Following the abject failure of the Saturn, the once-contender for the throne of the video games industry had a lot of soul searching to do – or, in this case, some dreaming about the future. When Sega announced plans for a new console no one was really surprised but one thing that was different from all of the past announcements were how few people had confidence in the company.
From the dismal Sega CD to the 32X to the shambolic launch of the Saturn, Sega had just about whittled away what goodwill it had left in the industry. No one questioned the company’s prowess in the arcades and Sonic was definitely the first among many titles that are blockbuster, triple-A gaming icons today, but the company’s time seemed to have invariably passed.
And even if Sega was making a new console, was that the right move for the company at the end of the day? With the introduction of the Sony PlayStation, the whole home console market changed overnight and both Sega and Nintendo found themselves put back on their heels defending their home turf. While Nintendo’s decline was much slower and controlled due to the company’s overwhelming success in the portable market (and the help of Pokemon fever in that regard), Sega really had nothing to fall back on except for its arcade segment – a dying niche.
Whatever the next console was going to be, many analysts predicted it would be Sega’s last if it was not successful enough.
But successful it was and when the Dreamcast came out on 9/9/99, the stars seemed to be in line for Sega for the first time in about a decade. Boasting a strong lineup of launch titles, beautiful graphics, and a forward-looking console design and features list, the Dreamcast seemed to embody a new era for Sega. Sadly it was to be a swansong for the company but what a way to go.
The Dreamcast was not doomed by commercial failure – quite the opposite. The fact of the matter was that the Dreamcast had to be so overwhelmingly successful – indeed, the most successful gaming console of all time at the time was the bar – that the company was destined to fall a little short of its goals even if it posted strong numbers. Sega did post strong numbers but it was not enough and, with the looming release of the PlayStation 2, the company decided to call it quits in the home console market and become a third-party publisher instead.
The move was shocking though not unexpected. Having worked in partnership with Microsoft on the Dreamcast, Sega then became a frontline supporter for the nascent Xbox console when it finally came out years later. Indeed, in many ways the Xbox is what the Dreamcast could have been if Sega had time and money to do the Dreamcast justice. As it stands, however, the system remains a testament to Sega’s prowess in the market and a legendary final product that inspires legions even now.