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Former Sega Prez Discusses the Dreamcast's Failure 86

Posted by Soulskill
from the who-would-want-to-play-online-anyway dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Former Sega of America president Bernie Stolar speaks out about the man who ousted him, EA's attempt to monopolize sports games on the Dreamcast, why the Dreamcast failed, and a legendary prank he pulled against Sony. 'I fought to have a modem on the platform. Maybe it was early — who knows. But I fought for a modem in the beginning because I wanted to have massively multiplayer online games on that system.' When asked about the console's online capabilities not catching on with consumers, he said, 'It doesn't surprise me, because there wasn't software tied into it. They were not building and going after software to start that. I mean, I was looking for developers and content providers to start doing that. Sega did not do that after I left. They just abandoned it.'"
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Former Sega Prez Discusses the Dreamcast's Failure

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  • "The consumer judged that it was the right hardware and the right software. Look at the software that was on that system. Look at the sporting titles that". Compared with it's rivals, Nintendo 64, already out with a fair string of Great Mario games, Zelda games, and 3d party titles, ps2 was on it's way, as was xbox. " Look at the software that was on that system" You mean um, 'crazy taxi' (good for a little while, but wears thin) and um, Mavel v. Capcon 2? and um, well I"m sure if you owned the syst
    • by Toonol (1057698)
      That's the problem, even if it had great titles, no one was aware of them.

      I suppose that's true; it DID have great titles, and you (for one) weren't aware of them. Obviously, the PS2 library is immense and excellent; but I think the Dreamcast library holds up well compared against the Gamecube and X-Box. Soul Caliber 2, the best Soul Caliber ever made. Shenmue. Ikaruga. Sonic Adventure (the last really good sonic game). Skies of Arcadia. Ah, I could name more, but lists of info are pretty meaning
      • by KDR_11k (778916)

        It's funny I almost couldn't tell whether you were talking about the Dreamcast or the Gamecube. Also wasn't the DC version Soul Calibur 1 (it was a sequel to a game called something like Soul Edge) while SC2 was on the PS2, Gc and Xbox with one exclusive character each?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by unfunk (804468)
      Sonic Adventure
      Sega Rally 2
      Virtua Fighter 3
      Dead or Alive 2
      Soul Calibur
      Resident Evil: Code Veronica
      Powerstone
      Head Hunter
      Phantasy Star Online
      Skies of Arcadia

      That's just a handful I can think of off the top of my head. The hype for the DC was ridiculous at the time for a console.
      • Shenmue

      • by Kazymyr (190114)

        Half-Life (yes I know, I know...)

      • by Kokuyo (549451) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @07:45AM (#29397115) Journal

        Hype? What hype? Here in Switzerland the kids often thought it was the PS2 or X-Box (having no idea about their actual release dates). You need to know that Sega, as far as I know, was never all that popular in Europe. I don't know about the rest of the world, but here nobody even knew they'd made a new console.

        Hell, we had to look on the internet (without youtube) for the actual DC commercials since we didn't have even one around here (since Switzerland has German TV stations, I feel safe to say in all German speaking countries, there was a marketing black hole when it comes to that piece of hardware).

        The games were great, the hardware was advanced and powerful. Just... nobody knew that.

        • Europe had always been a bit funny. You guys had a bunch of computers (Commodore, Amstrad, Sinclair, Acorn, etc.) that were pretty much unknown elsewhere.
          • by sowth (748135) *

            Commodore unknown except for Europe? The Commodore 64 was one of the most popular home computers in the US during the late 1980s. Everyone I knew who had a computer had one of those, but I had an Atari 130XE. There was the really old couple who had an IBM compatible (maybe it was a real IBM, can't remember), but everyone else had the C64. My junior high taught basic on C64s.

            During the early '90s, all the other brands (Commodore, Atari, Apple) sort of faded away in the US. Apple being the only one who surv

            • During the early '90s, all the other brands (Commodore, Atari, Apple) sort of faded away in the US. Apple being the only one who survived. I'm not sure what did it.

