There Will NEVER Be a Dreamcast 2, and Here’s Why

[Cover image credit: Steve Napierski via Dueling Analogs]
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By: Chris Hodges, editor-in-chief

 

Hard truth time: We didn’t love the Dreamcast nearly as much as we say we did. How can I say such a thing? Well, the system didn’t even last two whole years in the U.S. and Europe before Sega pulled the plug on it, and they didn’t do that because it was raking in billions of dollars. No, the reality is that while plenty of gamers did buy it and did support it, far DC launchmore of us went running to the PlayStation 2 and left the Dreamcast behind. Sales figures don’t lie. Sure, some of Sega’s key figureheads at the time had long pushed for Sega to abandon the hardware business and just become a software company, but if the Dreamcast had been a smashing financial success, they would’ve happily stayed that course for as long as it was profitable. For a company to completely abandon a console that quickly is almost unheard of – even the Jaguar and the 3DO each weren’t officially euthanized until three years into their lifespans. So, again, we obviously didn’t show it the support that it deserved, especially given our supposed love for it. Sure, Nintendo and Microsoft didn’t put up especially higher numbers proportionately for the GameCube and Xbox, but Nintendo and Microsoft also had a much healthier bank account and could afford to weather such a storm far more than the then financially-shaky Sega. Following the Saturn, the Dreamcast needed to be an absolute blockbuster success in order to make it…and it wasn’t, so it didn’t. And that is nobody’s fault but ours.

In actuality, like many other creative figures that died far too young, the Dreamcast didn’t reach true worship status until sometime after it was laid to rest. As the PS2 and Xbox pushed to bring gaming into the critical-mass mainstream, us so-called “hardcore” gamers began to look at the Dreamcast as something of the end of an era, the era when video games were still video games, before they became a multi-billion-dollar Hollywood competitor. We eulogized the Dreamcast, professed our love for it – many of us began calling it the best system of all time – and talked about how sad it was that such a wonderful, amazing, ahead-of-its-time console could die such a quick death and also spell the unceremonious end to the Sega of our childhoods, the one that, at one time, was the only company with a library that came anywhere close to rivaling Nintendo’s. We began to fantasize about how amazing it would be if Sega took another shot at it, if they did what we all knew they were capable of doing, which was release another console and show everyone else how it’s done. Not surprisingly, we typically referred to this imagined system as the Dreamcast 2.

Petitions popped up every so often for Sega to make a Dreamcast 2, and they never really went anywhere (because most online petitions don’t). Most recently, there was this petition for Sega to release an HD Dreamcast that would play standard Dreamcast games but up-res them to full HD as well as have the ability to download games from an online store. But probably nothing since the original Dreamcast’s demise has stirred up talk of a Dreamcast successor more fervently than the announcement of a Kickstarter to finally develop and release Shenmue 3 for PC and PS4. When the game crushed its $2 million funding goal in no time flat and as of this writing sits at $3.2 million with a full 29 days left on the campaign, people’s minds began racing at the prospect of crowd funding the Dreamcast 2.

Well, I hate to break it to you, but it’s not going to happen. For starters, it would cost Sega more than just a couple million bucks to design, develop, manufacture and release a brand-new, fully-fledged console. But let’s say Sega is able to keep the costs to a reasonable level. Let’s say they can do it for even $10 million. Surely, if a single Sega game can cruise past 3 million without breaking a sweat, and is on pace to hit at least 10 by the time that campaign ends, a Dreamcast 2 would easily be able to bring in $10 million in backer funds. And I don’t doubt for a second that it would. The problem is, there is far more to consider than simply getting the cash to actually build and release the thing.

