What Would a Dreamcast be Like in 2014?

By Gary Cutlack on at

It's 15 years today since Dreamcast launched in North America, five weeks before hitting the UK. D.R.E.A.M.C.A.S.T. It was a games console. No, it was nothing like the PlayStation 2. Yes, it was really called Dreamcast, even in the UK.

It was revolutionary, and we're not just saying that because there's a special cardboard box in the loft containing a self-chipped multi-region Dreamcast, all the first-party peripherals, several spare emergency backup copies of Space Channel 5 and lots of toys imported at great expense in the early 2000s.

"Up to 6 billion Players"

Dreamcast launched with a modem inside it, way back in 1999. That was entirely revolutionary, no two ways about it. Unfortunately for Sega it made a bit of a botch of the launch of its supporting online services and software so there wasn't much to actually do or play online for quite some time.

Fast-forward to the year 2001, though, when Phantasy Star Online was finally released, and everyone who had a Dreamcast was hanging around lobbies waiting to play this early, revolutionary, online console RPG through a crappy pre-broadband dial-up connection.

Phantasy Star Online and Shenmue I and II were the Dreamcast classics no owner could be without, while cult title like Seaman, in which you bred and talked to a fish through a custom microphone, and Jet Set Radio, a storming animated skate game, made owners feel like they were part of a special club with access to the most innovative and original games.

Dreamcast had the weirdest stuff. Which is why it was best. And also why no one outside of the enthusiast mentalist scene really wanted one. PlayStation had the Gran Turismo series. Dreamcast had that talking fish thing, a fairly terrible 3D Sonic game and arcade games you could already play for £1 elsewhere.

Mr Mainstream wasn't hugely interested, even though, whenever Dreamcast is talked about now, everyone says Virtua Tennis is their favourite game ever.

Dreamcast 2.0

The problem for anyone who would like to see Sega return to this, ahem, glory period of niche hardware making and effortless cult smash creation, is that there's not a huge number of the original glory-makers remaining at the company.

The core of Sega's Dreamcast offering as far as the hardcore gaming element was concerned was its perfect ports of arcade games, like Crazy Taxi, Samba De Amigo, Rez, Virtua Fighter 3, IkarugaVirtua Tennis and more.

Given that Sega's arcade division currently consists of three blokes who drive around the country in a van fixing the broken steering wheels on antique Daytona USA machines, there's not much in the way of cutting-edge arcade action to port across.

OutRun 2 was the last great Sega coin-op, and that came out well over a decade ago and was ported extremely well to the PSP of all things. There's literally no need for any Sega hardware these days.

The recent mobile version of Crazy Taxi illustrates perfectly well why Sega will never make a hardware comeback. The game is developed by an outsourced company, so has nothing really to do with actual Sega design talent, plus it runs on Android and iOS -- mature platforms with hundreds of millions of players ready to go from day one.

A Dreamcast II, much as we would like to see it and could be convinced to part with upwards of £199 were it to arrive on Kickstarter along with a pack-in copy of Shenmue III and a companion app and some stickers, would therefore be mostly home to outsourced freemium tat, football management games and emulated Sonic classics we've already played on 20 other formats over the last 20 years.

It'd be a laughing stock, in fact, much like the original machine was to those outside the niche Sega enthusiast club.