There's a lot to keep track of on September 9, with an Apple press conference and the release of The Beatles: Rock Band game. But we'd be remiss if we didn't call attention to the upcoming 10th anniversary of one of the best-loved game consoles of all time. It was 10 years ago tomorrow (September 9, 1999) that Sega released the Dreamcast in North America. Remembered primarily by video game history buffs now, this unassuming white box helped introduce some mainstays of the modern game console--even though the Dreamcast itself had a very short lifespan.
This was the first game system to include a standard built-in 56K modem (this was pre-broadband for most people). It wasn't widely taken advantage of, but some early games, such as the amusing Chu Chu Rocket, proved that multiplayer gaming could work in the living room. More traditional games such as Quake III Arena and Phantasy Star Onlinealso made use of the Dreamcast modem. All but forgotten now, a Dreamcast Web browser was also available.
Unfortunately for Sega, the $199 Dreamcast would prove to be the end of the line for the company as a console maker. The storied lineage of the Sega Master System, Genesis, and Saturn hit a wall as the Dreamcast was quickly overshadowed by the Sony PlayStation 2. The system was discontinued in 2001.
History aside, I have a personal fondness for the Dreamcast, as it was the very first game console launch I covered. Back in 1999, I was an editor at a video game and pop culture Web site called UGO.com (which is still around, and currently owned by Hearst). At the time, we were appropriately impressed with Sega's next step in console hardware, but the steady buzz building over an upcoming uberconsole called the PlayStation 2 quickly drowned out any good will Sega had with gamers.
Besides being my first console launch as a writer covering the games industry, the Dreamcast is also burned in my memory because of my frequent in-office throwdowns with UGO's then-mascot, diminutive actor Gary Coleman. Gary (the subject of the first-ever Web-a-thon fundraiser) was particularly adept at the fighting game Soul Calibur, and even against a room full of 20-something editors at a video-game-themed Web site, we were lucky if we took him down one time out of 10(which would inevitably lead to a profanity-filled tirade).
If this trip down memory lane has you hungry for more Dreamcast nostalgia, embedded below is an episode of a video game history program from a few years ago that features several talking heads (myself included) pontificating about Sega's last-ever console.