A Guilty Pleasure

If you are a regular visitor to the Junkyard you might have noticed that I rather like the genre of versus fighter. I love its immediacy, its shock factor, its brutal disregard to conform and evolve with the rest of the gaming industry. It reminds me of a time now passed, when gaming culture was crafted in the furnace of the local arcade, when "winner stayed on", names were taken and friendships were forged through endless competition beneath flickering marquees.

Its interesting really that right now, after over a decade’s neglect, the versus fighting genre is appearing to be undergoing a small revival. Kick-started by the release of Street Fighter IV, a series of old, battle-weary names have been donning the gloves once more, with Killer Instinct, Mortal Kombat, Tekken and Dead or Alive all returning to the ring. I've played most of them too and, on the whole, they manage admirably to recapture what cemented the genre as a classic in the 1990s.

Forensic Examination Of The Dreamcast Corpse - File 1 of 2

In this first of two special guest articles, SonicRetro's resident researcher, Sonic game hacker, and owner of over 400 Dreamcast games Doc Eggfan performs a fascinating post mortem on the Dreamcast to discover just what happened to the units that were destined for the shop shelves, but ultimately wound up being re-purposed in a most interesting way. Doc Eggfan, over to you...

While pondering life's great inequities, I got a little question stuck in my head the other day - when exactly did the Dreamcast expire? What was the exact time of death, good doctor? We all know that the old girl continues to be supported up to this day by some very dedicated indie developers, but when exactly did official support dry up? Sega officially announced the discontinuation of Dreamcast hardware production on 1st February 2001, where the very last Dreamcast was set to roll off the assembly line at the end of March (end of the Japanese fiscal year). Some reports indicated that a backlog of about 2 million unsold Dreamcasts were sadly sitting alone and unwanted in some dusty old warehouses at this time.

The Madness Of The SEGA Spud Dive

Sega's various Dreamcast advertising campaigns are well documented here at the 'Yard. We've looked extensively at the efforts of the Japanese, American and European arms of the company to push the Dreamcast brand and also witnessed the mixed results. However, there is one publicity stunt that there is comparatively little information about online: the Sega Spud Dive.

No, we haven't gone senile - you read that right. The Spud Dive was an attempt to drum up media attention for the Dreamcast in the US right around the time of the Japanese launch in 1998, and involved members of the public literally diving into a 2000 gallon vat of cold mashed potatoes to search for the letters that make up the words 'Sega' and 'Dreamcast.' The prize for collecting the letters within the 45 second time limit? One of the first Dreamcast systems at the US launch, along with all the launch games and $1000 in cash. Not bad for swimming around in cold mash for less than a minute. According to this report from the LA Times, 100 people took part in the first Spud Dive held on Hollywood Boulevard on the morning of Monday 23rd November 1998. Sega of America spokesman Dan Stevens said of the event:

"We've heard of consumers in America who are already putting down money for the systems, so we planned an event where fans could win them now. Since it's Thanksgiving week, what could be more appropriate than mashed potatoes?"
Indeed Dan, indeed. Using that logic, maybe Sony or Microsoft should get people to jump into a vat of cold kebab meat, chips and lager next time they release a game on a Friday. Or even better, have a truck-load of said games stolen the day before release (topical joke - check). Snark aside, the Spud Dive held in 1998 seems to have been something of a success, and the local news media certainly lapped it up. Any publicity is good publicity, even if it does involve getting mashed potatoes in every orifice.

The winner of the first prize on that fateful November morning was Daniel Aguilar, and true to it's word Sega presented him with his prize almost a year later in September 1999. Peter Moore was the man who had the honour of handing Daniel his prize.
Taken shortly before Moore set fire to the factory and ran away to Microsoft
The story of the Spud Dive doesn't end here though. Almost two years later Sega Spud Dive 2000 attempted to recreate the media frenzy of the original, and as documented in this assessment of the event (by the PR firm assigned to run the promotion), it was even weirder than the first:

As the holiday season approached, both the gaming and consumer media were focused on Sony PS2. Sega’s objectives were to generate coverage for Sega Dreamcast to reinforce the Sega brand and send the message that consumers would do anything to get their hands on Sega Dreamcast, the wise alternative to the expensive, hard-to-find PS2. This coverage would increase consumers’ intent to purchase during the fourth quarter.

