This is actually the part of the story that I love, as this was my favorite era of Sega itself and what gave me my appreciation for the company, its’ IPs, and past and future works. I wanted to cover the entire history of the Dreamcast, but there is just too much information to put into one article.. but that’s okay, it just gives you guys more to read on a rainy day!
So last time we talked about Stolar, and how much of a pompous ass he was. Despite being an ass, the man knew what he was doing. Stolar knew the Saturn’s faults and wanted a system quite the opposite of that abomination of a console. He asked for their next gen system to do three things: be easy to program for, be simple and elegant in design, and to have serious power behind it. Stolar was on the same page Kalinske was with the idea of their future system, but his prior position gave him more credibility and influence within Sega to do what he needed to do.
If you guys couldn’t tell from the prior arguments, there was a bit of hurt pride involved with Sega of Japan since the American division at one point was vastly out-performing their Eastern counterpart. So to make it fair Sega actually split their hardware R&D department into two sections. The first section, headed by the creator of the Genesis Hideki Sato (fun fact for anyone who played and loved PSO, the MAG item Sato was named after him) was codenamed Katana. The other part was the American hardware division was codenamed Dural.
It’s kind of funny because the two divisions did exactly what you would have expected them to. Katana used strictly Japanese parts and form factors, designing a system using a Hitachi CPU and NEC based graphics chip. Dural did the smart thing and grabbed parts from the PC gaming world for their system using 3DFX chipsets to power their system, which at the time was the big thing in the PC world. There was a problem with their choice of parts however. When 3DFX drew up the paperwork and made the offer, Sega wasn’t very fond of the terms and there was a rather unfortunate quibble that cost them the contract for the chipset. Stolar still claims up and down that he wasn’t impressed with the performance of the chips. Though I still think he is covering up for being an ass and blowing the deal. So now we know what company won the console design.
Hardware development. Check. Software and content…need to do it! Stolar knew content would be a critical key to the success of the system and used the downtime of waiting for the hardware to pull a specific division in to make a new team. The first and most important, was Yuji Naka and Sonic Team. He knew people wanted the return of Sonic, and with the power of their soon-to-be new system, Sega could create a Sonic title in 3D that would blow away the consumer in contrast to what the Saturn could not do. Yu Suzuki actually pulled out of the Saturn early because of this as well. He knew his project would flourish more under this new hardware and began porting and polishing the code.
Stolar also took a risk, and purchased a third party company to make an attempt to take back the sports market. I still think to this day he made an amazing choice in the company. Sega snagged up Visual Concepts, that lovely company that brought us the 2K sports games and some amazing titles in the previous generations (Clayfighters). He went after them because he knew they could take EA in the sports game market, and had EA not purchased the sole rights from certain sports leagues, this would have been the case even today.
Next of course came getting third parties aboard the Dreamcast boat, and Stolar was quite good at this. He quickly got major companies aboard such as Capcom, Namco, and Midway. Notice a pattern? All of these guys are companies who rule with an iron fist in the arcade industry (at the time anyway. Midway isn’t even a company anymore, and Namco is now Namco-Bandai). He did this to help bring the arcade experience in addition to the amazing exclusives they had planned for the system. There was one company that told Sega and Stolar to go suck a duck. Those infernal jerks at Electronic Arts. Stolar went to them and EA came back with this,
We’ll do our sports games on your system, but we are the ONLY company doing sports games on your system.
- EA in response to Stolar.
Knowing Stolar, he probably began laughing at them right there in the room before telling them he bought a company to make their own brand of sports titles, and telling them they’d be competing with them on top of that…come of the think of it, if I was head of EA when that happened, I probably would’ve shot him the bird too. I remember hearing something about EA coming back to renegotiate for publishing on the system, but at that point I doubt Stolar would give them the time of day…so unfortunately, EA was out.
This next part is really neat. To help promote the system and to give themselves more leverage in the arcade market (they still had and have firm grasps here), they went ahead and made a variant of the system that functioned in arcade machines which we know as the NAOMI. Needless to say, I’m pretty sure multiple staff members here on STV have one of these for their personal use, myself included as it was an awesome piece of technology. Doing this actually helped Sega tremendously in the long run, because the arcade developers could make their latest and greatest games for it, and then quickly turn around and put them in the home market for maximum profits. A win-win for both Sega and their third party developers. This also was not just big in the arcade market, the NAOMI actually gave the arcade-popular NEO-GEO a run for its money!
Stolar had one more genius idea up his sleeves to give this system the edge: Online connectivity. He wanted every system to be packed with a modem, since he saw how big the online play PC market was getting. He KNEW this would be the future and fought tooth and nail with Sega of Japan to get it. OF COURSE they wouldn’t agree with him on it, but Stolar got his way in the end which was a wise decision for Sega to make.
I don’t know what it is, but Sega of Japan has this uncanny skill to bomb any system launch they attempt. I guess they couldn’t hold their load in for this case. The system launched 11/1998 in Japan! had no blasted games to back the system up. The lesson here kids is if you launch a video game system, make damn sure you have games for it that people will wanna play. Sonic Adventure did come a month later, which gave the system a boost for holiday sales but not that much.
For anyone that remembers the launch in the United States however, you will remember it was a HUGE party. 9.9.99. That date still echoes through our minds and hearts as one of the most amazing dates in gaming history. The system had seventeen launch titles, AND NONE OF THEM WERE BAD. Seventeen titles at launch is one thing, but for them to not suck either? That’s a big deal. Part of the success was having a diverse lineup ready. The Dreamcast had sports titles (NFL blitz, 2K and the awesome boxing game Ready 2 Rumble). It had platformers (Sonic Adventure). It had shooters (House of the Dead), it had fighters (Soul Calibur & Mortal Kombat), it had racing (Tokyo Xtreme), and even shoot em’ ups (Airforce Delta). This lineup was solid, amazing, and some of the best launch titles ever.
I would like to note as well the launch did have some not so publicly known issues. Copies of Sonic Adventure and Ready 2 Rumble were shipped as BLANK DISCS, and first runs of Soul Calibur and House of the Dead 2 were printed on the wrong batch of discs (Soul Calibur on House of the Dead discs and House of the Dead on Soul Calibur discs). Some system came with broadband adaptors instead of the standard phone modem (though those people I’m sure aren’t complaining.)
With that launch, Sega was once again the kings…
Effective March 4, 2013, EvilToastyBagel has resigned his position as a writer of Substance TV. The staff at Substance TV no longer represents his interest as of now or in the future, nor does his interests represent ours. We wish him luck with any future endeavors.