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The Dreamcast (ドリームキャスト) is the last video game console made by Sega, and is the successor to the Sega Saturn. The Dreamcast is part of the sixth generation of video game consoles and was released in late 1998, before its contemporaries - the PlayStation 2, the Nintendo GameCube and the Xbox.

After facing strong competition from Sony's recently released PlayStation 2, Sega discontinued the Dreamcast in March 2001 and withdrew entirely from the console hardware business. However, support of the system continued in Japan where consoles were still sold until 2006 and new licensed games continued to be released.

Despite its short lifespan, Dreamcast was widely hailed as ahead of its time, and is still held in high regard for pioneering online console gaming - being the first console to include a built-in modem and Internet support for online gaming.[1][2] As of 2009, the console is still supported through various homebrew video game releases.

History Edit

Main article: History of the Dreamcast
Dreamcast mainboard

Mainboard of a retail version of the Dreamcast

In 1997, the Saturn was struggling in North America, and Sega of America president Bernie Stolar pressed for Sega's Japanese headquarters to develop a new platform. Two competing teams were tasked with developing the console - a Skunkworks group headed by IBM researcher Tatsuo Yamamoto and another team led by Sega hardware engineer Hideki Sato.

Sato and his group chose the Hitachi SH4 processor architecture and the VideoLogic PowerVR2 graphics processor for their prototype. Yamamoto and his Skunkworks group also opted for the SH4, but with 3dfx hardware. Initially Sega opted to use the Skunkworks group's 3dfx-based hardware, even suggesting to 3dfx that they would do so. However, they eventually chose Sato's PowerVR based design. Sega's shift in design prompted a lawsuit by 3dfx that was eventually settled. [3][4] [5][6]

The Dreamcast was released in November 1998 in Japan; in September 1999 in North America and on October 14, 1999 in Europe. Despite problems with the Japan launch,[2] the system's launch in the United States was successful. In the United States alone, a record 300,000 units[7] had been pre-ordered[2] and Sega sold 500,000 consoles in just two weeks (including a record 225,132 sold during the first 24 hours). In fact, due to brisk sales and hardware shortages, Sega was unable to fulfill all of the advance orders. Sega confirmed that it made US$98.4 million on combined hardware and software sales with Dreamcast with its September 9, 1999 launch.[8] Four days after its launch in the US, Sega stated 372,000 units were sold bringing in US$132 million in sales.[2]

Launch titles such as Soul Calibur, Sonic Adventure, Chuchu Rocket Power Stone, and Hydro Thunder helped Dreamcast succeed in the first year.[9] Sega Sports titles helped fill the void with no Electronic Arts sports games on the system. [10] Dreamcast sales grew 156.5% from July 23, 2000 to September 30, 2000 putting Sega ahead of the Nintendo 64 in that period.[11] However, Sony's launch of the much-hyped PlayStation 2 that year marked the beginning of the end for the Dreamcast.[12]

On January 31, 2001, Sega announced that it was ending production of Dreamcast hardware by March of that year[13] although the 50 to 60 titles still in production would be published.[citation needed] The last North American release was NHL 2K2, which was released in February 2002. With the company announcing no plans to develop a next-generation successor to Dreamcast, this was Sega's last foray into the home console business.

During the following years, unreleased games like Propeller Arena and Half-Life were leaked on the Internet through warez groups and independent hackers.

Although production of the Dreamcast ended, commercial games were still developed and published by Sega of Japan. Many of these were initially developed for Sega's NAOMI arcade hardware, including Sega's final first-party Dreamcast game, Sonic Team's Puyo Pop Fever, released on February 24, 2004.[14]

The last Dreamcast units were sold through the Sega Direct division of Japan in early 2006. These refurbished units were bundled with Radilgy[15], and a phone card. The last Dreamcast games published by Sega of Japan were the 2007 releases Trigger Heart Exelica and Karous.[16]

Through a free software development kit called KallistiOS, software support of the console continues with homebrew games, emulators and utilities being released for the system. These include the 2009 unlicensed commercial releases Last Hope: Pink Bullets, Wind and Water: Puzzle Battles and DUX. Several Dreamcast emulation projects have also emerged including Chankast and nullDC.

