The Death of the Dreamcast in Press Releases

It's a funny old world. I say that not because I've just inhaled an entire bottle of laughing gas (I have though, anything to get me through the day). No, I say it because it seems that every time I fire up my creaking MacBook and open Safari I discover something new about the Dreamcast. Well, not new as such...but new to me and probably to you too. New in the sense that you've probably not seen it and now you will, thus making it 'news.' See? Not in the same sense that the shite printed on the front of any random tabloid is news, but news nonetheless. Am I rambling? Thought so. Excuse me while I open the valve on this gas bottle a little wider.

Right, what I'm waffling about is this: I found a website that basically appears to list the Sega press releases in a sort of creepy chronological order, unwittingly documenting the death of the Dreamcast like some kind of obituary locked in time. The best bit about this is that the website isn't actually online anymore and can only be viewed by using our old friend the Way Back Machine.
I swear this blog isn't sponsored by Internet Archive by the way - I realise how often I've mentioned the thing recently but it really is an invaluable tool when trying to preserve lost Dreamcast-related stuff. Stuff the average person wouldn't give a shit about, but that us Dreamcast obsessives find totally fascinating. Most of this stuff has slipped into the past, forgotten and barely ever looked at since it was written by unknown fingers on long-lost keyboards (probably attached to a P90 with 128MB of RAM), and due to hardly anyone having the internet back at the turn of the century (yep, that's technically what it was called) I doubt many people gave much of a toss back then either. Happily, I'm here now so don't worry - I won't let this rubbish pass into antiquity without spamming your Facebook/Twitter/Reddit timeline with it first! Huzzah!

Warning. I feel it is my duty to announce here that this post is quite text heavy, so if you don't like reading stuff (reports show only around 9% of internet users actually like reading articles as opposed to sharing pictures of cats and burgers on social media), you should probably skip it. Still here? Excellent, let's go!

Bell Pottinger is a massive multi-national PR agency and has worked with many, many high profile firms in the past. They still exist today and currently work with companies like Panasonic and Fortnum & Mason. They even do stuff with governments - seriously, go and have a look at their website and the portfolio they have. It's really quite impressive...if that's your bag.
It appears that at some point in the past (more specifically 2000-2001) they also had a partnership with Sega and as such were a conduit through which major Dreamcast-related press releases were shat out onto the gaming world. I honestly can't remember what I was looking for on Way Back Machine when I stumbled across this, but here's the ghost page listing a load of press releases distributed by Bell Pottinger (via Sega, obviously) that span almost the entirety of 2001...and clearly spell out the slow strangulation of the Dreamcast.

Starting in January 2001 we have this gem:

New Sega Statement

Sega is considering a strategic reform to return the company to profit. The reform will be based on the previously announced management plan, (Oct. 27th, 2000).

Sega is planning to reform the worldwide production, sales and distribution system for Dreamcast. Although sales of Dreamcast will continue, Sega will be focussing on the software business. We are preparing a very solid Dreamcast software line-up with more than 100 titles (including third parties) to be released in the coming year.

As we have previously announced, Sega is in negotiation regarding the supply of our software to other gaming units including, Playstation2 and Game Boy Advance. As for our multi platform strategy, we are now aggressively progressing the use of the Dreamcast architecture in Set Top Boxes and other home electronics devices.

The following press releases then go on to document - in quite a lot of detail - the deals with Pace regarding the subsequently cancelled Dreamcast set-top box, and a deal with mobile phone/PDA firm Palm to bring Sega games to the platform:

Sega Integrates Dreamcast Technology into Set Top Box
as a part of its Architecture Licensing Strategy

Sega to join hands with PACE Micro Technology, PLC. to enable Dreamcast gameplay using set-top-boxes

Sega Corporation (Head office: Tokyo; President: Isao Okawa) announced today that Sega and Britain’s set-top-box developer, PACE Micro Technology, PLC, the leading company in the industry, have agreed to license-out Dreamcast technology and to jointly develop a set-top-box home gateway with built-in Dreamcast architecture. The product will be introduced to the public by PACE at roadshows, which are scheduled to take place in Britain and United States at the end of this month.

Sega will incorporate the main feature of Dreamcast, network connectivity, to diverse markets outside the gaming industry in order to expand its architecture licensing business. Set-top-boxes with built-in Dreamcast architecture, which will be Sega’s first product in this field, will have all the features of a set-top box such as broadband connection and a large capacity hard disc drive. Consumers will be able to play network games as well as view TV shows and other entertainment content using this single product, with perfect ease and freedom. This development will also allow Sega to go beyond the conventional console-dependent business and promote a new network business by providing network compatible content.
Following these there are more details on Sega's restructuring as a publisher, and then a release about the slashing of the Dreamcast's RRP to £99 in the UK:

Dreamcast R.R.P. £99.99 with immediate effect

(London, February 15, 2001): Sega Europe today announced that the award winning and universally revered gaming console, Dreamcast, will be made available at retail for £99.99 with immediate effect.

In the light of Sega’s recent new business strategy announcements, the new price point shows the company’s commitment to the Dreamcast platform for the forthcoming year. Sega of Europe will be backing the new price point with a full advertising campaign across trade, specialist and consumer media. In-store promotions will be available at retail level with all good high street and independent stores.

In unison with the new price point for Dreamcast, Sega will have over 30 titles for release during 2001. Gamers can expect to see stunning games Daytona USA, Sonic Adventure 2, Crazy Taxi 2 and Black & White.

Kazotoshi Miyake, COO of Sega Europe comments,

"The new £99.99 price point for Dreamcast is a great buy for the gaming public. Our software schedule for the next year also maintains Sega's position as the world's finest developer and confirms our status as the most consistent and innovative content providers in the gaming world."

After this there are announcements about Sega Europe's distribution deal with BigBen Interactive and further information on numerous other promotional deals with entities such as Wacky Warehouse and Sports Cafe in an effort to raise public awareness of new releases such as Daytona 2001 and Crazy Taxi 2.

There's brief respite in the damage control as the result of the 2001 Edge Magazine awards are announced, with Sega scooping a host of titles including Publisher of the Year, Game of the Year for Phantasy Star Online and Graphical Achievement with Jet Set Radio. There's even a reference to Happy Mondays dancing buffoon Bez:

20th April, 2001
Sega Europe Ltd
We’re Close to the Edge

Sega sweped the board at this year’s Edge Awards, taking the winner’s trophy in no less then six categories and runners up in a further three. The future of electronic entertainment bible held their annual awards at The Bluebird on the Kings Road.

Proceedings started swinging early with Sega claiming the flagship ‘Publisher of the Year’ award. And who’s surprised as Sega unleashed Shenmue, Phantasy Star Online, Jet Set Radio, Virtua Tennis, Metroplis Street Racer, Daytona and Virtua Tennis on to a gasping and awe struck public during the past year.

Phantasy Star Online and it’s creator’s, Sonic Team went on to dominate the ceremony, winning the coveted ‘Game of the Year’ and ‘Developer of the Year’ awards. The Edge panel declaring Phantasy Star Online as a ‘defining moment in console gaming’ and describing Sonic Team’s output as ‘standard-setting’.

The glory didn’t end there for Yuji Naka’s crew, with the gloriously demented SambaDeAmigo picking up the ‘Hardware Innovation’ award for it’s ‘Bez’ defying Maracas peripheral. Sonic Team picked up a further award for ‘Phantasy Star Online’ as it claimed the ‘Technical Acheivement’ award for ‘creating an easily accessible, visually compelling online world.’

Further Sega innovations were also rewarded in the ‘Graphical Achievement’ category as it claimed a remarkable one-two with Jet Set Radio claiming the title for it’s Cel Shading brilliance. Metropolis Street Racer claimed the runners up spot for it’s ‘insatiable attention to detail’.

The awards in full :-

Publisher of the Year – Sega
Game of the Year – Phantasy Star Online
Graphical Achievement – Jet Set Radio
Technical Achievement – Phantasy Star Online
Hardware Innovation – SambaDeAmigo
Developer of the Year – Sonic Team
Runners Up
Gameplay Innovation – Dream Dorobo
Graphical Achievement – Metropolis Street Racer
Audio Achievement – Jet Set Radio

While there's no one press release that really kills off the Dreamcast, the following communications drive home the message that Sega is moving away from the Dreamcast and toward third party publisher status.

Though the E3 2001 statements are promising - and also include the news from Peter Moore himself that Shenmue 2 is coming to the US (no really, it's in there), the final few documents on the list complete the slow transition from hardware manufacturer to the entity we know today.

E3 2001 Dreamcast Lineup
E3 2001 Sega/Nintendo Alliance
E3 2001 Sega Multi-platform Strategy

Actually, that isn't totally accurate - the Sega of early 2002 was still a major force in the gaming world, and the company's output on the Xbox, Gamecube and PS2 really shone. Granted, some of those titles started life as Dreamcast games and so there's a tinge of sadness there, but the future did look bright back in those days after the old DC was put out to pasture. Times have certainly changed though.
E3 2001, apparently...
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this little look back at some forgotten press releases. It may not have been the most visually inspiring little trip down memory lane but if you found it interesting then my work here is done. By all means go and have a good read through them - there's a lot of information there if this is the kind of thing that floats your boat. Conversely, if screenshots of Power Stone and Shenmue memes that I nicked off Google are more your bag, don't worry - normal service will be

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Cause we all know what happen to the north American version of shenmue.....