A stage, 2,000-gallon above-ground pool, and a fully-equipped PA system were secured for the event. Sega Dreamcast signage was prominently placed in various locations to ensure coverage. In the hours leading up to the actual event, a lottery was held to select five participants for the contest. Access also hired two actors to portray George W. Bush and Al Gore, who were still officially tied in their presidential race to ensure that media had an additional newsy angle with a great visual. Changing rooms and clean-up areas were also secured for messy contestants.
Interestingly, the analysis of the event goes into detail about the media coverage that was given to Spud Dive 2000 (or Spud Dive 2K, as it's referred to); and that local news crews from various cities around the US were invited to either film proceedings or that B-roll was supplied to them for nightly news shows. However, a quick scout around sites like YouTube and Vimeo yields no evidence that any of this has been archived online - certainly not in the usual places, anyway.

Further to this, it appears that the first Spud Dive in 1998 was actually preceded by a much smaller pilot event in 1997 to mark the release of Sonic R on the Saturn; where a 350 gallon vat was filled with potatoes and contestants had to find a golden ring in order to win prizes. Here's the press release as archived by SEGA Retro. What's with all the potato, eh Sega?

In summary, Spud Dive 2000 was an attempt by Sega of America to hi-jack sales of the newly-released PlayStation 2 right before the busy Thanksgiving shopping period...and the pièce de résistance of the whole shebang? Having two actors portraying Al Gore and George W. Bush hanging around the event in an attempt to loosely tie the whole potatoey clusterfuck to the presidential elections. Hats off to them for trying something fun and original, but you literally couldn't make this shit up. Sony are literally about to embark on a world-crushing campaign of destruction with the PlayStation 2, and meanwhile Sega have members of the public jumping into cold mashed potatoes while two jobbing lookalikes prance around telling political anecdotes.

A few months later Sega cancelled production of the Dreamcast.

Whitening A Dreamcast Without Retr0brite

A yellowing Dreamcast is a sad sight indeed. Its once gleaming white shell turned a grimy shade of mustard, a reminder of the fun that it has given to countless gamers over the years. Tired, worn out, the end of the road. It doesn't have to be like this though, oh no. As many, many a collector will attest, there is a magical formula known as Retr0brite that involves almost Merlin-esque alchemy knowledge to mix it's caustic formula. Eye of newt, half a quart of hydrochloric acid, the soul of a defeated shaman and some peroxide mixed in scientifically accurate measures, and then spread evenly over the shell of even the most yellowed system (it doesn't have to be a Dreamcast, by the way) will magically turn it back to its original colour in a few hours.

DreamPod Episode 5

Massive thanks to Adam Koralik for taking part in this episode of DreamPod. Be sure to check out his YouTube channel and visit the FigureItOut website. Also, please feel free to subscribe and leave us a review on iTunes or visit us on YouTube.

The Beautiful Game

In the early days of the Dreamcast, Sega was riding high on a crest of positive publicity and the system was truly light years ahead of anything else in the console market. While Sega of America was kicking ass in the the US, the European arm of the company decided to take the crusade in a slightly different direction - to the packed stadia of the football world.

We have looked at Sega Europe's slightly misguided TV and print advertising campaign in the recent past, but one aspect of this assault on the subconscious of the 'casual' gamer was the decision to sponsor some of Europe's biggest football teams. And by 'football,' I obviously mean 'soccer.' Sega Europe sponsored four teams in total - Arsenal (England), Sampdoria (Italy), St Etienne (France) and Deportivo de la Coruña (Spain).

10th Anniversary Competition - Part One


***Competition now closed!***

2015 is a special year for the Junkyard, as it marks 10 years since this humble blog began life as little more than a place for the documenting of Tom's second attempt at building a decent Dreamcast collection. The first attempt went well, but ended in all of the amassed DC goodies being traded in for a PlayStation 2 some time in late 2001. Those were truly dark days. In some ways though, if it hadn't been for that little mishap, the Junkyard might never have been born so in an odd way we have a lot to thank Sony's harbinger of doom for. But enough about that.

Since then, the Junkyard has grown into the omnipotent force that it is today, bringing you occasional mirth and honest, thought-provoking prose. Oh, and we also do a podcast now, too - just in case you hadn't noticed! However, let's get down to business. We wanted to celebrate this joyous milestone of a decade's worth of inane DC-related ramblings by giving something back to the community that has helped to propel this lowly corner of the internet into the limelight on many an occasion. And we've done this by teaming up with SEGA Europe who have very kindly donated three special edition Dreamcast Collection vinyl records to us, so that we may give them away to you - our loyal readers.

Sega 1999 Annual Report Surfaces On eBay

Here at the 'Yard we have a dedicated AI constantly scouring eBay for Dreamcast-related items of interest. This AI is housed in the bowels of the Junkyard's IT department, an installation so large and foreboding that it had to be constructed inside a hollowed asteroid because the local council wouldn't grant permission for such an impressive feat of architectural and technological brilliance.

