|Release Date||NA September 9, 1999|
JP November 27, 1999
EU October 14, 1999
AUS November 30, 1999
|Discontinued||NA March 2001|
The Dreamcast, also known as the Sega Dreamcast, is Sega's final home console before shifting its focus from consoles and software to just software. It was the first entry into the sixth generation with Sony's PlayStation 2, Microsoft's Xbox, and Nintendo's GameCube soon following.
Sega discontinued the Dreamcast in March 2001 and withdrew entirely from the console hardware business, making it the company's final console. Support of the system continued in Europe and Oceania until the end of 2002, while in Japan, consoles were still sold until 2006 and new licensed games continued to be released. According to Bernie Stolar, former President and CEO of Sega of America, the Dreamcast was discontinued because the new chair of Sega wanted the company to focus on software.
Despite its short lifespan, the Dreamcast has garnered cult status for its history and features. It was widely hailed as ahead of its time, and is still held in high regard for pioneering online console gaming—it was the first console to include a built-in modem and Internet support for online play. As of 2011, the console is still supported through various MIL-CD independent releases.
In 1997, the Sega Saturn was struggling in North America, and Sega of America president Bernie Stolar was pressed by Sega's Japanese headquarters to develop a new platform. Two competing teams were tasked with developing the console–a skunkworks group headed by IBM researcher Tatsuo Yamamoto and another team led by Sega hardware engineer Hideki Sato.
Sato and his group chose the Hitachi SH4 processor architecture and the VideoLogic PowerVR2 graphics processor for their prototype. Yamamoto and his Skunkworks group also opted for the SH4, but with 3dfx hardware. Initially, Sega decided to use Yamamoto's design and suggested to 3Dfx that they would be using their hardware in the upcoming console, but Sega later opted to use the PowerVR hardware of Sato's design. This was attributed to 3Dfx leaking details and technical specifications of the then-secret Dreamcast project when declaring their Initial Public Offerin in June 1997 a move which readers on Gamespy.com named "one of the dumbest mistakes in video game history". Sega's shift in design prompted a lawsuit by 3dfx that was eventually settled.
With Sega's machine, no operating system resides in the device until it is loaded in on a disc with each game. The advantage, Sega executives say, is that developers can always ship products that use the version of an operating system with the newest features and performance enhancements. The operating system used by some Dreamcast titles was developed by Microsoft after two years of work with Sega. It was an optimized version of Windows CE supporting DirectX. According to Richard Doherty, president of Envisioneering Group:
|“||Microsoft had initially wanted Windows CE to be Dreamcast's main operating system. It isn't.||”|
The Dreamcast's boot-up sequence was also composed by accomplished Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto.