DreamConn Wireless Dreamcast Controller Appears On eBay

Here's something we haven't seen before - A true wireless controller for the Dreamcast. While the system has a butt-load of peripherals, they're all wired - even the Samba De Amigo maracas are tethered by a cord. Wired controllers were very much par for the course in the late 90s and early 2000s though and stuff like the Nintendo Gamecube Wavebird came a little later (although the Sega Saturn - amongst others - did get infrared wireless controllers iirc). Wireless is all the rage now and it seems one hardware modder thought the old Dreamcast needed to get in on the action. Enter the DreamConn:
Here's the blurb from the eBay France auction:

DreamConn is the first REAL Wireless Controller for the Sega Dreamcast.

As seen in the photos, DreamConn is an original Dreamcast controller that is modified to be wireless. Enjoy your beloved console with no more cables!


Features:
Empowered with Bluetooth technology, delivers a super stable and accurate wireless communication.
Built-in Li-ion battery with up to 3 hrs life-cycle .
Micro-USB port for charging.
LED indication for power-on.
ON-OFF switch.
Controller and base unit are paired - no interference from other devices.
Internal memory emulating the existence of 2 VMUs.
Support of external VMU at Slot1 for LCD screen indications (logo, battery level, game artwork).
Support of Rumble Pack at Slot2.

Memory Function:
The VMU system works as an independent system of 2 VMUs.
DreamConn has an internal memory and emulates the presence of 2 VMUs (like if you had 2 VMUs plugged-in) even when you have nothing plugged in the controller's slots.
These 2 virtual VMUs act like the real ones (you may save, copy, move etc). In case that you want your existing saves to be transferred to/from DreamCon's VMUs,
then you may plug your existing original controller to an other Dreamcast's port and copy saves between the virtual and real VMUs as usual.

LCD Screen Function:
If you plug in a real VMU into DreamConn's Slot 1, then this VMU will be used ONLY as an LCD screen showing : 
DreamConn welcome logo : When DreamConn connects to its base unit, it will show the welcome logo.
Game artwork and information.
Battery level: When L+R+START buttons are pressed, DreamConn will show battery level information.
Beeping. When DreamConn connects to its base unit, then it will give a beep informing the user that it is ready to be used (along with the welcome logo screen).

Jumper Pack Function:
Jumper Pack is also supported.
Upon power-up, if a Jumper Pack is detected, then it will replace the 2nd VMU function with vibration function.
To restore the 2nd VMU, simply power-off the DreamConn, remove the Jumper Pack and power-on again.

The unit is certainly interesting - as a gamer who likes to sit quite a way from my TV, I often find myself dragging the Dreamcast out from the unit and half-way across the living room floor in order to sit comfortably on my couch when playing Crazy Taxi etc. The DreamConn would solve all my troubles. That it also has internal memory and a rechargeable battery is just the icing on the already rather tasty cake. The price point is slightly outside of my bracket unfortunately, but still - it's nice to see new tech being reverse engineered into our beloved Dreamcasts, eh?
Auction here. Thanks to DCJY Facebook group member Sandro Silva for the heads up.

25 comments:

Mongroovy said...

Been waiting for something like this for a long time. Hope it leads to more variants to be developed, preferably with better battery life.

Tom Charnock said...

Yeah - it's actually odd that something like this either never came out toward the end of the DC's life as an official product; or as a mod sooner than now. Still, glad it exists now.

Anthony817 said...

If I had the money I would jump on it. Kind of broke atm from buying a PS3 and 360 recently...

Would be nice for somebody to buy this up and reverse engineer it and make more of them at a more reasonable price.

8c7855d8-19ae-11e5-8e9b-5bea2ad5fa0b said...

Tom, what the flibbity wibbits are you on about? These aren't the first Dreamcast wireless controllers, not by far. There have been a handful of admittedly rare, commercially produced, professionally made, third-party wireless controllers over the years. Check out these Digital Press forum threads from 2009, 2006, and 2005.

Tom Charnock said...

