Sunday, September 9, 2012

Happy 13th Birthday Dreamcast

Today marks the 13th birthday to one of my favorite consoles of all time, the Sega Dreamcast. The console launched on September 9, 1999 in the United States with much fanfare. When it launched, it sold very well, breaking launch records for console hardware at the time. It amassed an incredible library of games in a very short period of time. As promising as the launch was, the console failed to ignite sales excitement from Japan, North America, and Europe. Sega eventually bowed out of the console race in one of the saddest moments in gaming history.

Sega continues with Valkyria
Three main factors (among many others) led to an early end of the console: major third party companies ignored it, Sega lost major brand equity due to poor decisions, and corporate structural issues. When the console launched, it had enthusiastic support from Capcom and Activision, but it did not have support from major third party players like Electronic Arts and Square. Games like Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts would have never found their way on the console due to the refusal of Square to release games on it. The second factor was a loss of major brand equity due to poor decisions in the past. The 32x and the Sega Saturn devalued the Sega name and it all but made the brand irrelevant in the West. The third factor was that the company had corporate infighting between its Japanese and American divisions, going as far as to have the two sections of Sega create completely different Sega hardware for the Dreamcast.

When Sega left the hardware race, it created an opening for Microsoft, which was a huge supporter of the Dreamcast. The failing of the Dreamcast lead Microsoft to create the XBOX console that in many ways was a successor to the Dreamcast. Sega focused on creating games, but a lack of focus made many developers disillusioned, and many of Sega’s internal talent left the company. Sega still lives on, creating huge franchises like Valkyria Chronicles, Sonic, Project Diva, and Yakuza, but their output is much smaller than it used to be. The company also makes hardware for the arcade, in which Project Diva has been a huge force in pushing arcade graphics. The Dreamcast left behind a unique legacy, the consequences which we still see today in the gaming world.

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