Dreamcast 2…Thoughts

Posted: December 12, 2007 in Video Games

With Sega filing to protect the name “Dreamcast” video games firms and fans have once more come out of the woodworks to chime in on the possibility of a Dreamcast 2.  While I know a lot of people who would love to see a Dreamcast 2 come to fruition, including myself I don’t see Sega re-entering the console war anytime soon, if ever.  There are many reasons that I believe a Dreamcast 2 would and wouldn’t work and though I’ve avoided the DC 2 discussion before I’ll indulge the gamer inside of me this time around.

What would it take for a Dreamcast 2 to succeed?

I think that a DC 2 would be extremely successful at least in the short term.  Most hard core gamers would buy one right at launch because the first DC was such a great console and the comeback/nostalgia factor would be high.  After the initial launch however I think sales might slow unless there were many triple A titles available at launch.  These titles would have to be both familiar and unique, both hardcore and casual (not in one title but separate titles).  Sega would also have to make all its franchises exclusive to the new console as well.  Right now we see Sonic and the like on the Wii etc so this type of thing would have to cease and become no more.  Sega is currently producing original titles for other consoles as well so this is something else that would have to end.

Consoles in this generation have been very successful with downloads of classic and original, affordable games.  Sega would also need to do a lot of work to design an online experience that not only delivers the best of the other three major players but also introduces something original, something we’ve yet to see in an online venture through a console.  Phantasy Star Online was brilliant for the Dreamcast so I know Sega has it in them to be very creative.  Again though Sega would need to make all of its classic games available only through the new Dreamcast as right now you can download some of Sega’s classics on the Wii.  If I were in charge of the Dreamcast 2, I might also consider making all Sega games available through the new download service right at launch.  They would then need to have a strong line up of first and third party original games available through this service as well.

Next I believe as most people would that the Dreamcast 2 would need a large library of both familiar and unique triple A titles available right at launch.  They would also need to make this list of games available far ahead of the actual launch date and then in an unprecedented move for any company actually have those said titles available at launch.  It is a far to common practice for companies to launch with less than stellar titles and to provide a long list of big name games for launch only to see delays in the majority of those titles.  I don’t know that it’s possible but every launch title would have to hit the mark in a major way.  Another option the Dreamcast 2 should incorporate is the download of retail games, cutting the cost of distribution and price to the consumer!

Speaking of games Sega would also have to begin development of triple A titles well before the launch of the Dreamcast 2 so that not only would there be killer launch titles but big exciting games available through out it’s first year and beyond.  Too many consoles have long droughts which make it hard to reach a broader and even your already established loyal audience.  People don’t just buy consoles because of what’s already available; gamers also love to know what’s coming.  Again a healthy mix of established and familiar franchises along with some really great casual games would need to be available to their respective crowds. Adding to my personal Dreamcast 2 wish list…please have Phantasy Star V available at launch and let it be turn based please!  Where the hell is this game by the way?  Isn’t there room for both PSU and classic Phantasy?

Next comes marketing.  I don’t know that Sega has ever been a slouch in the PR and marketing department but I remember seeing more Dreamcast commercials on TV than I did for any other console of that era.  They would have to hit another high mark in terms of marketing for the Dreamcast 2 to succeed.  Hardcore gamers would begin lining up for the console as soon as an official announcement was made by Sega confirming the consoles existence but these days casual gaming is also big business.  TV ads, internet marketing, perhaps some viral marketing and even radio ads would have be prominent in order for Sega to succeed.

Speaking of casual gaming, Sega would need to find a way to reach the same audience that Nintendo has with the Wii.  Not only would have they have to reach that audience but also find a way to steal Nintendo’s casual thunder.  By shear nature and success of the original, the Dreamcast 2 would be thought of as a hardcore console coming out of the gate so Sega would need to find a way to cater heavily to both gaming audiences without alienating one or the other.  There are a few things I think they could do to accomplish this feat but I’ll reserve comment until later.

Now onto controls.  I think as do many other hardcore gamers that a traditional control scheme works just fine for most games.  I love my Wii but it’s “unique” controls where never a selling point for me and I’ve never been blown away by the Wiimote.  All things considered the Dreamcast 2 would need a controller that’s 1. Attractive  2. is a comfortable fit in all hands and 3. somehow unique.  I’m sure we would see some form of motion sensing like we do with the Wii and the Sixaxis but I’m not entirely sure how far Sega would go with it, though I believe it would need to be more than just another face in the crowd.  I can only speak for myself but as long as it’s better than the original Dreamcast controller, I’d be pleased. I almost hesitate to mention that a DC 2 would need to have wireless controllers as this is just industry standard but someone is sure to leave me a comment like “hey what about wireless controllers?” so there, I’ve mentioned it

What else would the Dreamcast need to be successful? Well for one I think it would need to house cutting edge technology yet remain affordable.  I know this means the console would undoubtedly take a hit somewhere technically and though I don’t believe it to be possible, the Dreamcast 2 would need to boast HD quality graphics yet retain a friendly price tag.  Again, if I were part of the DC 2 team I would suggest we go for 480i, 480p, and 720p only.  This would cut down on hardware costs and to be honest, most people aside from videophiles and gamers usually buy the cheaper HDTV’s which are capable of no more than 720p. I’m a videophile and hardcore gamer as well as a movie buff and I can tell you that there’s nothing wrong with 720p, especially when you’re trying to appeal to all crowds.  This would allow the Dreamcast to deliver vivid and crisp images to the hardcore crowd while remaining more affordable then those other two consoles that are capable of 1080i and 1080p.  WiFi out of the box should be another option included in a possible DC 2.

