The Weekly Five: Great American Dreamcast Ads

It’s Labor Day weekend here in America, and only a week until the Dreamcast’s 12th birthday! So I thought it would be fitting to present to you a weekly five that is light on the labor for me, and Dreamcast related for you. Thus, we’re talking a look at five great Dreamcast adverts that ran on American television. So let’s get started, less reading more watching!

The Big Launch Ad

Premiering during the Video Music Awards, and only airing ONCE on 9/9/99, is the one and only epic Dreamcast launch ad. Building up to this spot were a series of ads featuring a female whispering things like “Outsmarting it, will only make it smarter…” and close up shots of a strained male who seemed to be attempting to outthink something. As the ads progressed, the female turned out to be the Dreamcast and the strained male turned out to be us as gamers trying to come to grips with such an advanced piece of tech. Each ad ended with the famous slogan “It’s Thinking…”.

In 2008, Peter Moore had this to say on the final commercial in the series:

We filmed a huge ad spot in Vancouver, we went ten nights and did Apocalypse, a multimillion dollar TV spot (by ad firm Foote, Cone and Belding). It was this idea that the console was actually thinking, and it was bringing 747s down, it had this Black Rain-style look. We only ran that spot once on 9.9.99 during the video music awards and it became very viral – this is obviously a long time before YouTube.

Jet Grind Radio – Big Go!

While many believe that this wacky ad hurt JGR more than helped it, I have always been a fan of it. For a while I had thought SEGA of America simply reused a Japanese ad, digitally altering the package art. It’s just so much against what one would expect from an American video game ad. Plus ending with the SEGA scream? Awesome. I guess a more effective commercial would have put the skating at the forefront, downplayed the wacky Japanese aspects and touted the graffiti editor. Maybe sell it as Tony Hawk with graffiti. Perhaps even chucking in some American graffiti artists and inline skaters would have helped.


What I loved about this ad was that it was spot on. My first experience of playing on SegaNet with voice chat was Alien Front Online, and my first opponents were a foul mouthed ten year old and some dude with a southern accent calling me “boy” and saying he was “gonna whip mah ass”. For whatever reason, that crow at the end has been etched into my memory. I think it’s because I was sad to see him get crushed.

This ad also features the popular Dreamcast filled with video game characters. Any ad with them is a winner, it’s just so cool to see so many game characters coming together.


I’m not a big fan of sports games, unless we’re talkin’ Virtua Tennis, but this commercial is one of the best characters inside a console ads. It even beats out the DJing Sonic ad. Seeing Rayman sharing a table with football icons is crazy, but hearing McMahon reminisce about the SEGA Genesis games within a Dreamcast commercial is even crazier! It’s also quite fun playing “spot the background characters”. I see Moigle Floigan, Eggman, some Virtua fighters, a Ready 2 Rumble boxer, a Crazy Taxi cab…

Space Channel 5

Despite being presented as one of the crossover characters in a console ads, this Space Channel 5 advert exclusively features Space Channel 5 characters chilling out in the private Club Venus. This was actually the ad that sold me on the game. I was 90% there thanks to the Official Dreamcast Magazine, but seeing all the crazy characters in one place pushed me to 100%.

I hope everybody has a great weekend, especially Americans getting the last taste of summer over Labor Day, and feel free to share your favorite American Dreamcast ads in the comments section.


11 responses to “The Weekly Five: Great American Dreamcast Ads

  1. I was in my first year teaching in a remote Alaskan village 1999 to 2000 so I don’t know if I ever saw any Dreamcast commercials. I bought my first Dreamcast in 2001. I can’t believe they have some dude living in a trailer blowing up his house. Thanks fir posting these, Barry.

  2. Sure thing!

    It’s interesting to look back on the 9-9-99 campaign and really get a sense of the imagery that they were going with. It has a very late 90’s design aesthetic to it. Heavy emphasis on manipulated live action imagery overlaid with techy grids, digital lettering and numbering. Interesting that The Matrix released in ’99 and had a similar aesthetic. Also, lots of shifting lines, whispering, blurry shots. At least, that was the launch stuff. As the later stuff rolled out they went for that playful goofy style with snarky comments in the print ads (using mostly in-game screens) and the video game world inside a console for the tv ads.

    I also recall the color schemes of the ads shifting from white to black, this even was seen on the packaging as Dreamcasts soon were later sold in black boxes and the game cases also went black. I’d assume this was due to the Playstation 1 and 2 aesthetic.

    Personally, I loved the white cases and the launch imagery.

  3. crazytails says:

    I was still very young around the dreamcast era. I was lucky to have a brother that got the console as soon as it came out. I’ve never seen any of those adds however. Actually I don’t even think there were adds around here in the netherlands.

    Great to see all these adds. I know that the dreamcast was very popular oversees.

  4. cube_b3 says:

    I only liked the first one.

    I am confused if you agree that JGR add is bad why include it in the great list?

  5. @coolbeige says:

    Dreamcast was ahead of it’s time. I still buy DC games. The console is so much
    fun to play. I wish it could have lasted longer, atleast 2 more years. Some of My favorite titles are: powerstone, Suzuki allstar racing, 4 wheel thunder, RE code Veronica, skies of Arcadia, mvc2, typing of the dead. Long live DC. I have 4 controllers if anyones up to game!

  6. -nSega54- says:

    Dreamcast had some incredible commercials. Not included here but also great are Sonic Adventure, Soul Calibur, and the big animated “launch day” one with all the characters in the DC party zone. I wish SEGA’s commercials today had the same spark and aired as frequently as those did, DC’s launch commercials were everywhere.

  7. @cube:

    I meant the JGR ad didn’t do very well in selling copies, but I loved the creativity of it. It sold me on the game, but didn’t open the game up to a larger audience. C’est la vie!

  8. Shigs says:

    The Seganet ad is so relevant to today’s gaming culture it’s scary. XD

  9. Sega Uranus says:

    “So I thought it would be fitting to present to you a weekly five that is light on the labor for me, and Dreamcast related for you.”

    So already like 90% of the Weekly Fives?

    I am kind of sad you did not use the Shenmue ad. It was one of the few Dreamcast commercials that used the classic SEGA scream all that good.

    But I really need to say that the Japanese advertisements are just so much better. Outside of the Master System I guess that was always the case, but some were really legendary.

    I know it is unlikely, but I really hope a DVD is released of some of these eventually. They really missed such a major opportunity to include them in Dreamcast Collection… 🙁

  10. -nSega54- says:

    I actually wasn’t a big fan of the Shenmue ad, I thought it made the game look pretty tacky.

  11. Upsidedown Fuji says:

    I never saw the Space Channel 5 commercial but I do remember the JSR one. Good times.

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