, The Dreamcast Junkyard: A Closer Look At The Dreamcast MP3 Player

A Closer Look At The Dreamcast MP3 Player

By now, it's common knowledge (well, in the Dreamcast community - probably not down the local pub) that Sega was planning some kind of Dreamcast MP3 player. The device would likely have connected to the system via the VMU slot and shared a form factor with the aforementioned memory device. Indeed, if you do a quick search on the worlds most popular search engine Lycos, you'll no doubt come across this image:
Cheers, IGN.
This whole subject seems to have become quite popular again in recent times, as evidenced by the sheer number of memes and videos showing people fitting iPod Nanos into VMU shells. To be honest, that whole thing isn't really new - we did a little article on potentially fitting a no-brand MP3 player into a VMU shell back in 2006, back when nobody gave a flying turd about the Dreamcast and this was a personal blog where I told fanciful tales about buying tins of beans and cans of Carlsberg with money I found in the street (that hasn't changed in the intervening decade, by the way).

Now, if you read my recent article on Sega's planned telecoms stuff (you can read it here if you missed it), you'll have seen the video I posted at the bottom. It's a 2015 upload from a YouTuber called FatalistDC and is a very rare glimpse at a promotional video for the Dreamcast MP3 player. The interesting thing here is that it depicts a unit far more advanced in development than the one shown in the image above, even showing a few details of the online service that would allow you to download music. Once again, here's the video in question:


So let's break it down. First off, the description says this video was showcased at Tokyo Game Show in 2000 and it clearly depicts a far more advanced version/prototype of the MP3 player than the one shown in the IGN image at the top of this article. Interestingly, the video also shows the similarly cancelled Sega Swatch communication device (the thing that looks like a satellite dish stuck to a controller), but how that ties in with the original plan for the music player is anyone's guess.
The Sega Swatch in all its glory.
We also get a glimpse at the proposed interface that would be used by the MP3 player and the briefest of glances at the MP3 player's screen, which looks very much like a regular VMU display. The video ends with our heroic protagonist putting his headphones on and then walking off down the street while ignoring his lady friend and rocking out to some early 2000s J-pop (I like to think that's what he's listening to, anyway).
Pretty sure that says MC Hammer...
I guess one of the most intriguing things about the device shown is that it doesn't connect to the Dreamcast through a controller, but instead appears to have its own connection port on the top. Would this have had a regular VMU connection on the end of the cable? If not, what's the point of it looking like a VMU and having similar face buttons and a screen? My guess is that yes, it would still be usable as a regular VMU but also come with a bespoke cable that acted like a controller cable...but with no controller on the end. If that makes sense.
A hipster.
So, there we have it. The Dreamcast MP3 player really was a real thing being worked on and not just a couple of empty shells in a glass cabinet. The real quest begins now though. In Search Of The Dreamcast MP3 Player, anyone? Actually, scratch that. I'm not going on any more wild Dreamcast goose chases. The search for Pierre Santino was enough for one lifetime.

Edit: I just wanted to clarify that I'm not suggesting this is a working MP3 playing device. The prototype is clearly a physical object and looks different to the one in the intro image, but I'm not saying it actually worked. Also: be cool, stay in school and don't do drugs.

7 comments:

Unknown said...

Badass. You have such an awesome way with words. I literally read it in your voice. This is very cool tho, I had only ever seen the pic of it. Never knew it was so fleshed out. They were really trying to change everything with this system. Still love that swatch idea too.

Unknown said...

Badass. You have such an awesome way with words. I literally read it in your voice. This is very cool tho, I had only ever seen the pic of it. Never knew it was so fleshed out. They were really trying to change everything with this system. Still love that swatch idea too.

Tom Charnock said...

Thanks for the kind words. I spent about 20 minutes adding and removing apostrophes because I wasn't sure where they were required or not. This comment tells me I needn't have worried haha!

fanat said...

Dude, I'm not sure if you were joking or not (?) but the device in the video obviously has a *CGI* display. That's not an actual display showing track titles and other mp3 related stuff.
Of course there may have been functioning prototypes of the VMU MP3, but this video doesn't prove that. Unfortunately.

Also, Age of the Beast? Wha'evah 'appened to that?..

Tom Charnock said...

I live in hope that Fanat will one day leave a nice comment on one of my articles. Fanat. Go on my Zia review and leave a nice comment, it's the only thing that's going to stop me garrotting myself with a Dreamcast controller cable. Go on, do it for me.

fanat said...

Are you saying I haven't been nice, Tom? That's not really true, is it now? =)
Speaking of not being nice, you completely ignored two questions that I asked: were you joking? (in which case, "ah") and something about some aged beasts :)

Tom Charnock said...

I never said the thing in the video was a working unit. Just that it's an interesting look at a concept. Stop finding fault dammit! XD Also, I emailed about Age of the Beast but I got told 'more info soon' and that was it. Nothing to report as yet. However, if I do hear anything I'll be sure to write something full of red herrings and untruths and send you a personal message alerting you to it haha