative reputation it had gained during the Saturn, Sega 32X, and Sega CD days. As a result, casual gamers and jaded third-party developers doubted Sega's ability to deliver."[78]

As early as March of 2000 and since its discontinuation, there have been rumors suggesting that Sega was working on a "Dreamcast 2",[118][119][120] which Sega has repeatedly denied.[121][122][123][124] However, Microsoft's Xbox has been described as the Dreamcast's 'spiritual successor',[125] 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, often referred to as the spiritual successor to Metropolis Street Racer.[126] In addition, popular Xbox title Ninja Gaiden started development on the Dreamcast.[127] Similarities between the Xbox 360 and Dreamcast have also been noted.[125][128] 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.[129]

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 were Sonic Adventure and Crazy Taxi, followed by Sega Bass Fishing and Space Channel 5 Part 2.[130]


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