As I sat idly scrolling through my Xbox library on a lazy Saturday afternoon last weekend, looking for a nostalgic game in which to wash away the stench of the all-too-real 2020s, something struck me: there’s a flipping great selection of Dreamcast games available for the Xbox. As I bounced between downloading Crazy Taxi, Jet Set Radio and Sonic Adventure I could already hear The Offspring echoing in my brain ‘YAH YAH YAH YAH YAH!’. I felt rebellious and edgy, like I wanted to throw on a backwards New York Yankees cap, grab my skateboard and pop shove-it across the car park of my local Aldi. The nostalgia didn’t hit in the usual way, though; no, this was something special…

sega and sonic logo

Late 1999 was a fantastic time to be a teenager; The Matrix was still blowing our tiny minds, Star Wars had made its grand return to the big screen and taught us all to never be excited for anything ever again, and towards the end of the year, Sega released its hardware swansong.

Over the next eighteen months we enjoyed such revolutionary titles as Soulcalibur and Power Stone and, after narrowly avoiding destruction at the hands of the millennium bug, we were rewarded by Yu Suzuki unleashing the monolithic Shenmue on us – a game whose legacy is so strong that, despite modern games including many of its most impressive features as simple distractions (‘I can open drawers and call the police whenever I want? WHAT?!’) it still retains an incredibly special place in our hearts.

Unfortunately, it was not to last. On January 31, 2001, Sega announced that the Dreamcast would be discontinued; the console’s well-documented piracy troubles, combined with competition from the steamroller that was the PS2 and a lack of support from some of the big publishers of the time meant that Sega just couldn’t hang in there. The world mourned; tens of people would eventually lose their Phantasy Star Online friends, and our Chaos slowly perished; but ultimately, people turned away from arcadey, high scorin’ fun and towards the story-driven, immersive experiences that Sony had begun offering a generation previous. It seemed that the glory days of blue skies in games were gone, that was, until the joint efforts of Bill Gates and The Rock gave us a glimmer of hope.

When the Xbox was announced later in 2001 – only two months after the discontinuation of the Dreamcast – it didn’t exactly seem like a likely successor to Sega’s machine. Its hype was mostly built around its ability to bring PC-styled first person shooting to consoles, thanks to a combination of Halo and an almost strangely familiar controller layout. However, if one looked very, very closely something stood out – Project Gotham Racing, a successor to the Dreamcast’s brilliant Metropolis Street Racer, was an Xbox launch title – what could this mean? Probably nothing… wait, is that Sega Rally? And a new Jet Set Radio?? A Crazy Taxi sequel?! THANK YOU, DWAYNE JOHNSON!

dreamcast console

Much has been written over the years about the Xbox’s reputation as ‘Dreamcast 2’, about how Sega wanted to make the console backwards compatible with Dreamcast discs, and Microsoft’s involvement with the development of the console itself. Despite Microsoft’s refusal to make the Xbox backwards-compatible with the Dreamcast, however, the list of Sega published Xbox exclusives is filled with brilliant games like Panzer Dragoon Orta, Outrun Coast 2 Coast, and the previously overlooked Otogi, now underlooked, thanks to being developed by current industry darlings FromSoftware.

As the years rolled by, we saw fewer Xbox exclusives from Sega and many of those that did appear, despite being great, weren’t Sega IPs. Xbox Live Arcade led to some great ports of Mega Drive and Saturn titles like Streets of Rage, Fighting Vipers and the brilliant and underrated Wonder Boy series (I’m still waiting for that Miracle Warriors port, guys). Meanwhile, the Xbox 360 started to fill a weird niche, gaining exclusivity of a bunch of excellent shoot ‘em ups developed by Cave, as well as quirky JRPG Enchanted Arms and titles like Too Human – all of which felt like they could easily have released on a Sega console. Whether Sega and Microsoft’s relationship was slightly more distant or not, the Xbox still carried the DNA of the Dreamcast in its blood.