              Definitely not quality, the macs were slower and had lesser quality than the Atari STs which also served the same markets.
              I personally think, that Macs could survive because of the graphics people who were so attached to their machines and they did not know the market. Apple was the cheapest page design solution when the Laser Printer hit the streets. And graphics people usually are not too much into looking outside of what works (hence the Photoshop being almost a monopoly in this area)
              Atari was simply too

          • Urgh, Commodore unknown, first it was an american company, secondly, the C64 was the most successful home computer in the "Pre PC" era.
            Amstrad Sinclair and Acorn are not too well known over the pond I agree, althugh at least in the case of the Acorn it was undeserved, one of the many better than a Mac machines which could not cope with Apple on marketing level.

            Man even an Atari ST wiped the floor of every Mac and it already had major inroads in apples core domains, if it was not for the stupidity of Atari w

        • by KDR_11k (778916)

          Funny considering the Sonic name is still a huge seller in Europe (at least the UK), much more than in any other region.

    • You mean um, 'crazy taxi' (good for a little while, but wears thin) and um, Mavel v. Capcon 2? and um, well I"m sure if you owned the system you could think of more, but those are the only ones I ever saw that looked worth playing.

      You can't be serious. The Dreamcast had tons of great games. Among its US launch titles are Power Stone, Sonic Adventure, Soulcalibur, and Tokyo Xtreme Racer.

      And soon came Rayman 2, Sonic Adventure 2, Phantasy Star Online, Toy Commander, StarLancer, Metropolis Street Racer, Shenmue, Skies of Arcadia, Grandia 2, Bangai-O, Crazy Taxi, Mars Matrix, Capcom vs. SNK, Mark of the Wolves, Sword of the Berserk... and if you played imports, Shenmue 2, Headhunter, Ikaruga, Zero Gunner 2, Rez, Guilty Gear X...

      To sum it up -- the Dreamcast was a great machine with a kickass library.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      And I so rarely see it spoken of. Easily pirated software. All you needed was the internet and a cd burner. No modding; burn and go. And everyone did it.
      • by osu-neko (2604)
        If that were true, the console itself would have been immensely popular, but the games would have suffered from low sales. That's not what happened...
      • Easily pirated software. All you needed was the internet and a cd burner. No modding; burn and go. And everyone did it.

        Not so. I'm sure many, many people did not. Not everyone is comfortable downloading and burning off the net. Many people will pay good money for bottled water, never mind colorful videogames.

        I bought the system for one game only: Jet Set Radio. I saw a legit copy from Japan and couldn't get it out of my head. It was the only game I ever copied, because when I got my system it was n

      • by Runefox (905204)

        You seem to be thinking of another console, perhaps the Saturn - Widespread availability of Dreamcast game rips wasn't a reality until the latter part of the Dreamcast's life, and even then there were releases that required features to be removed, or audio/video/textures/etc having to be heavily-compressed, which caused issues during gameplay (Skies of Arcadia's rip in particular suffered from this). Dreamcast game discs weren't normal CD-ROM media - They were a variant called GD-ROM, which enabled up to 1.

      • You forgot that back in those days broadband connections were not that previvalent and CD burners also not everyones cup.
        So piracy was not a big issue on the DC while it was to some degree but it definitely did not lead to the downfall.

    • even if it had great titles, no one was aware of them.

      Exactly the failure of the Dreamcast.

      The dreamcast was a huge hit with the hardcore console gaming crowd, but the Spyro/Madden/Final Fantasy crowd that only picks up AAA or high visibility titles didn't care what was on the DC. When you look at games like Legacy of Kain, Shenmue, Capcom vs SNK, the casual gamer responds, "Who's Kain? How do i even pronounce Shenmue? And what's a Snick?"

      • It's as I've said before, thanks to the PS1 and Sega's missteps with the 32X, Sega's audience was reduced to the hardcore arcade amd fighting game fanboys. And no matter how vocal they are on the internet, including Slashdot discussions of the Dreamcast where they still believe it was "Sony hype" that killed the DC, there aren't actually enough of them to sustain a system.

        I thought the DC was interesting, with that planetweb browser and built in modem. But the mistakes they made with the controlle

        • Right, it wasn't Sony hype, it was the lack of Sega hype that killed the console. I really think though that Sega *could* have done it, had the right games(which I think they were close to having; nothing I could recommend as a must-have to casual gamers of that day) and slick marketing campaigns, which they've been hit or miss with.

        • But the mistakes they made with the controller (waaaay too big and lacking a second analog stick)

          The Dreamcast controller was not perfect, but still, it was far more comfortable than the PS2's piece of junk and its ludicrously misplaced analog sticks.

          Also... seriously, why would anyone need a second analog stick?

          • Camera control? Analog aiming in third person and first person shooters? Analog gas/braking in Gran Turismo? You also get another action button with it (aka R3).

            • Camera control?

              Use the D-pad.

              Analog aiming in third person and first person shooters?

              Aim with the stick on the left, move with ABXY.

              Analog gas/braking in Gran Turismo?

              No, fuck no, that's terrible. The Dreamcast way: analog triggers!

              • Camera control?

                Use the D-pad.

                The D-pad is absolutely subpar for camera control, sometimes a digital input makes sense
                especially if you need fast reaction times, but for camera control analog control is an absolute must
                to get precise positioning.

                • If the camera needs that kind of control, it means it was not well designed in the first place. :-P
                  • That means about 99% of all games are not well designed in the first place ;-)
                    Seriously i hate games where the camera control has locking mechanisms.

              • Use the D-pad.

                For Camera control? What koosbane are you on? Digital doesn't work so well for camera control.

                Aim with the stick on the left, move with ABXY.

                Any PSP owner can tell you that is not as good as two analog sticks are. You also lose the use of the buttons for other functions.

                No, fuck no, that's terrible. The Dreamcast way: analog triggers!

                Too much resistance, and less play than the stick, though the DualShock3 is improved somwhat in this regard. USB Racing wheel's the best though.

                • You can't compare it to the PSP, its analog stick is really tiny, misplaced, and pretty much worthless. On the Dreamcast, this scheme works quite well.
          • seriously, why would anyone need a second analog stick?

            Two words, camera control. 3d camera positioning still is an issue and back then even more was than it is today, getting the freedom of having
            a free floating camera attached to the second stick is a big helper. I would not want to live without it anymore.
            It was so important that the controller with the second stick became a standard on the sony platforms despite being introduced after the initial launch of the console (I think it was the PS1)

          • How are these "Ludicrously" misplaced...?? have you even HELD a playstation controller? its completely ergonomically correct, unlike the damn steering wheel of a controller that came with the dreamcast.

            Hell, even Microsoft learned REALLY quick that their oversized original xbox controller was awful and quickly modified that down to size.
    • > the system you could think of more, but those are the only ones I ever saw that looked worth playing.

      Uhm, hello - did you even check any of the titles that were being sold at the time?

      Tony Hawk Pro Skater (I hate sports games, but this was fun!)
      Soul Caliber
      Worms
      Spider-Man
      Shenmue

    • I think the Dreamcast was a lot more successful in Japan, where it actually had a respectable following for some years and had new titles published for it up till as recent as 2007. But if you're in the states or elsewhere, you're probably unaware of the library of games the platform offered.

      Discussing what he believes to be the Dreamcast's strengths and weaknesses in order to analyze the reasons for the platform's commercial failure isn't rationalizing. It's a fact of life that good products & services

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 12, 2009 @03:55AM (#29396569)

    But it is true that Sony was holding its first golf tournament -- I believe in Napa [California]...I forget which golf course. I had someone go to the golf pro, paid him money to take out all the Sony golf balls and put in Sega golf balls instead.

    And I had somebody dressed up as Sonic driving around the course, and skywriters writing 'Dreamcast is coming' up in the air. That part is true, yes.