Interesting - thanks for the info. As I said, I wasn't aware of any other wireless controllers prior to seeing this one. It's a shame there are no images in those forum threads and naturally all the auctions are long since gone. Still, nice use of the term 'flibbity wibbits' there XD

8c7855d8-19ae-11e5-8e9b-5bea2ad5fa0b said...

Yes, alas, no images. And sadly, eBay prevents crawling and archiving of their site's Web pages by any Web crawler including the Internet Archive, so even archived photos from the auctions don't exist. However, I can tell you that the manufacturers of these earlier wireless controllers were small-timers rather than bigger names like Nyko and Pelican.

If you would like, I know at least one of the people from those threads (the seller of three of the wireless controllers) is still active on the Digital Press forum. Would you like me to ask her for more information and photos of her remaining wireless controller?

Ronaldo Chambers said...

Nice article if the Dreamcast hadn't been discontinued I'm pretty sure sega would have released an official first party wireless controller considering how innovative they were during late 90s early 2000s

Tom Charnock said...

Thanks for reading Ronaldo - yes, I believe Sega would have released an official device had the system lived on. To the guy with the long string of numbers as a name (if that's your actual name, apologies), of course - if you could get pics that would be fantastic! Cheers.

pcwzrd13 said...

Number man, I only know of one brand that made a wireless controller for the Dreamcast and that's Docs. All three of the links you provided are for that brand controller. They don't come up for sale very often and I hear they aren't very good.

Here's a video of the Docs controller for both Dreamcast and N64:
https://youtu.be/eJRrkilXbQU

8c7855d8-19ae-11e5-8e9b-5bea2ad5fa0b said...

Yes, pcwzrd13, the brand is Docs. (You have a nice YouTube channel by the way - I've been a follower of yours there for a long time.) I linked to the multiple threads as a way of showing there was more than one of these controllers which had been spotted and thus what was written wasn't just a fluke or a mistake. Indeed, ReviewStation1's YouTube video which you linked to features the Dreamcast Docs controllers in question.

As far as information about the controllers themselves, I dug up another forum thread from 2006 which has more data for you all. The thread starter, sailorneorune, posted digital photographs back in 2006 of the controllers new-in-bag and the box itself though these devices are older than that of course. These controllers were released very late in the Dreamcast's commercial lifespan in the West, in either 2001 or 2002 as far as I can best tell.

Credit and copyright for the photos belongs to sailorneorune.

-Nz17

Chris Daioglou said...

Hi. I'm the creator of DreamConn. I've been reading for a while so I'd like to make some points:

The meaning of 'first TRUE wireless' means something that is usable and comfortable.So the ONLY wireless controllers ever made for the Dreamcast are the DOC's. These- in contrast with the DreamConn:

1. They were infrared : Means you had to be in certain position and within the visual sight of the receiver.
2. They supported only buttons & vibration. The VMU had to be plugged in the receiver so it was actually wired.
3. They were set of 2. But there are many reports that people never got them to work simultaneously as they were becoming unresponsive.
4. (More technical) The IR is a signal-carrier not a signal-translator. Due to its nature, the controllers had bad response time or random states (buttons pressed-unpressed etc).
5. Were operating with AA batteries.

On the other hand, as all modern wireless controllers (like a PS4):
1. DreamConn is based on Bluetooth - accurate & low-power communication
2. Supports internal memory of 2 VMUs along with buttons & vibration
3. You can use simultaneously as many DreamConns as you can. No interference between them.
4. (More technical) DreamConn operates as a signal translator with signal filtering thus it is like operating an original wired controller.
5. Has built-in battery and micro-USB charging. More cost-effective than spending money on a bulk of AA batteries.

8c7855d8-19ae-11e5-8e9b-5bea2ad5fa0b said...

@Chris Daioglou
1) Are the DOCS controllers then the 'first FALSE wireless'? Why not just say yours are comfortable and usable if that's what you mean by your phrase? That would feel more authentic. Writing they are the 'first TRUE wireless' feels disingenuous.
2) Are there disadvantages to using rechargeable AA batteries?
3) Where can one source replacement batteries for your controllers once the batteries no longer recharge?