Models Edit

Due to its short production span, only a few official Dreamcast models were released. The primary models released in 1999 had a grey tint and a weaker and quieter system fan while the later models of 2000 were white colored with a stronger system fan and a faster, louder laser disc reader. The power light, like the Dreamcast logo in NTSC regions, was orange. In Europe, the orange logo on the system was changed to blue.

Some special Dreamcast models were released in certain regions. In North America, a limited edition black Dreamcast was released with a Sega Sports logo below the Dreamcast logo on the lid, along with matching Sega Sports-branded black controllers. Electronics Boutique offered a blue Dreamcast through its website. In Japan, Sega released many varieties of the system, including a limited edition Sonic anniversary version, a pink Sakura Taisen version, and a Hello Kitty version released in 2000 in Japan which, due to its limited production, has become an extremely rare collector's piece. The package contains a keyboard, controller, VMU, mouse, and a Hello Kitty trivia game. The console and accessories came in both translucent pink and blue in color with some printed designs.

Online retailers such as Lik Sang sold various unofficial Dreamcast modifications, include case replacements of various colors. They also sold the Treamcast, a portable Dreamcast which used the original first-party Dreamcast components with internal sound and video adjustments, inside a custom made plastic casing. This small system with its fold-down display resembled the later PS One. Many companies included software and a remote control with the unit that enabled it to play MP3s and Video CDs. However, Lik Sang was unable to obtain permission from Sega to sell an officially licensed, modified version of the system.

Hardware and accessories Edit

Technical specifications Edit

Dreamcast-internal

Internal view of a Dreamcast console

The system's processor is a 200 MHz SH-4 with an on-die 128-bit vector graphics engine, 360 MIPS and 1.4 GFLOPS (single precision), using the vector graphics engine. The graphics hardware is a PowerVR2 CLX2 chipset, capable of 7.0 million polygons/second peak performance and trilinear filtering. Graphics hardware effects include gouraud shading, z-buffering, anti-aliasing, per-pixel translucency sorting and bump mapping. The system supports approximately 16.78 million colors (24-bit) color output and displays interlaced or progressive scan video at 640x480 video resolution.

For sound, the system features a Yamaha AICA Sound Processor with a 22.5 MHz 32-Bit ARM7 RISC CPU operating at 45 MHz,[17], 64 channel PCM/ADPCM sampler (4:1 compression), XG MIDI support and 128 step DSP.

The Dreamcast has 16 MB 64 Bit 100 MHz of main RAM, 8 MB 4x16-bit 100 MHz video RAM and 2 MB 16-bit 66 MHz sound RAM. [18] The hardware supports VQ Texture Compression at either asymptotically 2bpp or even 1bpp [19]

The system reads media using a 12x maximum speed (Constant Angular Velocity) Yamaha GD-ROM Drive. The Dreamcast can also read data from a Visual Memory Unit ("VMU") removable storage device and 4x memory cards that hold four times as much data. Input devices such as game controllers are connected to four USB-like "Maple Bus" ports.

DreamcastModem

A black 56k Dreamcast modem

Built in Modem Edit

In most regions, the Dreamcast included a removable modem. The original Asia/Japan model had a 33.6 kbit/s; consoles sold in Japan after September 9, 1999 had a 56 kbit/s modem. All American models had a 56 kbit/s modem, while all PAL models had a 33.6 kbit/s modem. Brazilian models manufactured under license by Tec Toy did not include a modem, which was available separately. The regular modem could be replaced with a broadband adapter that was sold separately.

Accessories Edit

Main article: Dreamcast accessories

Various accessories for the Dreamcast were released, by both third parties and Sega itself. Among the most notable ones are the Dreamcast VGA adapter which allowed Dreamcast games to played on computer displays or High-definition television sets in 480p (progressive scan) and the VMU accessory - a memory card with a small screen that provided a variety of functions for various games.

Games Edit

Main article: List of Dreamcast games

As of November 2007, the Dreamcast has more than 325 official games available in its library. Over 100 games were released only in Japan. There are also numerous homebrew games for the Dreamcast and games continue to be released by certain companies.[20] Games were sold in jewel cases; jewel cases in Europe were twice as thick as their North American counterparts, possibly to have space for thick, multilingual instruction manuals.

