Monday, August 15, 2011

Understanding the Dreamcast Part 1

 Feast your eyes on this little blurb i read on intomobile. Once again it's another incredibly uninformed article by another writer with an agenda. 

BTW - I'm posting this here so to not give this writer any more hits than they already have.
Anyone remember the significance of 9.9.99? That was the day Sega launched their last hardware console in America, the Dreamcast. Despite featuring an extraordinary amount of brilliant titles, graphics that were never before seen on a dedicated gaming device, and an onboard modem so you could actually use the thing to connect to the internet, most people didn’t buy it and it nearly killed one of the most loved gaming companies on the planet. How did Sega fix their problems? Simple, they owned the brands people adored, namely Sonic, Super Monkey Ball, and Virtua Fighter, so they brought said brands over to every console on the market. It may not seem odd to you now to see a blue hedgehog running and jumping around on a Nintendo console, but it was for many of us the first time it happened. 
Now Nintendo today is in the same boat as Sega in the 90s. Their recently launched 3DS isn’t selling as well as they’d hoped, and for obvious reasons. The 3D feature is a gimmick, and most people do their mobile gaming on smartphones. Nintendo, being the stubborn bastards that they are, keep on repeatedly saying that their franchisees will never, ever, come to non-Nintendo hardware. That’s soon due for a change with “Pokémon Say Tap?“, a new title headed for iOS and Android, but it’s nothing like the Pokémon games you’re used to. Still, we hope that some day Nintendo would ditch their arrogant attitude and all of their bring their beloved characters to new platforms. There’s a reason Rovio is kicking ass with Angry Birds, they make sure it runs on everything under the sun. And while the Angry Birds brand is hot, Rovio sells various knick knacks such as toys and t-shirts to their most loyal fans. 
It’s Brand Whoring 101, a class that Nintendo obviously skipped so they could get high under the bleachers and dream up the Mario universe.

Journalistic integrity for you.

Not only is this writer wrong in their understanding of Nintendo and how a business works (but seems to have a rigid understanding of trolling an audience for hits), they are incredibly and sadly wrong about the Dreamcast and it's history.

In order to fully understand the Dreamcast's fate, we have to understand it's origins and the factors involved. Furthermore we should start with the catalyst for the Dreamcast's creation. The Sega Saturn's demise.

30 Seconds to Saturn....

The Saturn was doomed from the start of it's North American campaign. The system was stated for release on September 2nd of 1995 (Saturday or "Saturnday" as it was called), and was surprise released on May 11th of that same year to be sold at select retailers like Toys R Us, Babbages, Software Ect, and Electronic's Boutique (Of course due to this move retailers like KB Toys shunned Sega products altogether out of spite) Not only was the price astronomically high ($399) compared to the Playstation's price which was a hundred dollars less, The lack of information regarding the surprise launch  left the developers in the dark, and only six games were available at launch time.  Teamed with the development issues that were already had with using hardware and graphical engines that deviated from conventional practices at the time (Quadralateral 3D pixels instead of the norm of trangular 3D based pixels, and processors that only allowed partial access of the console's total RAM ) It looked as if third parties would have a better time developing their games to the Playstation, and of course the rest was history.

Another issue with the death of the Saturn was the strange mindset of the time of SOA. Bernie Stolar, former president of SCEA, and head of Atari's home console department (Lynx). Stolar had many successes during his time at SCEA, but the most notable thing he was remembered for, was his stance on RPGs and 2D games. Wikipedia has more on this.
Before the U.S. release of the PlayStation home console, Sony made Stolar the first executive vice president of SCEA where he was in charge of business development and all content on the PlayStation platform. Stolar is remembered for his controversial policies on what games would be permitted release in America, most notably banning RPGs and 2D games, which he felt were "too nerdy" to represent the fledgling console's public image, and didn't properly demonstrate the Playstation's processing power.

The PlayStation sold well during its first holiday season in the U.S., and Bernie, after leaving Sony, accepted an opportunity to helm Sega of America as president and COO.[1] Stolar instituted several of the same policies that he used at Sony while working for Sega, including denying North American release of Grandia[2]. After the Saturn's failure in North America, Bernie pressed Sega of Japan for a new console, one which would eventually become the Dreamcast.
Depending on whom you talk to, Stolar can be considered a great help to Sega, and a huge reason for it's problems. Two years after the Saturn's release, Stolar stated on stage during the Sega conference that the Saturn is not the company's future. This was pretty much a declaration of defeat, and proclamation that the company was going back to the drawing board to compete against it's competitors with something deemed "more worthy".  Stolar had also stated that Namco will not be releasing any of the Tekken games on the Saturn as a jab to Sony. Considering the popularity of Tekken at the time, This just added to the number of games lacking out of the NA library of Saturn games, and another nail in the coffin.

Despite the Saturn being a "commercial failure" It was still the home of many fantastic arcade titles and awesome games (Too bad it's strongest games were those you had to import, especially it's spectacular fighting game catalogue). On the NA end the Saturn had quite a few impressive offerings, and thanks to companies like Working Designs the Saturn was a fairly popular console in it's day. However against the Playstation it was hardly going to be the 'must have' it was intended to be. This did nothing but create a ton of pressure for Sega to come up with something that would blow anything both Sony and Nintendo had out of the water before they were even released. Enter "Project Katana"

Next week I'll be discussing more about Sega's role in the rise and fall of the Dreamcast, and somehow I'll figure out the point I was trying to make here (I'm kidding, there is an actual point to this ).

Game On.

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