The Sega Dreamcast Will Succeed


I have owned virtually every game system that has been made to date. Some are better than others. Some were considered flops, while the others were considered winners. I am aware that third place in this industry is considered a major flop. There has and always will be room for two systems. Hereís how Sega has all but locked up one of those two positions. Now the race is on. PSX or Nintendo? Which one will it be? No one can tell this early. But hereís why....

The Sega Dreamcast Will Succeed

Excuse a few minor flaws which may exist in the preliminary software but do have faith in the future of this console system. Segaís Dreamcast will be a hit for the following reasons:

Timing

The longevity of a console unit rarely surpasses five or six years. The exceptions to this time limit have been extremely rare and are exactly three in number (the Atari 2600, the original Nintendo, and Segaís Genesis). After roughly five years of the PSX and a few short years of the N64 which failed not in its ability to please its customers on a basic level, but rather it failed in its ability to overtake the PSX as the leading console system. The public is now ready for the next level of gaming. Nintendoís failure to overtake PSX was due to the following reasons:

Cartridge Vs. CD

N64ís cartridge-based format, with lack of affordable, or even available, CD support was a gamble that didn't pay off. At first I was optimistic of the ability for the success of a cartridge-based system. The fledgling CD software titles seemed to rely too heavily on cinema display segments which left a huge hole in the replay factor of their games.

However a growing base in CPU memories, the storing of data via memory card, and the ability to store game effects such as music in a ready ROM capacity; led to the maturity of the CD-based system. I soon realized that CD games were becoming superior, by far, to the (my formerly loved) no load time cartridge-based systems of the past. The cons outweigh the pros in the area of Cart/CD war from the carts side. Letís not forget the manufacturerís take on this. Due to the low overhead of production the CD wins the battle from their end as well. Adding up all of these factors, you now have a CD-based gaming future for at least the next few years.

  • note Gameboy, currently the best selling game system to date, is an exception to this. It will survive via carts, but that's a whole different ball game.

Poor Timing and Secrecy

We all know that a console with impressive specs means nothing without the software to back it. In this area, Nintendo made its (if not for gameboy) nearly fatal error. Upon the release of this system (N64), Sony had already strutted its stuff on a brand new level to gamers. Sonyís PSX drew in the gamer and non-gamer with an aesthetically pleasing appeal. It then went on to actually produce great games that were much more than skin deep. N64, on the other hand, kept silent during Sonyís sales binge praying their gamble would pay off. It simply never did. The big "N" was quick to release specs of their masterpiece, yet they kept their hardware so top secret that third party programmers were virtually in the dark about the systems code upon its release.

We saw the learning curve needed for game consoles to produce top notch games in virtually every system to date. Roughly two years is a standard idle period before top quality games were common for any system of the past. Enter Nintendo, cartridge based, with barely any software support outside of their company. Unfortunately, it stayed that way far too long (which I might add had to be expected)! What were they thinking? Possibly that the sheer system specs would simply bring gamers to them? Yet, how could they? Itís common knowledge that a system that is less equipped can pull off aesthetically pleasing effects like graphics and sound. Thus making an inferior system not only look but play better than a superior counterpart with higher specs(especially if given time to code on the hardware as PSX programmers were afforded). So even though Sony was inferior in its hardware when you saw it, it looked just as good. When you played it, it played as good. Isnít this what matters? The rest, as they say, is histor


The Controllers

I wasn't going to touch on this, but I canít stop myself now. I happen to think the controllers have a lot to do with a systemís success. This is a seemingly trivial aspect often overlooked. Nintendoís controller wasn't bad. Simply put...it wasnít "all encompassing. This is where the problem with the N64 gamepad lies. While it did more than its justice, actually making some games great such as Goldeneye, Winter Games, and 1080 Snowboarding, it was awkward for anyone who has tried to play a competitive game of Maddenís 99 or NBA Live. Anyone who has played these games on their N64 knows how difficult it was to be precise when selecting a tiny yellow button (one of four) in the heat of an off-tackle run! Nintendo has always been geared toward younger players; and kudos to them for it, but don't leave us "adults" to manipulate a gamepad obviously meant for smaller hands. I am all for kids oriented software and hardware, but the trend that is occurring is that video games (perhaps under a different, more politically correct name) will continue to be enjoyed by a growing number of people and ages. Companies like Sony and Sega seem to realize this. Some have gambled and lost a few times. However, I feel any company with the future in mind (adult-oriented gaming) will prevail, or at least sustain itself by pushing the envelope.