    • by tieTYT (989034)

      When I got to Sega, there were 300 some odd people, and I took the staff down to 91 people

      He's not my hero. I'd prefer to work for someone who would regrettably (or not) do this instead of be proud of it.

  • I love my Dreamcast, it's an elegant gaming solution that had ~700 games. With so many excellent fighting games... Marvel vs. Capcom, Soul Caliber, Powerstone... Plus some of my personal favorites Shenmue and Tony Hawk 2. It was a wonderful system that in a different world could of dominated. Either way it holds a certain place in my heart that few systems will ever attain.
  • by joeflies (529536) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @04:17AM (#29396631)
    I agree with him. However, the Dreamcast had some of the best software available, including the best sports games, arcade games and fighting games. I play a lot of RPGs and still think Skies of Arcadia is one of the best ever. It had games that were ported onto XBOX and went on to become some of the best XBOX games. It had cutting edge online gaming with Phantasy Star, innovative arcade adventures like Shemue, and better graphic versions of exisiting hits like Tony Hawk (a truly superior version compared to PS1). So with all that great software, then there's still something missing to his arguement - if it's all about the software, and the dreamcast had a ton of great software, then maybe you need to come up with a better reason why it failed.
    • by MemoryDragon (544441) on Saturday September 12, 2009 @07:43AM (#29397109)

      The reason was neither piracy nor bad games. Piracy existed but I rather doubt it killed the Dreamcast, what killed the dreamcast was given the existing interviews which clearly stated the sales numbers, was the PS2 and its dvd capability.
      If you watch the interviews then you would know one day before the PS2 was out the sales were excellent and then the day the PS2 came out the sales took a nosedive never to recover again, and the PS2 in the beginning also was used as a DVD player by a load of people.

    • I found out about Skies of Arcadia because it had such a following on DC. I saw some screen caps and read about how others were raving about the game. So, I found it ported on the PS2. I'm not a huge RPG fan since it takes too long to play most games. But Skies is a memorable experience and I had much more fun playing it than FF7 - I found the story, characters and writing much better/more fun too.

      I'd love a sequel!

    • This was back when people believed the hype about the Emotion Engine. Squaresoft hyped a possible FF7 remake, and the possibility of viewing scenes rendered in realtime from Final Fantasy: Spirits Within. The hype killed desire for the Dreamcast.

      The rest was because people were pirating games on the Dreamcast left and right.
  • I had one, and it was a great system, RIP.

    But I dislike how this guy tries to shift the blame throughout the interview - the Dreamcast was a lot like the PS3 of this generation - too ahead of its time. It's not that it was overpriced like the PS3 was, but developing for it was a big pain in the ass (although there were some great games because of its powerful hardware). When the PS2 came out soon after, it had a DVD player and truly felt next-gen. The modem this guy pushed for was a pretty crappy feature co

    • the Dreamcast was a lot like the PS3 of this generation - too ahead of its time. It's not that it was overpriced like the PS3 was, but developing for it was a big pain in the ass (although there were some great games because of its powerful hardware)

      Funny, I recall it differently. I read somewhere that developers loved the Dreamcast because it was very easy to code for... unlike the PS2.

      When the PS2 came out soon after, it had a DVD player and truly felt next-gen.

      Does a DVD player make the PS2 a better ga

      • by Joe Tie. (567096)
        The dreamcast was amazing to write for. It was a while back, so my memory is a bit fuzzy. But my experience with the normal sdk, the windows cd sdk, and kalios for homebrew were all wonderful. They had flaws, to be sure. But the documentation was great, they gave very easy access to all the hardware, everything was abstracted if you wanted it and nothing keeping you from getting closer to the metal if you needed to.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by MemoryDragon (544441)

        Does a DVD player make the PS2 a better game system? Sony's hype machine and press ignorance made it seem far more "next-gen" than it actually was. And games like Shenmue, Metropolis Street Racer, Sonic Adventure 2, and Under Defeat show the Dreamcast could hold its own regarding quality graphics.

