Talking Point

Why the Dreamcast is So Far Ahead of Its Time

Complete bust or the most innovative console of all time? Sega's final foray into the console wars ends with a whimper but leaves behind an incredible legacy.

Oh the Dreamcast. Poor Dreamcast, dead on arrival in September 1999 with Sega losing millions with their Saturn console, the Dreamcast was one of the most ultimate achievements in gaming technology who's hardware really wouldn't be fully surpassed until the PS4. Though less than a dozen million were sold, the Dreamcast definitely holds a special place in many people's hearts and is often categorized as a head of it's time.

But why was it so ahead of its time. Well for starters, it came out during the N64 era (remember those graphics). Instead of N64 pixelated GoldenEye textures, we got these amazing looking games like Shenmue. These graphics were insane at least for a while, until the PS2 came out. It also heavily focused on playing online and had a ton of online specific games like Phantasy Star Online. It was created as the console where you could get the "arcade experience". It's still beloved because of all the 2D fighters and SHMUPs that it had like Chaos Field (which we talk about it one of our episodes).

Generally it was just a badass console that had a great marketing campaign and look. Remember it was out two years before GC, PS2 or Xbox, prompting these consoles to really go above and beyond in their marketing. Some worked and some were extremely weird. Check out a vintage Dreamcast commercial below:

Okay time for more firsts. It was the first major console to launch with online capabilities out of the box- modem, phone cord, software, etc. Some of these games's servers are still online (like phantasy star and quake 3). The VMU (visual memory unit) was a precursor to the DS's second screen as well as a precursor to cloud storage. Would hold all your files here (similar to switch) (you could see the hidden health monitor in RE). Sonic Adventure 2 let you play mini games on it (what!?). Most things on here were awful, but it was arguably the first attempt at ubiquitous computing, 7 years before Apple. This is nuts. That was the small screen that was within the controller, also a very weird but cool innovation on its own, as you could attach it there and then remove it very easily, kinda like the Switch.

It was also the first console to be playable at 60hz, first console with fully analog triggers (GameCube adopted this shortly after), first console with a home screen dashboard (xbox copied this years later), first console who developed motion technology (the DreamEye, though was never used). It also had a dedicated GPU, something very few consoles had at this time.

Sadly the Dreamcast was never meant to be. The PlayStation 2 was the last nail in the coffin eventually selling over 150 million units, the Dreamcast was left in its dust, but with its demise it spawned many legendary games and some unbelievable technical achievements. Want to learn more about the Dreamcast and the games that went over to the GameCube? Check out Episode 10 of the GameCube Was Cool and learn about this dear departed box.

WRITTEN BY

Mike Laine

Mike is a designer and developer by trade who has a passion for gaming and the social connection they provide. Of course his favourite console is the GameCube but he got his career in gaming started with a GameBoy Color complete with Space Invaders, Super Mario World, and Pokemon Red. Ever since that Christmas he's been hooked on all things Nintendo all though he does have quite the love hate relationship with them. Mike has worked in the world of journalism and has many friends and family in the radio and TV business so has been exposed to the world of podcasting for many years now. His goal is to remind people that the GameCube existed, that you played it at a McDonald's at some point, and you probably even enjoyed it.