Now that the Dreamcast is almost ready to be released in the U.S., it is the right time for me to make a prediction about it. Therefore, if it doesn't come true, you will be able to make fun of me.
I predict that the Dreamcast will be the next Genesis. Let me explain what I mean by that. The Genesis was much better than the other consoles that were available at the time, namely, the Master System and the NES. A year later, the SNES was released, and people began to say that it would destroy the Genesis. And they had a few reasons to say that. First of all, its graphics were noticeably better than the ones of the Genesis, since it could display more colors on the screen. Also, Nintendo got the exclusive licence for the game that most players wanted to play; Street Fighter II. Many people bought the system just for that game.
However, slowly, people began to notice the Genesis. The first game that made people do this was Sonic the Hedgehog. It was "different enough" from Super Mario to develop its own audience, without seeming like a rip-off. It had great graphics, while I never liked the graphics in Super Mario. Plus Sonic was fast, while Mario always moved a little too slow for me. Its emphasis was in speed, while Mario's games were on exploration and finding the hidden secrets. The game was so famous that Sonic became Sega's mascot.
Sega then kept releasing other games that could only be played on the Genesis, like Ecco the Dolphin, the Streets of Rage series, The Phantasy Star series, Shinobi, and so on. Furthermore, Sega kept supporting third parties, allowing them to give players what they wanted. Probably the best example of that was when Sega allowed Acclaim to release a version of Mortal Kombat with blood in it. Nintendo forced Acclaim to remove the blood and gore, which made players buy the Genesis version.
What ended up happening was that, even though the Super Nintendo was technologically better than the Genesis, it has enough quality games, enough third party support, and a large enough installed user base, in order for Sega to remain profitable and for the Genesis to remain a viable platform.
The Dreamcast will face a similar fate as time goes on, I think. Sega has done too many things right for it to fail. The third party support is there. The retailers are excited. The Dreamcast is very easy to program and has good development tools. There are more than 300,000 preorders already. I have spoken to quite a few people who were not hard-core Sega fans, but after seeing the Dreamcast they went out and preordered one. Even though I have no doubt in my mind that Sony and Nintendo will release more powerful consoles in the future, the momentum Sega is building, and hopefully, will continue to build, will keep the Dreamcast a viable platform for the next five years or so. And that's what I mean by success. It's not necessarily being number one. It's making sure the Dreamcast will have a steady supply of good games, keeping Sega and the third parties profitable, and the gamers happy.
If I'm wrong, and the Dreamcast has failed miserably by the year 2005, I will have to eat my words.