On this ten year anniversary of the Sega Dreamcast, the Tech-Gaming crew looks back on acquisition schemes, overshadowing competition, and Chu-Chu Rocket.
DesertEagle: My early morning hours of September 9th, 1999 were filled with the form of insomnia regulated to console launches. For as long as I can remember, the night preceding a new hardware purchase was filled with feverish anticipation. These predawn hours were no different, as thoughts of Soul Calibur, Power Stone, and Sonic Adventure reverberated inside me. My only solace that night was a morning free from the shackles of work, a scrutinized list of required launch titles, and a well-calculated plan for purchasing a Sega Dreamcast.
Unable to sleep, I began to execute my course of action with eager anticipation. I arrived at my local Target around 6:20 AM; early enough to witness the night crew still busy inside. Outside, a vehicle that resembled a grotesque vacuum cleaner/truck hybrid combed the parking lot, sucking up trash systematically. With no other customers in sight, fleeting doubts began to creep in. “What if this store won’t receive any systems?” After all, last night’s phone call was unable to confirm that this Target had any Dreamcasts in stock.
After a twenty minute internal dyadic where uncertainty and assurance fought cyclically, others started approaching, and any fears were eliminated. I tried to speak to my cohorts, but either the sense of competition or the early morning prohibited any sense of camaraderie. As more people starting creating a loose-knit line, an uncomfortable silence fell upon the crowd.
Five minutes before the store’s opening, the throng had reached at least fifty people, each inching closer to the front doors. At 7:59 AM, I was being pressed against the glass, as a Target manager clumsily gestured to the mob, and searched for the correct key to open the front doors. I heard quibbling in the crowd, but was too focused on my agenda to look back.
With a collective gasp the front doors were opened, and people rushed inside. I mistakenly expected everyone to honor the order of the make-shift line we had formed, but soon quick strides became all-out sprints near the front check-out lanes. Instincts kicked in when several men tried to race past me- I hadn’t arrived early just to be beaten by a few fleet -footed cheats. The race intensified past the men’s clothing section as the electronics area lay immediately in front of us. As we neared the registers signifying the end of our impromptu competition, about half the crowd unexpectedly veered left. Doubt suddenly reappeared –“Had Target set up an improvised kiosk that I was unaware of?”
Looking around for reassurance, others seemed equally mystified. The Target clerk noticed our bewilderment, and told us the group was merely the usual bunch of Hot Wheels aficionados. The additional presence of the Dreamcast purchasers was enough to heighten their speculation that a rare collectable might be in the store today. A collective sigh was emitted by the group in the electronics area as consoles and games began to be rung up.
Over the next ten years, most stores would move to a pre-order system to curtail the memorable, but potentially dangerous mad dashes through aisles. Sega would abandon the console market, and wind up asking their competitors for development kits. Today, the Dreamcast signifies more than just an amazing collection of games; it represents the last renegade days of our beloved industry.
SeanNOLA: The Dreamcast was the most influential console in my video game upbringing. It was the first system I followed the launch of, the first system I imported a game for, and the first time I found myself being a video game snob. Sure, I was a SEGA fan before the Dreamcast; I loved my Genesis and my Saturn, but the Dreamcast pushed me over the edge into the frothing pit of fanboy despair.
I can still remember where I was 10 years ago, today. As soon as I could get off of the bus (yes, I still rode the bus in high school) I raced down to my friend David’s house; he had taken the day off to get a Dreamcast from the PX. I knew that I would have to wait until my birthday to have a Dreamcast of my own, but until then, Sonic Adventure at David’s house was a staple of my gaming diet. I finally unboxed my Dreamcast a month later with a copy of Power Stone. I used my birthday money to buy a VMU and a second controller, and spent the following months letting SEGA take complete control over my life.
My friends and I revived our role as SEGA evangelists: we injected ourselves into any and all gaming conversations, asserting the Dreamcasts superiority over the N64 and the PlayStation. We scoffed at those who claimed that they would rather wait for the PS2 or “Project Dolphin”: why wait? Surely, by the time of the PS2 launch, the Dreamcast would have a a massive line-up of spectacular games, and Grandia 2 would usurp the RPG throne from Final Fantasy. The PS2 would be obsolete before it ever saw the light of day.
A decade later, we all know how that story really ended: the PS2 released and became the best selling console in history, selling some 138 million units worldwide. Right after the PS2s launch, I took my first real job: a job at a local game store, called GameTrader. I attempted to use my position to convince the drooling masses of the Dreamcast’s superiority, but I quickly learned that the Dreamcast’s place in the gaming world was quickly becoming that of a bartering tool, to use toward the purchase of a shiny new PlayStation. People were lining up in droves to trade in their pristine white boxes with copies of Soul Calibur, Evolution, Sonic Adventure 2 – you name it, it was getting traded in for a PS2 and a copy of Kessen. I felt defeated every time I rang up a Dreamcast trade-in, until I had a revelation: I was spending so much energy evangelizing, I was forgetting to enjoy my own Dreamcast!
I had a golden opportunity before me to pad my own collection. Every Dreamcast game I took in, I set aside in a box to add to my collection. At the end of every week, I cashed my paycheck, and used my employee discount to take my box home and give my games a new loving home in my bookshelf. Before I knew it, my collection had grown immensely.
When SEGA announced that they were ending production of the Dreamcast in early 2001, I welcomed the end with open arms. Of the 200-some-odd games released over the Dreamcast’s 2 year life span, I had managed to horde about 60 games, and with the announcement of the system’s demise, picking up another 40 or so on the cheap was a thrifty affair. I had enough great games on my Dreamcast to last me a lifetime, and my customers just kept bringing me new treasure every day. That was how I became a collector.
Let this be a lesson to the fanboys out there: the time you spend justifying your system of choice to others is time that should be spent playing games on the console you love. To this day, my Dreamcast amassment continues to be my largest console collection, and it probably always will be; no other system has captivated me the way my beautiful white box did. I haven’t played through every game in my compilation, but it truly is a lifetime of entertainment. During the dog days of summer, I can still pop open Phantasy Star Online or Jet Grind Radio and have a great time between big releases. Tonight I’ll be pouring one out while I play Illbleed in its memory.
TideGear: Oh, Dreamcast, I don’t know if your story breaks my heart as much as that of the Virtual Boy (I love the VB too), but you definitely deserved much better. Though my gaming tastes have always been eclectic, I was still a huge Sonic the Hedgehog fan when the Dreamcast hit. My first experiences with a Dreamcast demo unit and Sonic Adventure shot an arrow through my young naive heart. Thanks to my awesome parents, I got mine on 9/9/99 and a lack of Sonic Adventure stock was easily solved by renting the game until I could find a copy. (Yes, I’m spoiled but I’m grateful.)
At my high school, the Dreamcast kids seemed to band together despite their normal lunch time roles. ChuChu Rocket! changed my view of online console gaming for good. ChuChu Rocket! is amazing as a single player experience, but online, on a dial-up connection, I could play the insane multiplayer mode against people from school that I barely even knew. I could play against people I didn’t even know! Meanwhile, the Dreamcast’s copy protection was quickly bust wide open. I was later reunited with the Dreamcast and I was able to try a multitude of great games I missed out on, even those that never even hit US shores! The Dreamcast was the original platform for what just may be my favorite shmup of all time, Ikaruga. This was one of several great arcade ports that found a home on the Dreamcast. The homebrew scene has helped keep the Dreamcast alive and it’s efforts like this that make it clear; the Dreamcast was abandoned before its time. Happy birthday, Dreamcast! We will never forget you!