Aside from a wistful longing for the days of booting up that little grey box, listening to the aquatic ambience of the boot screen, followed by the ‘BZZZZZKRRCHH’ as it read a disc, then losing a day to House of the Dead 2, there is a considerably more post-2016 reason; one that seems like it could only have happened during an era of continual madness like the Tik Tok generation. When Microsoft announced that they were buying Zenimax for $7.5 billion dollars in August of 2020, they sent shockwaves through the games industry. The sheer depth and breadth of massive IPs now under their ownership seemed unprecedented. When news broke recently that they had purchased Activision Blizzard for just shy of $70 billion, it made the Zenimax deal look like a mere bag of shells and reignited the console wars to such a degree that the sheer nostalgia could have brought a tear to the eye of a gamer who remembers the glory days of Sega doing what Ninten-didn’t. The Activision purchase showed that Microsoft are not playing this generation – but it also quashed rumours that their next acquisition would be Sega – something I was secretly hoping for.

There’s a lot to be said for the benefits of a multifaceted battlefield when it comes to business; the more competitive an industry gets, the more advantageous to the consumer. As much as we all want more quality Xbox titles, and we want them now, no one wins if Microsoft, or any other megacorp for that matter, buys up all of the studios for themselves. If Sony begin to react in turn, by buying studios (which could be the case, following their recent Bungie acquisition) we are running the risk of entering the video game equivalent of the Fast Food Wars; only without the fear of having to eat nothing but Taco Bell for the rest of our lives. I don’t think that we’re even close to being there, yet, and I honestly believe that the Activision procurement is simply clever business on both sides, considering Blizzard’s recent high-profile issues. But the more Microsoft spends, the less money they have left to buy Space Channel 5, and I still think they should.

ikaruga xbox

At current count there are around 80 Sega published games available for the Series X|S, that’s not even counting the third-party games that, while not necessarily remaining exclusive, still carry some of that Dreamcast legacy, titles like Resident Evil: Code Veronica, Quake 3 Arena and Ikaruga. This library gives the company a serious heritage on Microsoft’s platform – or quite possibly a strong foundation on which to build a mighty blue fortress of new releases and backwards compatible titles and make the Xbox the true Dreamcast successor it always nearly was.

It could definitely be said that Microsoft acquiring Sega might be a step too far, following on from their recent money-splashing escapades; however, I believe that a company like Sega, with their utterly insane library of stone-cold classics, could benefit massively from the backing of a megabucks corporation like MS. Big Phil likes to tell us what a huge fan he is of games like Crimson Skies and Mech Assault, but imagine if he poured some of that passion and cash-ion into an open world Golden Axe RPG or a Sega Rally with the expertise of a studio like Playground Games helping out, and we all know everyone wants that Skies of Arcadia remaster.

All of this daydreaming may just be wishful thinking, and maybe I’m wrong and it is better for the industry if Sega stays independent. However, the recent, and somewhat overlooked, announcement of Microsoft and Sega partnering up to help produce what Sega calls a number of ‘Super Games’ by utilising Microsoft’s Azure technology, coupled with the (possibly temporary) exclusivity Football Manager 2022 (one of Sega’s biggest titles currently) means that we could be looking at a sort of healthy-middle ground, wherein Microsoft adopts Sega as a sort of step-child that it wants to send off to university and watch it grow and develop into a success with an identity of its own, rather than absorbing them, like The Thing, and creating an indistinguishable Microsega alien that eats dogs.

It might still concern some people to see Microsoft influencing the industry so freely just by opening its wallet, but I think it would be a tragedy for a company with a history like Sega to not have the resources to utilise their legacy to the fullest. Besides, hedgehogs are nearly extinct and we should all be playing our part to prevent that.

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dreamcast
dreamcast
4 months ago

SEGA does what Xdon’t

Lenticular Leo
Lenticular Leo
4 months ago

You cannot be a buyer without there being a seller.

And SEGA is not American and has absolutely no reason to be trapped by an aging single platform like Xbox which would limit its independence and freedom.

SEGA is a completely different company to Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony, with its own corporate philosophy, culture and way of doing things.

Look what Microsoft did to Rare, effectively destroyed one of the finest semi-independent second party studios in the industry.

So keep the hugely unrealistic Yank Doodle custom of ‘hostile corporate takeovers’ to the clown playgrounds of America.

It ain’t ever happening, get tf over it.

Hitrax
Hitrax
4 months ago

Who tf writes this trash?

SEGA is SEGA, end of, and it will remain SEGA, SEGA will always survive, so people (mostly ignorant Yanks) need to stay out of the discussion because SEGA is not one of hem, it is not a Yank company, Microsoft is.
And Xbox is in no way a successor to Dreamcast.

Hedgelord
Hedgelord
Reply to  Hitrax
4 months ago

Whut … Sega literally helped build Xbox Microsoft helped build the Dreamcast. Xbox was originally.going to be backwards compatible with Dreamcast as well. Might as well call the Xbox the Dreamcast 2. It’s MORE than a spiritual successor. Sega’s chihiro arcade boards can literally run Xbox code.

Microsoft buying Sega would be one of the most wholesome purchases.

Hitrax
Hitrax
Reply to  Hedgelord
1 month ago

@Hedgelord,

You’re entirely wrong, it would be a disaster for SEGA, what you’re basically saying is that you think SEGA should no longer exist in any shape or form and losing it’s independence would be the first step to Sega no longer existing as an entity.

Also, Microsoft did not help build the Dreamcast, they supplied it with a custom version of Windows, which was the Windows CX ship, as Sega was looking for off the shelf parts, Microsoft was just one of the four main companies it paid for, the other was NEC with the SH2 and Videologic and Lockheed Martin at one point, so Microsoft was a bit player at best as far as Sega was concerned.

Microsoft also supplied and offered it entirely for their own benefit, it was basically their trojan horse to tap into the industry and scope it out by learning how it works from the upper echelons.

It’s daft and moot point to make, might as well say that SGI built the Nintendo 64 and not Nintendo.

As for Sega building the Xbox, Microsoft is a Yank company, Sega isn’t a Yank company, most foreign ‘Non-American’ companies do not contribute to American made products (due to the culture of the ethnic Yanks ‘hostile corporate take overs culture – a by product of thr ethnic USian Yanks national history of ‘Manifest Destiny’), Xbox was clearly made originally for Yanks in mind, from the oversized ridiculous shaped Xbox Duke controllers and the unit itself, very un-Sega looking, so what are you basing this on? That’ll be the first time I’ve ever heard such a claim as the Xbox being a Sega creation to that degree.

The simple fact is that Sega was ripped off by Americans all its entire time operating within America, from the pre-Kalinski CEO who originally didn’t even want anything to do with Sonic (the actual company mascot), to Kalinske changing Sonic to a more all ages kid friendly character and changing his original vision of who was meant to be so that it would cater to a Yank audience in the same way that Mario did for Nintendo when Sonic was designed to be the complete opposite from Mario as much as possible.

To Kalinske never even bothering to make the Saturn a success in the US because he was still bitter about not getting his way by making Sega a satellite of Sony in America and Sega not using the fuzzy SGI chipset because it went against the Sega approach of converting arcade hits direct to Sega owners homes via direct conversions (as all Sega home consoles are based on the original Sega arcade consoles for that purpose).

To Bernie Stolar and his disastrous handling of Saturn after moving from Sony to Sega when Kalinske left in 1996, where he basically just wanted to wind the Satun down as fast as possible in America so they could move onto developing the next American Yank made failure (like the Nomad and 32X before it) and make that ‘his success story’, which became the Blackbelt (as it was prototyped) – before Sega overruled it and made the better non-American made Katana (previously known internally as Planet S, and then Dural), before eventually being re-named as the Dreamcast.

Though where Kalinske didn’t even bother with the Saturn due to his bitterness, Bernie Stolar basically put the last nil in the coffin for the Saturn in America and its chances of ever being profitable for Sega.

Of course, not that Bernie had to worry about being accountable, once the damage was done, he set the Dreamcast’s launch price in America to $199 instead of the $249 that SEGA wanted, as a result, Sega lost around $50 for every Dreamcast sold on manufacturing costs by taking the costs themselves instead of moving that extra $50 to the consumers individually.

Then he left Sega was fat severance paycheck and a cushy job waiting for him at Mattel by December 1999, another American looking out for his own self interests to the detriment of the company as a whole.

And then of course, Charles Bellfield and Peter More came in after the Dreamcast’s launch, during this time, where the damage was done by Bernie at a hardware level, American consumers damaged Dreamcast on a software level, by pirating Dreamcast games, when software sales really did count to offset the manufacturing hardware costs.
They both knew Microsoft was coming in with what would become the Xbox, and they wanted Dreamcast out of the way by then to make Xbox’s entrence as smooth as possible, they both had cushy jobs at Microsoft waiting for then, and lo and behold, that’s what happened – Peter Moor did indeed join Microsoft at their Xbox fascist not long after being at Sega, Charles Bellfield passed away before this point.

But before Xbox even launched, they were both at SEGA’s HQ with that document called ‘Manifesto of the Future’ to convince Sega to drop the Dreamcast.

In conclusion, America was the worst performing market for Sega overall, Sega has never been a big success there besides the brief period of the Genesis which last about 3 years inbetween Nintendo’s N.E.S. and the launch of the S.N.E.S. which eventually did catch up with Sega, though these few years of the early 90s completely changed the entire industry in the American side and broke Nintendo’s stranglehold that it has since never recovered, but it was a double edged sword, it also allowed other competitors in that new space created to surpass and take Sega’s position.

SegaFan
SegaFan
4 months ago

Nice article. But as a life-long Sega fan, I don’t want to see a buyout happen. I want Sega to keep its independence, although the MS-Sega partnership would be very much welcomed.

Also, since Sega is a core part of SegaSammy (and I pretty much doubt MS would want to buy the whole thing, hotels and casinos included) it probably won’t ever be bought out by anyone. Hopefully they can keep making great games as they have for the past couple years.

Hedgelord
Hedgelord
Reply to  SegaFan
4 months ago

Okay

1) Phil Spencer is in charge now. We all know what happened to Rare and lionhead….with Phil devs are not only able to keep their independence but they’re able to work on the things that their companies let them work on before. They no longer have to keep pumping out cash grab games. They can be creative and make new IPs.

2) It’s funny that you bring up sammy….in 2021 for the first time in what 19 years… Sega actually split from Sammy. They’re still the same company but they’ve divided their gaming/amusement business and made it separate from their entertainment business.

Here’s the info detailing the restructure: http://fs.magicalir.net/tdnet/2021/6460/20210129451939.pdf

Sammy is more than likely prepping to sell Sega off….I just wonder to whom since American companies can’t purchase Japanese companies. I just hope it isn’t Sony. That would be a nightmare. Nintendo or microsoft would be best. But I doubt if Nintendo can afford them.

Hitrax
Hitrax
Reply to  Hedgelord
1 month ago

@Hedgelord

You’re entirely wrong, it would be a disaster for SEGA, what you’re basically saying is that you think SEGA should no longer exist in any shape or form and losing it’s independence would be the first step to Sega no longer existing as an entity.

Also, Microsoft did not help build the Dreamcast, they supplied it with a custom version of Windows, which was the Windows CE ship, as Sega was looking for ‘off-the-shelf’ parts, Microsoft was just one of the four main companies it purchased product parts from, the other was NEC with the SH4 and Videologic and Lockheed Martin at one point, so Microsoft was a bit-player in this assembling of Sega-orchestrated Dreamcast development at best as far as Sega was concerned.

Microsoft also offered and supplied it entirely for their own benefit, it was basically their trojan horse to tap into the industry and scope it out by learning how it works from the upper echelons.

It’s daft and moot point to make, might as well say that SGI built the Nintendo 64 and not Nintendo.

As for Sega building the Xbox, Microsoft is a Yank company, Sega isn’t a Yank company, most foreign ‘Non-American’ companies do not contribute to American made products (due to the culture of the ethnic Yanks ‘hostile corporate take over’ culture – likely a by product of their USian national history based on ‘Manifest Destiny’), Xbox was clearly made originally for Yanks in mind, from the original ridiculously shaped Xbox Duke controllers to the ugly main unit itself, very un-Sega looking, so what are you basing this on?
That’ll be the first time I’ve ever heard such a claim as the Xbox being a Sega creation to that degree.

The simple fact is, Sega was ripped off by Americans all its entire time operating within US, I can provide many examples of this, from the pre-Kalinski CEO (Michael Katz) who originally didn’t even want anything to do with Sonic (the actual company mascot) from his tenure from Octobert 1989 to October 1990.