In order for the Dreamcast 2 to be an attractive purchase for most gamers, it would have to be able to deliver a library with a sizable number of true exclusives. Nobody is going to want a Dreamcast 2 to play ports of Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed, and to be honest, Sega would probably need to keep its tech rather modest in order to have any shot at affordability and profitability so the Dreamcast 2 almost certainly wouldn’t be as powerful as the PS4 or XB1. That being said, any ports of multiplatform games are going to be an obvious downgrade from their PS4, XB1 and PC counterparts, so obviously multiplatform titles aren’t going to be – nor should they be – something that the Dreamcast relies on very much, if at all. No, the Dreamcast 2 absolutely must be home to a number of 100% exclusive titles that make it so you can’t get those games anywhere else but the DC2. So now we aren’t just talking about $10 million to make a console…we also need at least a few million more to develop a couple of compelling launch games that have to be ready day-and-date with the DC2. And Sega couldn’t just get away with any old launch games if it wants to bring people in. We’re Shenmue 3talking a new Phantasy Star, a new Virtua Fighter, a new Skies of Arcadia, a new Panzer Dragoon, a new Jet Set Radio, a new House of the Dead, a new Space Channel 5, a new Shenmue…oops. Well that one obviously isn’t going to happen. I’d say losing exclusivity to a game as huge as Shenmue 3 is already a major strike against the DC2’s potential library of exclusives. Sega also can’t just cheap out and launch with stuff like a new Crazy Taxi, Virtua Tennis and Chu Chu Rocket. They’d need to have at least one big gun, something on the level (and scope) of a Shenmue or a Panzer Dragoon Saga, that releases alongside the system – if not comes with the system, which again adds considerable cost to that start-up capital. Then, of course, they’d have to basically terminate their relationships with Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo completely, since it wouldn’t do them much good to keep making Sega games for other systems instead of funneling all future development to the DC2, and not only would that be an incredibly risky move financially but they risk alienating the other platform holders which isn’t something they want to do in case the DC2 fails and they have to go crawling back to them again. And what third-party companies are going to actually make true DC2 exclusives, especially in this day and age when a true 100% exclusive is very rare outside of first- and second-party developers anyway? So most of it is going to fall squarely on Sega’s shoulders, and they just don’t have the money and resources to stock an entire system’s library by themselves. No company does anymore.

The other major issue here is talent. A lot of the key people behind Sega’s great franchises – when they were still great – are no longer with the company. Yuji Naka is gone, and he was never completely team Sega anyway so I doubt anything is going to entice him to come back (although he gets entirely too much credit for the Sonic games anyway). Tetsuya Miziguchi is gone, and he was not only a key figure behind Sega Rally but he was the driving force behind Space Channel 5 and Rez, both of which would be essential franchises for a new Dreamcast. The list goes on and on. You’d be hard-pressed to name too many people who have directed or were the key figures behind Sega’s greatest games – and more relevantly, Sega’s greatest Dreamcast games – who haven’t since departed the company. Sure, it isn’t impossible to make these games without them, but would it really feel the same? Look at any major video game franchise throughout history that lost its founder or a key creative head and the series went on with the same quality and spirit afterward. It rarely, if ever, happens, or it takes years to happen, and Sega doesn’t have that luxury. These follow-ups need to be spot-on right off the bat, or gamers will cry foul.

“Wait a minute,” you cry out, “what about Yu Suziki??” Yes, Yu Suzuki is probably Sega’s Shigeru Miyamoto, and he’s obviously back in the Sega fold so that is reason for optimism, right? Nope. Shenmue 3 is actually being developed without Yu Suzukiany involvement from Sega. They are neither the developer nor the publisher. So Suzuki is definitely not “back with Sega” by any stretch. That is a small but crucial bit of information people keep overlooking about the return of Shenmue and its relation to a possible Dreamcast 2. In fact, what is perhaps more likely than a DC2 is Yu Suzuki being convinced to revive more of the franchises he has worked on, provided he is able to wrestle the rights to more of them away from Sega, something I wouldn’t hold my breath for. He could certainly head up and seek crowdfunding for spiritual successors to games like Virtua Fighter, Virtua Cop, After Burner, Space Harrier, and so on, but if those aren’t even going to be Sega games anyway, why would Sega make a new Dreamcast to put them on – and why would Suzuki want to limit his potential audience by only putting them on a boutique system rather than PS4, XB1 and/or PC?

Most of us want Sega to be Sega again. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with hoping for that. It’s not an entirely impossible dream to have Sega dig back into some of its classic franchises, and even hire back some of its former golden boys and girls to make those new games and make them great. But even that is already a pretty far-fetched dream. To also want that and want it to happen on a so-called Dreamcast 2 is never going to be anything but wishful thinking. Sorry to have to be the one to break that to you.

