Update: So after a bit of internet sleuthing and comments from those who have dealt with SEGA home console conspiracy artists in the past, all of this very well may be the work of the infamous Zach Morris. Mr. Morris, or whatever his name is, has been up to this sort of nonsense since 2003.
Because people often just read headlines and run to their local GameStop to have a in-depth chat with the guy at the desk to talk about how SEGA is totally making a new console and it is going to be dubbed the Dreamcast 2, I thought I’d present a short opinion piece on the Project Dream team and their plans to get SEGA to develop a Dreamcast 2. To be quite honest, after having read the Project Dream team’s plans and having heard about the project with one of their members for the past month I was ready to just ignore the whole thing. But given a few news sites are enthusiastically running the story and no doubt more will pick it up and run with it, I thought it best that SEGAbits said something about it. I should make note that this is not a news piece, it is an opinion piece.
Here’s the gist of the project: Three guys are behind it; Patrick Lawson, an indie OEM Silicon designer and the founder of the Shenmue 500K group. It is also said that some SEGA of Japan interns are behind the project as well, but honestly there has been no proof of how involved these people even are and let’s be real, they are simply interns. The project’s leader is adamant that SEGA has the resources and finances to make a console. As such, he and his compatriots have taken it upon themselves to form a coalition to convince SEGA of this fact and get the company to change their direction and develop and release a new home console. The project essentially boils down to taking all that is out there publicly about how SEGA currently operates and creating a business plan for them to make a new console. Sounds pretty ambitious doesn’t it?
Over at the SEGAbits forums, a new member named EternalHope has been laying out his many plans for such a project and I am pretty certain EternalHope is Patrick Lawson. But in lieu of a confirmation that they are one in the same, I will refer to EternalHope and Patrick Lawson as separate individuals. To be quite honest, EternalHope has been all over the map. One day, SEGA is successful and has a ton of money so they should get back into the console world by hitting a market that no other console maker has yet to hit, another day it is said that SEGA is suffering and needs to do this to get back on top. In his words, the plan is “To inform Sega of Japan that there’s a NICHE market for another home consumer product.” What is that niche market? I’d be lying if I said I knew exactly what it was. From what I can gather, this niche market is comprised of SEGA hardware fans, people who would buy an Ouya and NEO GEO X, casuals, and fans of digital SEGA titles. If I’m totally off base on this niche that has yet to firmly nailed down, EternalHope or one of the Project Dream leads can describe this niche in the comments and I’ll gladly make an edit.
How about the hardware? The team seems to have something in mind that would hit all the types of consumers above. According to Cinema Blend‘s article, the plan is to create a “competitively priced PC rig to the market that can run Sega’s old and new games alike”. Project Dream team’s plan is to create a direct competitor with Steam Machines and dedicated gaming rigs offered by companies like Cyberpower and Alienware. All this effort to create something that already exists. So what makes Project Dream’s Dreamcast 2 different? Why would SEGA leave one market, the home console market, only to enter another market with a much smaller install base and competition that are already either struggling themselves or have dedicated fans that won’t jump ship for some SEGA branded product? Why not just push for a SEGA branded Steam Machine?
The console is said to run an Intel Core i5 Haswell and the plan is to design it to play SEGA games right off the hard drive after being digitally installed. The point of the system will be to play old and new Sega titles on HDMI compatible devices with HD upscaling capabilities. That’s right, SEGA would have to manufacture a machine that runs both Saturn and Dreamcast games AND installs the games permanently to the harddrive. This ignores the fact that the GD-ROM is a dead technology that would cost a significant amount to revive, and SEGA would have to deal with the legal issue of being able to play old games off of a harddrive, essentially making a machine that allows users to swap old games and have copies forever saved on their console. Why would SEGA want to get into this murky territory? Why would they go to all this effort to support libraries of games that they no longer profit off of? Have the Project Dream team forgotten that the Dreamcast can output a VGA signal and Saturn in S-video looks pretty damn good? The proposed console appears to boil down to a decent PC and two retro consoles, something most SEGA fans already own. If the plan is in fact to allow users to download digital images of discs, this opens up a whole other area which would involve SEGA creating their own digital store and online digital game sales infrastructure.