  • A quick note...I did mention this in prior articles I have written, but letís flash back to some lousy gamepads and the evolution of the controller. Here are a few flops and wins.

For as long as weíve had video games, weíve had joysticks and gamepads. Hereís a breakdown of previous controllers brought to us throughout the years. Be sure to note that virtually every successful console had an above average gamepad or joystick to control its games.

  • Atari 2600 joystick - Winner! This was basic and perfect for its time. How long did this sucker last? It even made the transition to fit the commadore 64! This is not to mention the slew of third party joysticks, paddles, and even track balls that were available! Heck, this thing had more peripherals than the N64! I seriously do miss those days, although my system was actually a Sears Tele-Games model which came with target fun. Anyone who is old enough to remember this system had to love it.

  • Intellivision gamepad - Flop! Owned it, loved it but in my playing hours it never surpassed the Atari 2600. One of the reasons...remember that freaking circular gamepad? Ouch!

  • ColecoVision joystick - If you remember its joysticks, I don't need to comment. As for peripherals, remember that great looking baseball game they had? Ever play it? It only took roughly 45 buttons to pitch the ball! A real nightmare.

  • Atari 5200 joysticks - Flop. My question is why? Guys, you fixed it when it wasn't broken!

  • Nintendo gamepad - Winner. Basic and innovative, it just about permanently made the gamepad, rather than the joystick, the ideal controller. Yes itís too small, but its only 1980 something!

  • Sega Master system gamepad - Although itís a winner, it was merely a copy of the big "N" at the time.

  • Sega Genesis gamepad - Winner. Ah ha! That's it, perfect! What's that? Six buttons now, SWEET! This was a breakthrough. The only thing missing from this pad, was found in the...

  • Super Nintendo gamepad - Winner. It was the first to introduce the L and R buttons.

  • N64 gamepad - Winner/Flop. Innovative with the trigger and analog, yet hard to play sports titles. However ....

  • PSX just about perfected the art by taking the best from the two other companies (analog option, forefinger buttons, and the rumble effect). Wow Sony, kudos! And now the ...

  • Sega Dreamcast gamepad - This pad takes some getting used to. Be aware though, that once you have become accustomed to it, you will soon realize that once again this merge between the two top systemsí controllers is a resulting winner. Not to mention the addition of the VMU.


Timing

(contí from page one) - How much more perfectly could you time the release of a system? With its two competitors not set to launch for another full year and its clear superiority over the existing consoles, it will surely within weeks, become the only system to buy. As it now appears, it seems as if Sega will retain this status for a solid nine months (including the holidays). You simply couldnít ask for more if you were shelling out a console system. Negating all the factors which Iím about to mention, this one alone could set up a companyís console for success.

