It’s time for a trip down memory lane. Exactly ten years ago today – 09-09-1999 – Sega released the Dreamcast on the North American market. Widely regarded as far, far ahead of its time, the Dreamcast pioneered several concepts which the competition only picked up on years and years later. Sadly, the Dreamcast would face an early grave.
The Dreamcast had several different release dates depending on the country you lived in at the time, but for the North American market, it arrived on September 9, 1999, as the successor to Sega’s Saturn game console. It was released about a year earlier in Japan, and Europe and the rest of the world followed soon after North America.
The Dreamcast had some pretty serious hardware. It came with a 200Mhz SH-4 processor with an on-die 128-bit vector graphics engine, and a PowerVR2 CLX2 chipset for the graphics. Sound-wise, it had a Yamaha AICA Sound Processor (32-Bit ARM7 RISC CPU at 45 MHz), backed by 2MB of RAM. The Dreamcast contained 16MB of main memory and 8MB of video memory.
Where the Dreamcast really set itself apart, though, were the peripherals. The Visual Memory Unit was a tiny game console in and of itself, and could also be used as an auxiliary display during Dreamcast gameplay. The other defining peripheral – for its time – was the included modem, at either 33.6k or 56k. A broadband adapter was sold separately.
Thanks to the modem and the broadband adapter, the Dreamcast could not only play games online, but it could also browse the web thanks to the built-in web browser. The Dreamcast ran a modified version of Windows CE, developed by Microsoft in conjunction with Sega.
All these features put the Dreamcast far ahead of its competition, and it allowed the machine to power some very impressive games. Sadly, the arrival of Sony’s incredibly successful PlayStation 2 marked the beginning of the end for the Dreamcast, and Sega pulled the plug in March 2001, but refurbished machines were sold as late as 2006. Still, games continued to be developed and released for the console, and it still has a devoted fanbase.
So devoted, even, that coming October, a new Dreamcast game will be released. While the Dreamcast never gained as much traction as the PS2 or the XBox, it is still a landmark in console gaming, and a device that was far, far ahead of its time. A moment of silence, please, as we celebrate ten years of Dreamcast.