Among the official games are Dreamcast online games that could be played over the Internet. The online servers were run by SegaNet, Dreamarena, and GameSpy networks. Online game support was particularly popular in Japan, with releases of network compatible games such as Tech Romancer and Project Justice. Web browsers were developed by independent companies such as Planetweb to allow access to web sites and included features like Java, uploads, movies, and mouse support. Dreamarena came with games such as Sonic Adventure, and Chu Chu Rocket.

There are five games that can still be played online. Quake III Arena and Maximum Pool are still accessible via various servers. 4x4 Evolution and Starlancer are still online through Gamespy. SEGA Swirl can be also be played online with its play by e-mail game.

References Edit

  1. "Dreamcast Connects Console Gamers". GameSpy. July 2003. http://archive.gamespy.com/articles/july03/25smartest/index17.shtml. Retrieved on 2007-07-19. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Sega Dreamcast". Game Makers. G4 (TV channel), Los Angeles. 2008-08-20. No. 302.
  3. ElectronicNews Newspaper, Inc. (1997) 3Dfx sues Sega, NEC over contract Published Sept 8, 1997. Retrieved on 12 February, 2009 from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0EKF/is_n2184_v43/ai_19746977
  4. ElectronicNews Newspaper, Inc. (1997) 3Dfx sues Sega, NEC over contract p1 - Citing 3Dfx Director of investor relations Laura Onopchenko; "Sega intentionally led 3Dfx to believe that Sega was committed to the 3Dfx chipset for Sega's new game console, while knowing that it would ultimately choose to use the NEC chipset [,]"
  5. ElectronicNews Newspaper, Inc. (1997) 3Dfx sues Sega, NEC over contract p1 - Citing 3Dfx Director of investor relations Laura Onopchenko; "Sega received under the false pretenses of the development contract, confidential design and development information and materials, all of which were proprietary and highly confidential property of 3Dfx."
  6. BusinessWire, Inc (1998). 3Dfx, Sega, NEC and VideoLogic settle 3Dfx[]lawsuit Published on August 4, 1998. Retrieved from http://www.allbusiness.com/legal/legal-services-litigation/6861052-1.html on February 12, 2009.
  7. Maclean's 24 September 1999.
  8. "Dreamcast beats Playstation record". BBC News. November 1999. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/534957.stm. Retrieved on 2008-08-19. 
  9. "Dreamcast Museum". Chronicgames.net. http://www.chronicgames.net/articles/dreamcast-museum.aspx. Retrieved on 2008-08-11. 
  10. "Sega Sports NFL 2K1 Outsells the Competition on Its Debut; First Ever Online Console Game NFL 2K1 Becomes Number One Football Game This Fall". Business Wire. November 28, 2000. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0EIN/is_2000_Nov_28/ai_67385294?tag=artBody;col1. Retrieved on 2008-08-19. 
  11. "Price Cut Leads to Surge in Dreamcast Sales". Manjiro Works. http://www.manjiro.com/japannewsocttodec2000.html#anchor113244. Retrieved on 2008-08-19. 
  12. "PlayStation 2 Timeline". GameSpy. p. 3. http://archive.gamespy.com/articles/february04/ps2timeline/index2.shtml. Retrieved on 2008-08-19. 
  13. "Sega Scraps the Dreamcast". BBC. January 2001. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/1145936.stm. Retrieved on 2008-08-22. 
  14. "Sega of Japan Dreamcast Release List". Sega of Japan. http://sega.jp/dc. Retrieved on 2009-08-12. 
  15. "Sega of Japan Dreamcast Release List". Sega of Japan. http://sega.jp/dc. Retrieved on 2009-08-12. 
  16. "Sega of Japan Dreamcast Release List". Sega of Japan. http://sega.jp/dc. Retrieved on 2009-08-12. 
  17. "Sega Dreamcast Review Part 1". FiringSquad.com. 1999-09-07. http://www.firingsquad.com/hardware/dreamcasthw/page2.asp. Retrieved on 2007-07-19. 
  18. In this article, the conventional prefixes for computer memory denote base-2 values whereby “kilobyte” (KB) = 210 bytes, “megabyte” (MB) = 220 bytes.
  19. "Texture Compression using Low-Frequency Signal Modulation". ACM/Eurographics. 2003-07-26. http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?coll=GUIDE&dl=GUIDE&id=844187. 
  20. "MobyGames Game Browser — Dreamcast". MobyGames. 2006. http://www.mobygames.com/browse/games/dreamcast/o,1/. Retrieved on 2006-08-07. 

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