        Well it does not make it a better game system but it helped to sell the hardware. Go to youtube and dig out the IGN dreamcast interviews, all the Sega people interviewed pretty much said that the Dreamcast sales took a nosedive the day the PS2 hit the streets, and that at least in japan the PS2 was heavily used as a DVD player also because it was the cheapest of its time.
        (Probably the other countries also used the PS2 heavily as a DVD player). Face it, while nowadays it is unimportant due to having DVD play

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The modem this guy pushed for was a pretty crappy feature compared to a fully-featured DVD player.

      While this is true, the DC came out almost a year before the PS3. I specifically did not buy one not because the PS2 was supposed to play DVDs, but because it was supposed to be twice as fast as the Dreamcast. We all know that turned out to be pure fucking lies from Sony, but this guy obviously doesn't want to say anything bad about Sony, as he avoids answering the question "what's different between Sony and Sega" which is by far the most interesting question in the interview. I want back the time I spent r

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        (and yes, I know he answers it after he refuses to answer, but he gives a shitty answer. He obviously had another answer and changed his tune in mid-song. At least the interview is great for making that clear.)

        BS: Let me just say this: It was a great team of people who were there at the time. When I got to Sega, there were 300 some odd people, and I took the staff down to 91 people, and we built it.

        Translation: I fired the two-thirds of the people working at Sega and built a console that failed, and I'm pr

    • by Ash-Fox (726320)

      the Dreamcast was a lot like the PS3 of this generation

      I don't see how the PS3 is too ahead of this generation. It's expensive, the development kit is difficult in general and has a steep learning curve.

      • the Dreamcast was a lot like the PS3 of this generation

        I don't see how the PS3 is too ahead of this generation. It's expensive, the development kit is difficult in general and has a steep learning curve.

        Besides that if you look outside of the sony marketing papers, the hardware is not that powerful to begin with, it has some edge over the xbox 360 in the simd area, but compared to a modern pc it severely stinks.
        It was Sonys dream that the cell could do everything, a very similar design to the ps2 with 2 mips processors with attached simd units doing everything but then the xbox came and sony realized that modern gpus were more powerful for 3d so they delegated the cell down to being the multi purpose proce

  • BS: When Nakayama was pushed out and when I was pushed out, I think what took place was, Mr. [Isao] Okawa, who then became the chairman of the company -- he was an investment banker from CSK [Holdings Corporation].... I don't believe he was committed to the hardware. He just believed it should be a software company. [. . .] Yeah, the company didn't put the money into it. The company basically abandoned the system.

    So it was because the company hired someone who basically didn't care about the (hardware) prod

  • When they get it right, they get it right. Their arcade titles, the Genesis and Dreamcast were awesome.

    But when they get it wrong, they really get it wrong, like when some genius decides to release 9 million awful add-ons for the Genesis. Getting out of the hardware biz was supposed to make them better. It hasn't. They mainly make awful rehashes of their old franchises. Madworld is the only Sega title I've considred buying for years but even then I know it won't be great so I'll pick it up cheap.

    I get
  • That's a question I'd rather not answer.
  • In the last two generations of consoles, the big winners are the ones that offer a single feature:

    Backwards Compatibility.

    PS1->PS2 = WIN (against DC which was a superb system)
    GameCube -> Wii = Win (against VASTLY superior hardware)

    In the case of the Wii, the hardware was actually substandard when compared to PS3 and XBox Live. The innovative control setup made a difference, but a lot of us parents eneded up buying Wiis because we could get away with buying 2-3 Wii games and the kids could still use al

    • by sodul (833177)

      In the last two generations of consoles, the big winners are the ones that offer a single feature:

      Backwards Compatibility.

      PS1->PS2 = WIN (against DC which was a superb system)
      GameCube -> Wii = Win (against VASTLY superior hardware)

      You forgot to mention PS2->PS3 = FAIL.

    • Actually you are somewhat right, although in case of the dreamcast the assumption is wrong, it was simply the PS2 and its dvd compatibility killing it. It probably would have been able to survive just like Nintendo did with their N64 and Cube if there was more money, but SEGA already was operating at the edge and would have risked the company if they tried to hold on the hardware business.

