In 1998, the Sega Dreamcast changed the whole face of console and games design, but it was haunted by an unbeatable competitor
The Dreamcast looked like nothing else out there. A lighter box than the uniform black or grey, four joypad ports, a bizarre controller with a memory card that had its own screen and worked as a separate miniature games console. The name – a portmanteau of Dream and Broadcast – was strangely ethereal for a games console (Sega had apparently gone through 5,000 possibile monikers to get here). When a prototype was shown to the press in the summer of 1998, there was no Sega logo. This was a new dawn. This was the future.
Sega was the perennial underdog in the video game console market. When it launched its first consoles – the SG-1000 and Master System – in the early 1980s, it was dealing with a competitor that ruled 96% of the market via its ubiquitous Nintendo Entertainment System. Back then, people didn’t say they were playing on a console. They said: “I’m playing Nintendo.” The brand was utterly dominant.