Attention to Detail - This being Segaís "do or die" console system, no expense could afford to be spared, and no detail thwarted. This is crunch time for Sega, and fortunately for them (and us) they pulled it off, bigtime! Ask yourself why you like your current video game console regardless of its manufacturer, then you'll know why Segaís Dreamcast is a winner. For whatever reason you enjoyed your current system, there is a reason to enjoy the Dreamcast. Did you like the cinema displays and sound you received from your Sony Playstation? Dreamcast tops it. Did you enjoy the lack of load times your N64 gave you? Great then, you'll love Dreamcastís ability to load on the fly in virtually no time. Do you like your systems graphics and sounds? If the answer is yes, then you'll love Segaís. Anyone who remembers flipping their Playstation on its side, or turning it upside down in order for it to load properly will appreciate this detail. The Dreamcastís CD port enables you to "snap" your CD's into it. Youíll no longer place your CD on the reader and close the lid. Now youíll "snap" it in, locking its position (which enables a guaranteed read with no mishaps or skips) much like the feeling of placing your CD back in its case. When itís in, itís in! Have you ever played a competitive game of an EAís Maddenís title? This was my favorite game franchise and having played it since 1991, I realize the importance of this next "detail." Remember how difficult it was to hide the nature of the play you had picked, especially on offense? Well, Sega has given us a solution in the form of a visual memory unit ! A VMU sells for roughly the same price as a PSX memory card. It has an actual LCD display so when you play NFL2K you have the option of calling your plays from your gamepad! That's right, look down at your controller, select your formation, then your play! If you canít hide your plays now, your playing against an eagle! Thanks to Sega, the days of spying in on plays are over. This VMU does a whole lot more as well. It is actually a game all unto itself. While not as detailed as a Gameboy, itís a pocket-sized game in which you can house "virtual pets.Ē Iím not big into this feature although thereís much more to touch on that I wonít bother doing. Suffice to say, it lets me know of its capabilities. It also gives you an idea of how it may be used in the future. You see a visual display of the game it is youíre playing, and it definitely adds a whole new aspect to gaming. Once again, great job Sega. But they don't need me to tell them that. The numbers speak for themselves. Sega has earned over $100 million in sales in its first two weeks! Can you say, "move over movie business." I have no doubt in my mind that the leading entertainment dollar will be spent via "video games" in the not so distant future. I've actually believed this for quite some time-- since the Atari 2600, in fact. The most recent statistics on the sales of the Dreamcast, selling over 300,000 in its first few days, simply confirm my beliefs. To give you an idea of how monumental this is, Sega practically tripled Sonyís first day of sales; and they show no sign of slowing down this Christmas season. Couple this with the fact that PSX 2's backward compatibility and sheer financial power will ensure that everyone who bought a PSX will buy their second console. This should really give you an idea of how many console systems will be in homes in another year (Christmas Day 2000). I donít know about you, but I canít wait!


Game Support

Sony didn't lack it at all, and I spoke earlier about the reason Nintendo did on their latest attempt at a console system. Will Sega, not having the financial backing available to Sony, suffer the same fate as the N64. This is not to say Nintendo is lacking funds, simply that a large reason behind Sonyís success was its power and reputation . This is a huge company (I'm sure I don't have to remind you of what Sony is responsible for in our everyday lives). Now itís Segaís turn to roll the dice. However, it almost seems that weighted them! There's no way theyíre coming up snake eyes on this one due to one word and one acronym, Naomi and MD3. Does anybody know what these are let alone what it means to be virtually compatible with them? Well, for you younger gamers Iíll explain. The Naomi and the MD3 are basically game engines, and it just so happens that near 100% of Segaís coin-ops are run on them. Not to mention coin-ops from Bally-Midway, and other software companies. Remember NBA Jam, NFL Blitz, Bass Fishing, House Of The Dead, Sega Rally? Well, these are just a few of the games that run on nearly perfect compatible engines as the Dreamcast.

Game designers from all of the top companies have been writing for these engines for years now. Do you see what I'm getting at? Not only will there be an "instantĒ crossover of exact arcade titles, but now all of those brains that brought us arcade games in the past can now (rather than work on a quarter muncher designed to end its game in three minutes or less, aíla NBA Jam) concentrate on bringing us simulation sports and adventure games. These types of games, as we know, can last anywhere from many hours to many months! Keep in mind that this is done with almost no compromise in graphics or speed from the arcade games youíve enjoyed over the years! Most important to the Dreamcast software library is this fact: The learning curve for the software designers is well into its middle stages, and the system just came out. This is a watermark/benchmark, call it what you will, but the fact will remain that this is the first time anything like this has happened on such a grand scale. No other systems in the past have so easily glided through their "learning curve" period. Ask Sega about the first two years of Genesis and they will certainly acknowledge the importance of this issue. Luckily, unlike the N64, Sega had time to recoup (via a little help from EA). Sorry Nintendo, Dreamcast is available now. Your add ons, your CD support, your peripheral gamepads, and all your "next generation games" which promise to utilize the system to its fullest potential are better left at the factory. We hardly have any use for them now. Hopefully, Nintendo will come back in a year or two and learn a great deal from the past. I have confidence that third party support will not be an issue in their next attempt. I wish them luck. Peripherial Hardware - Yes, it has a modem! While itís true that I was nervous about this being identical to a web browser (aíla the failing Sega Saturn) and not at all like Catapult Entertainment's "X-BAND,Ē neither you nor I have any reason to worry about how this will be utilized. I was praying for an internal network similar to X-Bandís.

  • Quick note - Ok, I have to toot my own horn here. I was nationally ranked 2nd for six months in NHL96 with a record of 275-27. Second to SMF, who's one of the seven year old cheaters with a record of 1025-0, claiming the top spot. And yes, anyone who ever played Maddenís Ď96 on the band has to give kudos to the mystery man whom I've never met, ďROMPCREW.Ē This guy didn't cheat, and he held a top ten ranking in Maddenís for the full year! Enough about the glory days of X-Band.

The important thing here is that X-Band was used for one purpose and one purpose only, ONLINE gaming! While X-Band for the Genesis did fail, it was not because it wasn't fun. It failed for other reasons such as the ability to "scam" and not pay for your gaming, as well as the ability to "cheat" in order to prop up your national ranking, thus rendering the raking system useless. This in turn inspired people to "scam" (swipe their memory cards), rendering the game null, discounting your win, and your fee! Hell, why not swipe the card! There was no reason to record your wins now that the nationally ranked spots were all held by cheaters! The result, everyone swiped, and Catapult lost. They went out of business over relatively easy to remedy errors. If you ask me, this company could have made many millions. Instead it was lead by too many business minds, and not enough gaming minds. The result ....Catapult is out of business. Understand that this failure put fright into the minds of manufacturers. No one wanted to touch a strict Internet which disallowed web viewing and relied solely on its on merits. Companies like Sega, with Saturn, opted instead to spend less and use what's "out there." This gave Saturn users web support, but what the heck would you want it for if online gaming isn't supported!

Enter Segaís newest entry. While I still would have rather seen a strict Internet and not a web-based browser, Iím happy nonetheless to see that they've done both. Coupling an Internet network only viewable to Dreamcast owners (similar to AOL's Internet) and availability to the web, they have covered all the bases. If their internet doesn't work out, I would bet theyíre planning on having a place on the world wide web that will support their games. If this doesn't make sense to you, itís due to the fact that Iím taking 20 pages of information and giving it to you in a paragraph.

To make a long story short--Dreamcast will have online gaming in the future, whether it be on the web, or hopefully on their own Internet. For any of us who have played on X-Band or have been a part of a good online game via PC, know just how incredibly powerful this medium is in terms of turning a normal gamer into an uncontrollable addict. Wait untill the general public gets their hands on a top quality one-on-one game of football. People who have yet to have a taste this have no idea what they are in for.

Aside from the modem, Sega is armed at the start with a full array of alternate gamepads. The Light gun, arcade stick, and my favorite--the fishing reel! Gotta love it! Ask yourself how long it took N64 to come out with a light gun. All the peripherals you could ask for will be available for the Dreamcast for the simple reason that when a system is a success, you get the best of everything (controllers, games, you name it). If reading this article didn't convince you that the Dreamcast will be a success, then I feel anything short of me coming into your house and bludgeoning your current consoles with a hammer will convince you. From what I've seen so far, this machine is jaw dropping, period!

After getting over the initial "WOW" which any gamer who's been playing since Pong will surely go through will begin to notice just how damn good this system plays. I could write ten pages on each of the games that I own--Soul Caliber, Sonic, Boxing, and Football but Iíll spare you! Trust me, itís beyond words. If you don't buy a Dreamcast, you quite simply will not be gaming with everyone else for the next year. Oh, and if you canít afford it, just send me an email. Iíll buy it for you! Kidding of course, although it would be ideal. Then we could all sign online in a month or two to kick the crap out of each other!



Written by: Jonathan Licata

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