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3 thoughts on “There Will NEVER Be a Dreamcast 2, and Here’s Why

  1. When I read your article I couldn’t help but think of a bunch of reinforcing points.

    1. Nostalgia (at least in this case) is completely distorted (even more than you mention). The Dreamcast (while a bit early) was definitely part of the PS2 generation of consoles. That means it’s competitors were the PS2 (obviously), the GameCube and the XBox. To call it “the best system of all time” is ridiculous. Let’s be honest, it wasn’t even the best system of that generation. The PS2 was an amazing piece of hardware that has a library that rivals pretty much any other console ever. You yourself argued that the GameCube might just be Nintendo’s best console ever (https://chi-scroller.com/2014/10/08/was-the-gamecube-nintendos-best-system/) and the Xbox is pretty impressive in it’s own right. There’s no way the Dreamcast is a better system than the PS2 and you’d have to make a very compelling argument to convince me that it’s better than either the GameCube or the XBox. The point here is that the nostalgia factor is way out of control here. I’d bet that a lot of the people that feel this nostalgia feel the same way that we felt about the 16 bit era. You were a Sega fanboy because your parents bought you a Genesis or a Nintendo fanboy if you got an SNES. The facts are irrelevant, you remember those systems however you remember them because you were a kid, and they were good memories. Objectively the Dreamcast was a great piece of hardware the did a lot of things right, but so did all those other consoles.

    2. We absolutely do not need another console. The three we have are already struggling. By all accounts, adoption rates for any of the big 3 are less than in previous generations, and if there was a Dreamcast 2, it’s already so late to that party that most people who were going to buy a console already made their choice. What’s more, the business plan you lay out above, with Sega re-upping all it’s old franchises, is bascially what Nintendo already does, and their franchises are a thousand times more well-known and beloved than Sega’s (and Nintendo’s sales numbers aren’t through the roof with that strategy anyway). The Dreamcast 2, even in it’s best incarnation, would exist in a marketplace that neither needs or wants it. Even 1 million fanboys isn’t enough to convince anyone of that.

    3. Like you ended your article, the most important thing Sega could do would be to simply become Sega again. Remember when stand alone Sonic games weren’t absolute pieces of garbage? Remember when the best Sonic game on the market wasn’t a Nintendo game called Super Smash Bros? Sega, much like Capcom and Konami, seem to be losing their way when it comes to the franchises that made them what they are. If all were right with the world Sega would be one of those elite developers that has fanboys hanging o their seat for every announcement. Sega’s still smart enough to know that they can’t produce a console again, but apparently their not smart enough to make games we really want. And one more thing; if Sega was considering making a new Dreamcast, wouldn’t it be prudent to test the waters first by reinvigorating some of these franchises and seeing how much people actually cared about them? Like you Said, Shenmue 3 is not a Sega venture, so that doesn’t count. How about a new Phantasy Star, though? Before Sega makes a console, wouldn’t they want to know if a franchise like that is one people still even care about?

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    1. Honestly – and I hate to admit this given my feelings on digital games – but many of Sega’s classic franchises would work far better as $10-$20 downloadable games than full-priced retail releases anyway. Could a game like Space Channel 5 get away with costing $50 today? Or Crazy Taxi, Virtua Tennis, Seaman, Rez, Chu Chu Rocket, Dynamite Cop or even Jet Grind Radio? Probably not. If Sega WERE to finally make sequels to those games, they’d almost certainly need to do them on a modest budget and release them at downloadable games pricing. Only something on the scope of a Shenmue or a Skies of Arcadia could be a full priced game in the current video game landscape. So there most certainly doesn’t need to be a whole separate system that you need to get in order to play a bunch of downloadable games and a handful of full priced ones when Sega can just put those digital games on one of the four major digital storefronts (the three consoles and Steam), and even mobile depending on the game. It just doesn’t make any sense. Not to mention that a lot of people seem to be forgetting that they also loved the Dreamcast for its great then-exclusive third party games like Soulcalibur, RE Code Veronica, Grandia II, and so on, most of which have either since been ported to other systems already anyway and have already had multiple sequels, so there really isn’t even much value in being like “Here, the long-awaited sequel to this DC-exclusive, finally available exclusively on DC2!” because such a game doesn’t really exist for the most part.

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    2. Well I’m not gonna seat here and write out different steps about the sega and why you are wrong etc. But the Sega Dreamcast came out in 1998 WAY BEFORE THE PS2. This is why it was head of it’s time because it was trying to do online play with the modem and they had good games. At the time of dreamcast aka bad timing Sony was announcing their ps2 with specs lol so people started to wait for that and this was going on while DC was released in 98. And to quote from wiki the system was a head of it’s time because it had in-game voice chat, downloadable content, and second screen technology through the use of VMUs. At the time the system was powerful but later on PS2 was released and the rest is history. And for the gamecube it didn’t do has well has the Wii selling 110 million. During the console wars of that era the PS2 came out (DC still selling units) Xbox and Game cube. PS2 won it selling 155 million units while xbox came in second and gamecube came third and DC came forth and that’s when they pulled the plug.

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