How about packaging you say?  Well I was just about to touch upon such a topic.  I think the Dreamcast 2 would need to have either have a completely unique look or go with the original DC casing and then be manufactured in only one color.  Speaking of the number one, there should be one Sku…permanently.  As an early adopter and a spectator I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to see a great machine hit the market only to become outdated six months to a year later by and updated version of what I and many other people already own.  Sega needs to create a Dreamcast 2 with good strong foresight so that they don’t need to add new components to their new beast months after launch.  I realize that companies do this to make a bigger profit and to tempt early adopters into the purchase of another console but Sega could be the “good guy” here by not pissing on their loyal fan base.  I’d also like to see Sega stick with the original DC swirl logo but add a “II” or “2” to it.  Maybe have the swirl morph into a number 2.  Good idea, run with it Sega!

Pricing is another key point for the Dreamcast 2.  Realistically I think 350.00 would be a likely price though 299.95 still seems to be the sweet spot for gamers and at that price if the games and hardware are great it would be an acceptable price point for the casual crowd as well.  Since I’m not a console manufacture though I don’t know what it would cost to manufacture such a thing but the lower the price, the more you sell (sometimes).  Going further with pricing I believe that Dreamcast 2 games would need to hit the shelves at $49.95 SMRP.  Games with high price tags will undoubtedly turn the casual and curious customer away.

Now, how about peripherals?  Well I’d definitely take the old school approach here and do two things no other console is doing right now.  First the Dreamcast 2 would come packaged with two wireless controllers and a set of AV/Component cables, and an HDMI cable.  AV cables came with the NES when I got mine back in 1986 so why almost twenty two years later do none of my “next” or “new” generation consoles (except for my 360) come with anything but AV cables?  The Dreamcast should take the consumer friendly approach here and give their customers everything they need to play in High Definition right out of the box instead of price gouging gamers with proprietary Component cables.  If this machine is capable of High Definition visuals then it should give its buyers the means to take advantage of that right off the bat.  Aside from this Sega would need to include a decent sized hard drive with this machine so that its faithful and hardcore fan base isn’t forced to purchase another drive at some point down the line.  The Dreamcast 2 would also need to allow for an external hard drive to be used, much like the Playstation 3 does.  True hard drives are far lower in cost than the overinflated proprietary drives we see in one of the other next gen consoles.   There’s no excuse for any console these days to not include external hard drive support.  Sure companies can cry piracy and whatnot but no matter what any of these companies do there’s always going to be piracy so why continue to punish your legitimate consumers for something they don’t take part in?  Even using an external hard drive to save files, downloads and what not there can be some type of file protection or proprietary format created to dissuade dishonest people from moving or pirating information from these drives.  In reality it has nothing to do with piracy and everything to do with selling an incomplete package so that the gamer will be tempted or in some cases forced to spend more money on something he/she should have gotten to begin with.  In the peripherals department more than any other, Sega would need to play fair and stay away from the nickel and dime approach other companies take with their end users.

Of course I could be taking to conservative an approach with all of this and Sega may well look at today’s market, throw up it’s middle finger and tell the casual crowd to sod off and create some monster piece of hardware that requires an Ultra High Definition television to be played and one that caters strictly to the hardcore.  I’d be willing to bet a lot of disenchanted Nintendo fans would buy this console for that reason alone.

End Transmission…

Though in the business world of today I don’t believe most of the things I mention would make to much sense in terms of cost vs. profit and I don’t believe that we’ll ever see a console play fair with it’s fan base like they once did years ago but I do think it would take nearly everything I spoke of for a possible Dreamcast 2 to be successful in today’s market.

I’d also like to point out that I believe it would be a disservice and detrimental to both fans and Sega for the company to launch a Dreamcast 2 during this current generation of consoles.  I would keep the project as quiet as possible…say until late 2009-2010 when the current batch of consoles really begin to show their age and then unleash a next generation console that blows gamers out of the water and one that catches their competitors off guard.  That said if Sega did introduce a Dreamcast 2 into the next generation of consoles than most of my points are moot because my Dreamcast 2 by 2010’s standards would be more like a Wii 2 instead of a cutting edge piece of technology.  Waiting until the next generation of console wars begins anew would also allow the Dreamcast 2 to either include or sell an add-on that plays both Blu-Ray and HDDVD movies and makes use of those discs or the discs of that era for game play.

My final thoughts on this?  While I would love to see Sega re-enter the market with a Dreamcast 2 I don’t believe, at this point it will ever become a reality.  This generation is now well underway and all three companies have stated just how expensive it is these days to build a console and to support it and Sega not having pockets as deep as some of their competitors will most likely remain a software developer.  With the exception of a few really good games, I haven’t seen to many Sega made games that impress me.  Of course there’s always Phantasy Star in some form, and I really enjoyed Condemned but most of the Sonic games of late have been garbage so I don’t know that Sega has any potential software to make the Dreamcast 2 a reality.  Then again, maybe these are the things Sega is counting on so that their surprise announcement hits in a big way.  Then again…maybe not.  In all seriousness I think they filed for no other reason than to protect the Dreamcast name and nothing more, though I could be wrong.  GO SEGA!

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