How Dreamcast changed the video game world

On September 9th, 1999 SEGA let loose its white dream machine upon the United States. This new console was called the Dreamcast and was advertised as a highly advance console. It even carried the slogan “It’s thinking”.

It has been 11 years since the day it hit store shelves in North America and we now see how it effected the games industry.

Shipping With a Modem

This is something that SEGA really pushed when they where first showing the Dreamcast, saying that future of console gaming was going to be online and the future was with the Dreamcast. I have to admit, I was stoked when I first got the Dreamcast, I would be able to browse the web from home. At the time, I didn’t have a computer. Actually I didn’t get a home computer until 2001, so for about two years this was my home access to the internet and IRC rooms. Remember IRC?

Even though the Dreamcast didn’t get a chance to expand their catalog  of online video games, it did offer some solid titles that would keep you up all night. Mostly for me it was Phantasy Star Online and Quake Arena. A couple of titles even used a microphone to chat with users in game, something that not even Nintendo Wii supports now for almost all their games.

Last generation, when SEGA released their built in modem, almost not console manufacturer really had the balls to release their upcoming consoles with a modem built in. Both Sony and Nintendo didn’t. Sony did make promises that in the near future, they would make an add on, mostly to combat Microsoft’s Xbox Live talk. They did not launch their online set up until late 2002.

Now all consoles have some sort of integration with the internet right out the box. Even Nintendo. We get those patches to fix our retail games and those annoying firmware updates. They are a part of our daily gaming lives now.

Downloadable Content

Back in 1999, downloadable content was never heard of in the console world. I remember my friend calling me up asking me if I downloaded the free pack for Sonic Adventure, for Christmas. He said it put a Christmas tree in Station Square. It blew my mind, I never seen anything like this. Its like the developer was changing their game around what was going on in the real world. Guess what? It was all free.

Yup, all downloadable content on the Dreamcast was free. Most console manufactures hate giving out free updates or content. One of those big companies happens to be Microsoft, who are getting trashed by developers because of this.

The content wasn’t just some scenery being altered. They also offered new quests for Phantasy Star Online, new musical tracks for Samba De Amigo (before Rock Band!) and more. You can see the list of content here. All this without dropping a dime. All you had to do was go out and pay for your games or pirate them. But that would be stealing and that is wrong, so don’t do that.

(Note: Atari’s Gameline and SEGA Channel only offered full games and not other content. They are considered the precursors to DLC. Dreamcast was the first one.)


When Jet Set Radio hit the magazines, it came with an art style no one has ever seen in games before. The developers talked about their influences for the title and how it was cel-shaded. Back in 1999, when the game was being teased, I didn’t know what that was. I actually thought someone just drew it and let you control it. That would have taken a lot of drawings.

In the past, some games like Fear Effect tried to have a ‘cel-shading’ quality to their game, but their vision of cartoon like 3-D objects was not done the same way as SEGA’s Jet Set Radio. I’m sure the game was limited on what it could do graphically due to the Playstation hardware.

After Jet Set Radio was teased, tons of companies decided to try out the technique for their own games. It has now turned into a trend that even the biggest developers use it. From the 2009 hit Borderlands to the award winning The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. Here is a full list of games that are cel-shaded.


13 responses to “How Dreamcast changed the video game world

  1. crackdude says:

    You should add something on HD gaming with the VGA cable and the analog L and R buttons (or the controller itself which paved way for the Xbox controller)

    but great article 😀

  2. matty says:

    After all these years I never owned or really played a Dreamcast. Is it too late now?

  3. George says:

    It is never too late to experience one of the best consoles ever.

  4. prom says:

    ahead of its time 🙂

  5. Ulala5 says:

    awesome article, it brings me back a lot of good memories as the first time i played PSO and i was like "i'm playing with real people all over the world OMG!" or the first time i played Samba de Amigo shaking the maracas. Aww :°)

  6. DarrenIndeed says:

    I love my Dreamcast – I REALLLLLLY need to get around to ordering myself a new video cable.

  7. I will never forget pre-ordering from Toys-R-Us (for the t-shirt) in the summer of 99, the unbearable wait while reading all the magazine coverage, then picking it up on the 10th with Sonic Adventure, Soul Calibur, and a second controller with VMU.

    I never took it online though, that is a huge regret… I was in college and I doubt even the later-released Ethernet adapter would've worked on campus. Another regret is not buying enough games… I became addicted to DVDs and should've spread more monetary love towards SEGA.

  8. Sharky says:

    Great article, Sega were one of the biggest innovators of the entire industry and now its 'cool' to say they suck, even paid videogame critics are at it.

    Would love to see a big publisher grow a pair of balls and do an article on how great Sega are, no bad spin, no complaining about Sonic… What about their history, what about this year being fucking awesome for Sega fans with games like Yakuza 3, Bayonetta, Vanquish, Total War, Valkyria Chronicles 2, After Burner Climax, Phantasy Star Portable 2 and more. What about their innovative Arcade games, boards and cabs?

    Such a fucking shame Sega gets a bad rep and nobody is brave enough to hop off the band wagon, do a little bit of reseach and write a really good article about how great the company was and still is.

  9. Supa says:

    You forgot the VMU, VGA Box, and the trend of developing games with multi million dollar budgets.

  10. George says:

    MGS and FFVII was multi million dollar budget.

    No consoles today use VMU, VGA box was a accessory. It was not really HD since HD is 720p. Last I knew, it only supported 420p (correct me if I'm wrong).

  11. cube_b3 says:

    Back then they didn't call it Cell Shading… IT WAS THE MANGA DIMENSION.

    Also they didn't have Modern Action Adventure games they had F.R.E.E. Fully Reactive Eyes Entertainment.

  12. crackdude says:


    This is pretty objective and unbias 🙂

  13. Sybnios says:

    Shhhh Its Thinking..!! S E G A ! ! !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *