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Showing posts with label Unreleased Games. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Unreleased Games. Show all posts

The hunt for Premier Eleven - the lost Atomiswave soccer title

As we've detailed here in the recent past, the Sammy Atomiswave is a gold mine of interesting and lesser known titles that are now playable on the Dreamcast. This is thanks to talented Dreamcast community members such as megavolt85, yzb and others; and is possible in part due to the hardware similarities between the prematurley cancelled arcade system and the Dreamcast on which it is based.

Although the vast majority of the games released on Atomiswave have now been ported to the Dreamcast, there still remain several 'lost' titles that are either in the hands of private collectors; or really are lost to the annals of gaming history. One such game is the now almost legendary Chicago 1929/The Roaring Twenties - a racing game set in prohibition era America. Another of these lost 'holy grail' Atomiswave titles is a football/soccer game developed by Dimps Corporation and titled Premier Eleven.

Source: The Arcade Flyer Archive

As is well documented, the Dreamcast's stable of soccer titles never really hit the heights of titles on contemporary systems, with PlayStation, Nintendo and Xbox owners all having superior kick ball experiences at their disposal. But what of Premier Eleven then? Details are relatively scant on just how good this game could have been, but the small amount of video available online shows a Virtua Striker style experience with some outstanding animation and excellent visuals. Regardless, I for one would love to sample Premier Eleven simply out of pure curiosity (and my love of soccer games); and who knows - Premier Eleven could be the top tier football game Dreamcast owners have been waiting for.

Alas, that's unlikely to happen. Not least because Premier Eleven was never relased. Or was it? Here's where things get interesting. Over on Dreamcast Talk, there's a thread all about a Premier Eleven arcade board coming up for sale on eBay. The thread was started back in January 2021 by user Ro Magnus Larsson and the eBay auction is still live, with the seller 'neotropolis' asking for $15,000 in return for a 'fully working, 100% complete' example of Premier Eleven. The listing goes on to claim: "To my knowledge, this game only exists in the form you see here; a true holy-grail centerpiece for any arcade-gaming collector!"

What would appear to back this claim up is that the only footage of this game actually running comes from the previous owner of the Premier Eleven board up for auction. Upon learning of the video, several members of the Dreamcast Talk forum commented on the upload pleading for owner 'bowser 123' to dump the rom, but they responded saying that they'd already sold the board to the person who now has it listed on eBay: "I made this video because I sold the game for USA, specifically for an ebay seller called neotropolis, I think he is still selling it for a fortune, even if I wanted to make the dump I couldn't because I don't have it anymore."

So end of story right? There is one known copy of Premier Eleven for the Atomiswave. The person who owned it made a video to show it working, and then sold it. The buyer now has it listed on eBay for $15,000 and it's unlikely that the rom will be dumped unless a super wealthy Dreamcast fan buys it and releases the rom online out of the goodness of their own heart. Well, not quite.

There is some proof that this copy of Premier Eleven is not in fact the only known version out there. First, back in 2017 when we covered the discovery of a dev kit containing previously unseen Chicago 1929 assets, friend of the Junkyard and MSR authority RJAY63 commented: "I actually played Chicago 1929 at Southsea Island Leisure Arcade (Clarence Pier, Southsea, UK) circa 2005. They briefly became a test site for Sega Amusements with an Outrun 2 SP set-up and quite a few Atomiswave titles. Only played it once but I wasn't very impressed so I'm not surprised it got canned."

The key information here is the Southsea Island Leisure Arcade in Hampshire, UK. And furthermore that this location was a test site for Sega Amusements back in the 2000s. This could be written off purely as a baseless rumour, if not for the further evidence backing this up in the form of photos. Photos of a Premier Eleven arcade cabinet running at Southsea Island Leisure Arcade, circa 2004:

Dreamcast Talk forum member Baseley0o frequented the same arcade as RJAY63, and also took photos of the machines at the time, stating: "This game deffo went out into circulation/arcades. I took these snaps at my local arcade Clarence Pier, Southsea (UK) not too long after Atomiswave came out and one of them was Premier Eleven. I'm unsure if the 2004 date my camera shows is accurate. I thought maybe 2003 but it's a while back now! The arcade in question wasn't a test site for anything that I recall, though did have the odd surprise like these."

So what does all this mean? To me, it points to the very real possibility that there is more than one single copy of Premier Eleven in existence. That there is a small chance that somewhere - possibly even in the UK - the Premier Eleven Atomiswave cartridge in final, working form exists. And this is very exciting, for various reasons - not least for video game history preservation.

All of this would not have been possible without the investigation of the Dreamcast Talk forum members and people like RAY63 and Baseley0o; but there's still a lot of work to be done to discover the fate of the Premier Eleven game that was playable in Southsea in the mid 2000s. 

To this end, I have contacted Sega Amusements to ask if they have any records of what happened to Premier Eleven and if they can help to shed any light on this mystery. Likewise, for what it's worth I've emailed Dimps via their corporate website. Furthermore, Southsea Island Leisure Arcade is still in operation to this day, and according to the UK Government's Companies House website, the same directors who ran the location in the mid 2000s are still in charge. It's probably a long shot that they would even remember the Premier Eleven machine being placed in the arcade (or indeed what happened to it), but I've also reached out to them, too. If this article can help to shine even a slither of light into the darkness and assist in the release of this long lost Atomiswave title, then all the better.

For now though, I guess waiting for a reply from Sega Amusements or Southsea Island is our best bet. Unless anyone wants to cough up $15,000 for the copy on eBay...


Update

After I published this article, I took a trip down to Clarence Pier in Southsea and located the very arcade in which the photographs above were taken. Naturally, in the intervening decades since Baseley0o took the photos, the arcade has been completely redecorated and there relatively few recognisable video arcades on offer; much of the floor space now being taken up by gambling machines and toy grabbers. 

I'm not sure what I was expecting really - maybe a faint glimmer of hope that the passage of time had somehow avoided this little corner of Hampshire and that the Premier Eleven Atomiswave machine might still be there in some forgotten corner, covered in dust and be happily chiming away to itself in attract mode. Alas, this wasn't the case - the machine had obviously long since been removed. I asked a member of staff but they had no recollection of it either, again this is not surprising considering how long ago the photos were taken.

In a slightly more bountiful turn of events, I did recieve a response from Sega Amusements, with several members of the team responding to my emails. The most interesting reply came from Martin Riley, the International Sales Manager:


Hello Tom,   

Yes, actually I was the one who placed those games into the Southsea arcade, but it was later than 2000.   

I was the Sales Manager at Sammy Europe based in London at the time that we launched Atomiswave into the UK. In your picture you can see the standard modular version first launched, and then the squarer box cabinet which was the deluxe version for the larger arcade. 

Premier Eleven was indeed a game we looked to launch in UK market and only really tested, but it didn’t go into wide circulation. However, I’m not 100% sure it was the only prototype. This was from either Japan or USA Sammy studios and was supposed to be an on-line version with servers in each country, but was a little before its time and wasn’t popular, or worked as planned, if I remember correctly, and in the end was never continued. So, you are right that there are very few of these cartridges around as it was never on general release in the UK.

I hope this helps.

Martin Riley

International Sales Manager


This update doesn't really add a great deal to the quest to locate other copies of Premier Eleven, although it is cool that we managed to track down the very person who put the Premier Eleven cabinet into that arcade in Southsea.