To Kalinske changing Sonic to an even more all-ages ‘kid-friendly’ varient and changing the original vision of his personality type so that it would cater better to a Yank audience in the same way for them that Mario did for Nintendo in America, when the whole original point of Sonic was that he was designed to be the complete opposite from Mario as much as possible.

To Kalinske barely even bothering to make the Saturn a success in the US like with the Mega Drive (Genesis) there, because he was still bitter about not getting his way at making Sega a satellite of Sony in America, and Sega not using the fuzzy SGI chipset he had in mind because it went against the Sega approach of converting arcade hits direct to Sega owners homes via direct conversions (as all Sega home consoles are based on the original Sega arcade consoles for that purpose), of course, that would be a foreign concept for the Americans to understand by then, because their arcades were long in decline there, so it was yet another example of Americans cultural indifference, i.e., thinking only about things only from an American point of view, even if the Ameeican view was entirely irrelevant.

To Bernie Stolar and his disastrous handling of the Saturn in America, after moving from Sony to Sega when Kalinske left in 1996, where he basically just wanted to wind the Satun down as fast as possible in America so they could move onto developing the next American Yank made failure (like the Nomad and 32X before it) and make that ‘his success story’, which became the Blackbelt (as it was prototyped) – before Sega overruled it and made the better non-American made Katana (previously known internally as Planet S, and then Dural), before eventually being re-named as the Dreamcast.

Though where Kalinske didn’t even bother with the Saturn due to his bitterness, Bernie Stolar basically put the last nil in the coffin for the Saturn in America and its chances of ever being profitable for Sega.
Of course, not that Bernie had to worry about being accountable, once the damage was done, he spread this onto the Dreamcast by setting the Dreamcast’s launch RRP price in America to $199 instead of the $249 that SEGA wanted, as a result, Sega lost around $50 for every Dreamcast sold on manufacturing costs by taking the costs themselves instead of moving that extra $50 to the consumers individually, quite a loss considering how successful the Dreamcast launch actually was, shattering all previous console records up to that point, so it became a double edged sword, even when Sega did well in America at certain points, it was still a loss in another way, the more units Sega sold, the more money they lost, because of this idiotic move by Stolar.

Not that he had to personally worry of course, he left Sega with his fat severance paycheck and another cushy job waiting for him at Mattel by December 1999, yet another American looking out for his own self interests to the detriment of the company as a whole.

And then of course, Charles Bellfield and Peter More came in after the Dreamcast’s launch, during this time, where the damage was done by Bernie at a hardware level, American consumers damaged Dreamcast on a software level, by pirating Dreamcast games, when software sales really did count to offset the manufacturing hardware costs.

A series of dumb decisions occurred during this time in other areas, such as the planned Dreamcast Streets of Rage 4 project being cancelled due to American influence because staff at the American subsidiary “couldn’t understand it” – despite how successful an IP it was in America for the Mega Drive (Genesis in the US).
And Peter Moore cancelling the native Dreamcast release of Shenmue II, a key title of the Dreamcast, that could have served as one of its swan song releases there that year, because he wanted to preserve it for the launch of Xbox in two whole years time – an inferior port of the superior Dreamcast original, with even worse horrendous bad Yankee English voice acting than the original (the less said about Joy the better, Ren sounded like a brat and no where as cool as in the Dreamcast version).
It was a decision that Moore personally made.

Both Peter Moore and Charles Bellfield knew Microsoft was coming in with what would become the Xbox, and by that point, they wanted Dreamcast out of the way by then to make Xbox’s entrence as smooth as possible, they both had cushy jobs at Microsoft waiting for then, and lo and behold, that’s what happened – Peter Moor did indeed join Microsoft at their Xbox fascist not long after being at Sega, Charles Bellfield passed away before this point.

But before Xbox even launched, they were both at SEGA’s HQ with that document called ‘Manifesto of the Future’ to convince Sega to drop the Dreamcast.

In conclusion, America was the worst performing market for Sega overall, Sega has never been a big success there besides the brief period of the Genesis which last about 3 years inbetween Nintendo’s N.E.S. and the launch of the S.N.E.S. which eventually did catch up with Sega, though these few years of the early 90s completely changed the entire industry in the American side and broke Nintendo’s stranglehold that it has since never recovered, but it was a double edged sword, it also allowed other competitors in that new space created to surpass and take Sega’s position.