Chris Daioglou said...

No my friend. Everyone in the Dreamcast scene understands what I mean. I didn't claim to be the first wireless, just the first DECENT wireless. No matter what, sooner or later there will be a review for the DreamConn and more preferably there will be a comparison review between the DOCS and the DreamConn. So, lets not play with the words nor say that "There have been a handful of admittedly rare, commercially produced, professionally made, third-party wireless controllers over the years" as you claimed, where you only meant the DOCS. This feels disingenuous. Also, posting under no-name at all also feels disingenuous.

2) Of course there are!Commercial AA batteries last less than a li-ion battery + you need more of them in order to match a li-ion + more space needed + more total weight in your hand.

3) Li-ion have a lifespan of some several years. Like the internal Dreamcast's battery which lasts for 5 years minimum.

Tom Charnock said...

@Chris - if you want to send a DreamConn my way for review be my guest! (Obviously I'd return it afterwards) 😅

Chris Daioglou said...

Hi Tom. I was indeed considering sending one for review. Thing is that right now I don't have spare components to make one extra beyond the ones that are on eBay. And there is people who have already bought it and many others who want to buy one and I already have some difficulty in serving all of them. But, in the first chance I get, I will send over one for review.
Because I don't really like just talking about 'DreamConn this and DreamConn that'. I prefer someone to have it in his hands and talk about the REAL thing. Thanks.

Tom Charnock said...

Hi Chris, no problem! If you're ever in a position to do so, please let me know. As a side note, we just recorded the latest podcast and discussed the DreamConn on it.

Chris Daioglou said...

Thank you Tom! I'll check it out too. I will surely send one and I will look to it to be as soon as possible. The capital control here in Greece has made it very difficult lately for importing any components but I'll find a way. :-)

Tom Charnock said...

If there's anything you have trouble finding, let me know and I'm sure I'll be able to find and send it to you.

Chris Daioglou said...

OK. Thanks again Tom. Your contribution in this is much appreciated.

Stinky McGee said...

I find the claims that this is comfortable to be suspect, since it's just using a regular Dreamcast controller shell. That controller is anything BUT comfortable with the weird angle of the grips making your wrists turn out at a non ergonomic angle. MadCatz may have issues with quality, but at least their DreamPad didn't hurt to hold for long gaming sessions. You should consider switching to that design instead of the 1st party one.

Chris Daioglou said...

Hi. Thank you for your comments and thoughts. Well, Dreamcast's original controller is ambiguous : Some people consider it as a very good controller and others as a non-ergonomic one. Truth is, that nevertheless Dreamcast's games were made for this controller. i.e Sonic Adventure is great playing with the original but no-so-accurate playing with a non-original.
Theoretically, any design could be used (even a PS3 or XBOX), but I am a huge Dreamcast fan and this is the reason I chose the original controller and started this project in the 1st place - I wanted to play my Dreamcast without any cables in the middle! :-)

OneStar said...

This is awesome. The price is a bit to steep for me, but I totally understand the price for such a thing. I'd love to see these things mass produced in some way, it looks quite professional indeed. How many of these have been made / plan to be made currently?

Chris Daioglou said...

Many thanks! Right now, there are 4 more pieces left and at the moment I'm working on a version 2.0 of DreamConn with better battery-life (up to 14hrs) and several other additions along with a slight price-drop. This version will also be sent to Tom for a review (as promised).

I plan to make some quantity of them but there is a delay in the processing as the capital control in Greece has made it quite difficult to find the necessary components for manufacturing.

Tom Charnock said...

Awesome - look forward to being able to try the controller out! :)

Akira Kevin said...

Hey Chris, first I wanna say awesome work. It's beautiful!
Just a suggestion but you might consider selling the plans and code, maybe even a tutorial for DIY. I'm such a hardcore DIY'er that I'd learn code just to do something like this myself, but I'd gladly pay like 20 bucks for a list of parts, code, and a plan. Hopefully sometime in the next year or so I can afford a completed controller, but for now cheap DIY is all I can do.