pitching process previously. That magazine came with a DreamOn demo disc stuck to the font cover and cost the princely sum of £5 a pop. There were plenty of cheaper alternatives, including DC-UK from Future (the magazine that resulted from the failed pitch for the official license), Dreamcast Magazine from Paragon, Dreamcast Monthly from Quay, and Mr Dreamcast from Magical Media.
Mr Dreamcast is of particular interest to many collectors because it only lasted for two issues and was aimed squarely at a younger audience. Issue 1 came with a Fur Fighters water pistol, and I inadvertently bought it once while waiting for a bus and only realised my mistake when I took my seat and opened the magazine to be confronted with the type of prose usually reserved for a Mr Men book. Just to clarify, my copy didn't have the legendary water pistol stuck on the front, so I'm blaming that for tricking me into a purchase. Cough.
|The hallmark of Exeter's finest export|
Before we delve into the murky history of the magazine and speculate on the existence of a hard copy, let's first look at the evidence that Total Dreamcast ever actually existed in the first place. Total Control was a multi-format magazine that ran for just 11 issues between November 1998 and September 1999 and was published in the UK by Rapide Publishing. We took an in-depth look at each and every issue of Total Control in a two part feature in 2016 (find part one here and part two here), and Total Control is of particular interest to Dreamcast fans because even though it was multi-format, the magazine took quite a lot of interest in Sega's then upcoming system, devoting several covers to it and countless news articles and features.
|Total Control ran for 11 issues...and loved the Dreamcast|
|Millennium Soldier advert published in Dreamcast Monthly,|
showing Total Dreamcast review quotes
So, the question remains: did Total Dreamcast ever actually exist as a magazine? And if it did, what happened to the copy that the editorial team worked on before Rapide went bust? At this point, I think it's only fair to bring in Matt Neilson, a man who is by far the most knowledgeable person on the subject of video game magazines I have ever met. Matt runs a website called SegaMags and he has amassed a collection of retro magazines so immense that I'm in awe. The real driving force behind trying to solve the mystery of Total Dreamcast is really Matt, and so I thought it was about time that we had some cold, hard facts regarding the magazine and whether or not there's a hope that it could actually exist in print or electronic form. Matt's main points are covered below in bullet points...
Computer Trade Weekly (CTW) reports on Rapide's closure in issue 757 (dated September 24th, 1999 - exactly one week after Total Dreamcast had been due to go on-sale). I've taken a photo of the article in question (see below). The wording and cover-date indicate that Rapide closed sometime after Total Dreamcast was due to launch; there had been no mention of Rapide in the previous issue of CTW (dated September 17th, 1999). This is a little bit puzzling, because if Rapide closed sometime after Total Dreamcast's launch-date, then it follows that Total Dreamcast should have made it onto store shelves.
|Computer Trade Weekly reporting on the closure of Rapide|
Print adverts included review quotes from Total Dreamcast. See the Millennium Soldier: Expendable advert in issue 1 of Dreamcast Monthly (see above). In this advert, we finally have a good (if somewhat small) look at the complete Total Dreamcast logo -- I really like the way they incorporated the Dreamcast swirl into the tail of the 'g' in 'Magazine.' The fact that the advert includes a review quote suggests that the review was actually finished and had been made available to various advertising agencies.
|Total Dreamcast as advertised in the final issue of Total Control|
Former games journalist and executive editor of Total Control Garth Sumpter said that he worked on Total Dreamcast. I spoke to him recently and he told me the following:
"Me and my team had worked bloody hard to put together what was, in my opinion, a rather excellent magazine. However, after having finished it, we were told that the print deadline had been put back and that we needed to update the contents. In fact, the printers were refusing to print it as the bill for other magazines was unpaid and consequently, after having put together two month’s worth of coverage, Rapide went bust before the first edition of Dreamcast had been printed."
This suggests that the magazine wasn't actually printed. What's cool about Sumpter's recollection of events is that it explains the date-related inconsistency (specifically, it explains why Total Dreamcast wasn't released even though Rapide closed after the announced launch-date).
- Matt Neilson
So the conclusion is that Total Dreamcast was finished, it was delayed, and, ultimately, it didn't ever see a release. I've always wondered if some advance prints were made...though this is probably wishful thinking on my part!
|The cover of the Total Dreamcast launch issue, recreated by Matt Neilsen|
For now though, the mystery of the phantom magazine remains tantalisingly close to being solved. Total Dreamcast was finished and there is (or was) at least one physical copy printed. Whether or not we'll ever get to read those reviews that were dangled so agonisingly close to our faces is a different matter. If this changes any time soon, you can rest assured that you'll read about it here.
over at SegaMags or on Twitter here, and you can also help Matt in his quest to find every UK Sega magazine by going here.