Project Dream comprises of a business plan and a list of components for a new consumer console. These materials would then be presented to SEGA alongside a petition from fans showing their support for such an endeavor. The team have been running a change.org petition, and hope to continue the initiative as a Kickstarter carrying the SEGA license. I’ll admit, as a fan of SEGA hardware this sounds good. The problem is all the stuff I wrote before the last few sentences. In my opinion the team has very little sense. They come off as a group of fans operating more from their heart than their head. There is also something incredibly condescending in thinking they know more about what is best for the future of SEGA than SEGA’s own executives, and their reasoning for why SEGA should even attempt such a project is bizarre. It seems it all comes down to (this is my interpretation of their mission) “SEGA’s glory days were as a console maker, and while they are doing well now monetarily as a third party, emotionally they are bankrupt. SEGA needs to create a new console to win the hearts of fans, not to ensure that they will be financially stable in the future.” That’s always a good idea right? Lead a business with your heart rather than your head? I’m sure SEGA of Japan’s top brass will respond to such a notion (I’m saying this last bit sarcastically).
What of this petition? At the moment, it has 22,960 supporters and my name is not among them. Some SEGA fan I am right? Well, just reading the petition shows how professional the whole endeavor is. The end result is sending the following letter to SEGA of America (who, of course, are not the people to ask for hardware):
Riveting stuff! I’m sure it will go right to Aaron Webber’s spam folder. I was told by EternalHope that they plan to alter the language of the letter, so that it is more professional and conveys the team’s plans, but nothing has changed yet and even then the fact that such an awful attempt at a letter has netted nearly 23,000 supports just shows how invested those supporters are. It’s easy to click a change.org petition, it’s difficult to have those same people pledge hundreds of dollars towards a new console which at this point is nothing but the dream project of three guys.
It should be noted that Project Dream is not in any way officially sanctioned by SEGA. You will probably hear otherwise, but believe me this is not an official SEGA project. When the news of the project first broke, I noticed that the team’s website carried the SEGA logo with the registered trademark. Of course, it is very easy to drag and drop a logo into a website template and make it appear official. I made note of this to EternalHope, and despite him saying there was no registered trademark (there was) after a few days it seems the team have pulled the image from their site. As for the SEGA of Japan interns who are onboard, over at the SEGAbits Forums EternalHope has assured us that these interns “are actually being hired to work in the lower tier levels at the new divisions of SEGA Holdings” and that “the ones we’ve spoken to happen to have shareholders and say on matter of suggestions to Chairboard executives”. He added “That’s how CSR applies to Japanese business law. Interns can act as shareholders with tiny shares of the company.” So get this, these interns – who again, are unnamed and it is unknown how involved they even are – are, in the mind of the Project Dream team, SEGA shareholders and in turn are an official SEGA endorsement.
Look, I’m not trying to shit all over Project Dream team’s plans, but they are making it hard not to. The whole thing feels like some overly enthusiastic fans playing a SEGA executive RPG with very little thought going into basic business principals. It doesn’t help that the team’s leader is saying this to the media:
But they [SEGA] NEED their fanbase to come back. They need their REAL fans(Not Sonic fans and software only fans) to form circles globally and take action submitting ideas for what they’d like to see. “Project Dream”‘s goal is to gather and rebuild SEGA’s old 90s brand. Ben Plato’s petition has gained significant momentum, and once they reach 25,000 sigs, we shall move forward with TWO NEW proposals for SEGA. One of them we’ll have crowdfuded, because it’ll involve SEGA becoming the first Japanese company to manufacture and license a PC gaming rig for a CHEAPER price than Dell! Spread the word. Get the sigs, get the fans, we’re going to regroup the old Army and get SEGA back in the hardware business!” – Patrick Lawson, member of the Project Dream team
Now try and tell me that doesn’t read as a bit fanatical. Is this the type of person you’d trust to sway SEGA to returning to the console market? I personally love the jab at Sonic fans and “software only” fans, which I would assume to be anybody who enjoyed a SEGA game from 2002 onwards. Way to segment the fanbase and proclaim that there are true fans and fakers. Anyway, I’ve had my say. Best of luck on your quixotic endeavor, Project Dream team.