      Anyway backwards compatibility can be a real issue, so far the only console really backwards compatible still is the PC,

  • by lhoguin (1422973)

    Alright I post this as someone who wasn't really interested in the DC or most of SEGA until fairly recently. But I can probably provide some insight into what SEGA has become in the recent years, which pretty much match the thoughts of this man.

    Two years ago I started playing Phantasy Star Universe, the successor to Phantasy Star Online. Many people know about PSO which was one of the first MMO so I don't feel the need to explain that many people had huge expectations for the game. But management killed its

  • Great Sonic (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    "BS: I think theyâ(TM)re going through some really difficult times. I donâ(TM)t believe they have the content, developers, and producers there that they had at one time. I donâ(TM)t know their financial position, but theyâ(TM)re probably not spending the type of money they should be spending. You tell me the last time you saw a great Sonic game."

    He obviously doesn't read /.

    2D Sonic [slashdot.org]

  • I actually worked at Sega when the Dreamcast was released, and it was quite ahead of its time which, admittedly, given the console development timeframe, is not the coup that it might be, but none the less, a market edge. Sega, IMHO, has miscalculated many such opportunities to get a "leg up" in various market areas. They were also pioneers, or at least robust competitors, in online game matchmaking, a la Steam, etc. They also failed to invest in, nurture and capitalize on that market angle. It's unfortuna
  • CD Copy Protection could have saved the system.
    For any of you who owned the Dreamcast you know how easy it was to obtain pirated copies of games.
    Or how easy it was to find tutorials on copying games yourself from your local blockbuster.
    It's funny how people blame it's failure on other business reasons, management, marketing, timing, when really you can attribute a lot to the hacks.
    Just like the Saturn, some of the games were second-to-none.

    (Sorry, I am a SEGA fan boy)
    • Actually piracy did not kill the dreamcast, sales were quite good until the day the PS2 hit the streets.
      Then everything took a nosedive, so go figure how much impact piracy had in the death of the dreamcast.
      So far no console has been killed by piracy, in fact some have become number one by being easily piratable
      (PS1, Nintendo DS)

      The only console I can remotely think of of might be being killed by being easily piratable is the PSP, but there are
      also other factores which are slowly killing the system.
      Heck not

  • What it came down to, in my mind, was momentum --

    Sega was coming off a long string of failed consoles (particularly in America, where the Saturn was never popular against the playstation). They had the stench of desperation about them, and brought out a console a year earlier than its biggest (and rising star) competitor. They came to the party *early*, and that's social suicide. Not to mention that many Sega fans has finally accepted the failure of the Saturn and jumped ship just a year or two before. Ma
  • People seem to forget why Stolar was fired in the first place. He was instrumental in killing the Saturn (though he certainly doesn't shoulder all of the blame for that). People complain that Sega has always had terrible management, well Stolar was at the top of that list at that time.

    Of course this is my opinion, but I think that one of the reasons the Saturn couldn't compete was lack of diversity in software (ironically, the very thing he touts in the interview). Stolar was obsessed with sports titles. He

    • A fair point--consider Stolar's perspective (in the Saturn era) that Americans didn't want RPGs--meanwhile, SCEA had this little game called Final Fantasy 7...and 8...and 9...etc. The PS1 is probably the best single console for RPGs ever, and meanwhile, Bernie Stolar blew off Working Designs et all. Smooth. Ultimately, though, I'm inclined to agree that the lack of a DVD player (combined with Sony's excellent marketing/lying) is what killed the Dreamcast. The piracy concerns were valid, but your average
      • None of the interviews i have seen so far has been blaming piracy, the sales numbers are a clear indication that the dvd capabilities of the PS2 killed the dreamcast (as well as id almost killed the gamecube)
        I dont think piracy really was an issue, so far no console has been killed by piracy not even the ps1 which has been the most pirated console ever.

He keeps differentiating, flying off on a tangent.

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