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The Dreamcast Launch: Good and Bad

October 3, 1999

Since the Dreamcast is now almost a month old in the U.S., let me analyze how the launch went. And it went pretty well.

First of all, most of the reasons for the launch being so successful are because of work Sega began a long time ago. The first, and probably most important reason, was that Sega got the developers excited. Sega showed the developers the technology early, gave them the programming tools right away, made the Dreamcast easy to program, and gave them a long time to get used to them and actually make the games. Although it was hard at first to know that the Dreamcast would launch a year after it became available in Japan, it was actually a good thing, since it ended up having so many games available at launch. The time when the Saturn launched with only four games, and you had to wait two more months for two more games seem like a distant memory now.

The second thing Sega did, which also was done a long time ago, was to get the retailers excited. Again, learning their lesson from the Saturn, where Sega alienated several retailers like Kay Bee Toys by making a surprise launch that excluded them, Sega began courting all the mayor retailers. The retailers, thankfully, saw the Dreamcast's potential and began supporting it. This step especially made the casual gamers excited about the Dreamcast too. When they saw the demo machines at the stores and played the games (after the retailers, ahem, dragged the Dreamcast down their throats), they were so impressed that they preordered them.

Sega didn't have to do much to make hardcore Sega fans excited about the Dreamcast. The Internet and the magazines took care of business in that aspect. Which makes me think...maybe Sega paid a lot of money to the video game magazines so they would give good publicity to the Dreamcast...hmmm.

Now let's see the aspects where Sega dropped the ball with the Dreamcast launch. As the lady said in Virtual On..."Get Ready..."

The first and most obvious mistake was the manufacturing problems with many of the first games and Dreamcast units. The games, especially. Thank God Sega acknowledged the problem with the discs right away and offered a way for gamers to return them. Unlike Sony, which never acknowledged that the Full Motion Video in the PlayStation skipped after a while. To this day, I don't know if they ever fixed it, since they never said anything. Hopefully, Dreamcast gamers will forget about that experience as time goes on.

The second mistake Sega made, which will actually get worse as time goes on, was that online gaming was not ready at launch. This is one of the major aspects where the Dreamcast will be different from the PlayStation 2, since every Dreamcast comes with a modem and in the PlayStation 2 it will be optional. We are not really sure if Sega Rally 2 will support online gaming or not.

Overall, I think Sega did a pretty good job with the Dreamcast launch. I hope it will maintain its momentum in the months ahead so in can have a large installed user base, and the games can keep coming.


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