Sadly, this asteroid is now hurtling away from the Earth at such a rate that the ethernet cable connecting it to my laptop is getting worryingly taught. No matter though, as it has come up with the goods once again - this time discovering an eBay UK auction for a rather interesting article of Dreamcast paraphernalia. I say 'Dreamcast,' but it's actually more 'Sega' - a copy of the Annual Report from 1999. The images shown in the listing hint at revealing financial figures and the introduction has an upbeat and forward thinking tone.

Parental Guidance

Nowadays it seems that having a PEGI 18/Mature/Adults Only sticker plastered on the front of a game box is just par for the course. Stuff like Grand Theft Auto V, The Last Of Us and even Killzone are prime examples of recent releases that have been branded too graphic, violent or emotionally unsettling for those gamers who are still too young to vote, drive a car or get hammered on pints of Carlsberg and throw up all over the tiled floor of the local kebab shop.

In the UK, the doling out of age ratings used to be handled by the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) - the same organisation responsible for deciding which ratings (you know - U, PG, 15 etc) movies are awarded; but since 2012 PEGI has been calling the shots. In the US, the ESRB does the dirty work, acting like some omnipresent Ministry from the mind of George Orwell and deciding what you can and can't play, dependent on the year of your birth. We're not here to wax lyrical on whether these organisations are correct in their judgement though. No, what we want to explore this time around is the BBFC's classification of some of the Dreamcast's more adult-themed PAL titles, and some of them are a little surprising to say the least...

Hucast Games Announce Redux 2

If there's one thing the Dreamcast does well, it's shmups - and Hucast Games has produced some of the best in recent times. After the success of both Dux and Redux, a sequel was always going to be an option and Hucast have confirmed that Redux 2 is indeed in development. In a post on their blog, Hucast revealed gameplay details along with some artwork and alpha screens, which we're sure you'll agree look pretty damn nice.

James & Watch: Arm

As we've mentioned ad nauseum here at the Junkyard, we are massive advocates of the efforts of the myriad independent developers still supporting our favourite white box of joy. There have been some stunning post-mortem releases for the Dreamcast (2013's Sturmwind could easily pass as a PSN game, for example) and there are many more heading our way too. Elysian Shadows, Hypertension, SLaVE, AMEBA...they all look great and we're excited to see how they all turn out. However, here's an indie release you may not have seen before. James & Watch: Arm is a fun little title developed by Ben Lancaster and is slightly different to the other indie games mentioned here in that it eschews flashy visuals and in-depth story lines for a much more simple aesthetic - namely that of a Nintendo Game & Watch.

DreamPod Episode 3

You can also find DreamPod on iTunes and YouTube. Please feel free to give us feedback either as a review on iTunes or a comment here or on YouTube. We really value your input, so let us know your thoughts!

Ben Heck's Dreamcast Portable

I'm not really sure this series of YouTube videos needs much of an introduction to be honest. Ben Heck is a guy who creates all kinds of wonderful console mods and in this series of three, he demonstrates how he went about making a portable Dreamcast of quite stunning beauty. Enough from me...here are the videos:

Thanks to Hideki Naganuma (yes, the Hideki Naganuma of Jet Set Radio and Sega Rally 2 soundtrack fame) for tweeting the video links to me; and also thanks to @nintendbro and @Granabanana for making me aware of this awesome creation.

Zombie Revenge Mini Arcade Cab

Well this is quite cool - a mini arcade cabinet containing a Dreamcast and controls for two players to either play together or duke it out like the best of frenemies. This creation comes from bespoke arcade cabinet maker Paul Bratt of Paul's Custom Arcade Machines, and as mentioned contains a Dreamcast console plus the inner workings of two Dreamcast controllers complete with VMUs, a flatscreen monitor and speakers. This particular model also features an extra fan built into the back door of the unit to assist the Dreamcast's efforts to cool itself down and through the efforts of Paul, all of the controls are perfectly rewired to the illuminanted buttons on the front of the unit. 

There are some nice little finishing touches on this particular model too, such as the Dreamcast logos taken from the controllers and strategically placed around the screen and controller areas. These pictures don't really do justice to the quality of this cabinet - the unit is extremely well made and it looks like something SEGA itself had put together. Paul's Custom Arcade Machines also create cabinets to suit your individual tastes so you could theoretically have any Dreamcast game you wanted painted all over one of these. Even Exhibition of Speed...but I wouldn't recommend that. This is a great way to experience some of the DC's fine arcade conversions in a totally new and unique way, and I have to commend Paul for the work he's done here.

Want to know more? Paul can be found on Facebook here.