Sega’s final home console, the Dreamcast, is often considered to be “the last classic games console” – whatever that means. The console itself wasn’t a financial success, but it was forward thinking and powerful enough to run many arcade games of the time (like Street Fighter 3, and Marvel vs. Capcom 2), making it the perfect system for fighting fans who couldn’t afford a Neo Geo.
Having said all this, the Dreamcast was doomed from the start. While it was technically more powerful than its rivals, the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, it paled in comparison to the upcoming console generation, like the Gamecube, PS2, and Xbox. By 2004, the Dreamcast had been shuffled into the bargain bin.
The Dreamcast, which was called “Katana” while in development, was equipped with a dial-up modem and was built more like a PC than a typical console. It actually ran on Windows CE. This allowed for more flexible designs than had been seen by game systems of the time. The controller was also innovative. It featured a single analog stick, much like the N64, but shared more aesthetics with the PS2 and even more with the Xbox, which makes sense when you remember that Microsoft collaborated with Sega on the Dreamcast’s Windows-based operating system. This controller also housed a memory card called VMU or “Visual Memory Unit.” It had a small LCD screen that could display simple graphics and allowed the user to play certain mini games via a small controller on the front. In retrospect, it feels like a precursor to the Wii U’s Gamepad.
Sadly, it was not successful. Only three years into its life, the Dreamcast’s price was cut down to $50 in order to clear out any remaining stock. Sega had officially left the console market to focus on software. It’s a sad tale, but if it weren’t for this move, we wouldn’t have any Sega titles on Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo systems. And Sonic would never have been able to rumble with Mario in Smash Bros.
That’s the story of Sega’s last console. It was cool for the time but never really found its the groove. I think it was great that Sega left the hardware business on such a unique high note, though. The Dreamcast will always have a special place in gaming history.