The first is piracy probably didn’t lead to the failure of the Dreamcast. They didn’t sell many of the consoles... if it was a piracy issue then you’d expect they’d sell many consoles, but few games (the line up of games was really good).
The article mentions Ikaruga a lot. It worth noting that Ikaruga for the Dreamcast was released a year after the Dreamcast was cancelled. They probably weren’t hugely concerned about piracy at this point.
From memory it was an easy port for them, because the arcade board that Ikaruga ran on is also the same as the Dreamcast.
Sega led to the failure of the Dreamcast. They had failed fans with the SegaCD. Released the 32X as a "bridge" between the 16bit and 32bit consoles (then promptly abandoned it). They released the Saturn with almost no fanfare in the US, and with last minute architectural hacks to make it pass as a 3D console (just barely).
By the time the Dreamcast came out, people were just tired of Sega's shit.
Ironically the N64 was a more interesting console than the PS1 and the Dreamcast was more interesting than the PS2; but most people didn’t care. Sony really understood what the lion share of gamers wanted - or perhaps it was just good fortune to step into the market when the other giants misstepped?
Ironically Sony tried to work with both Sega and Nintendo and got rejected by both after investing substantial time on a collaboration. It’s funny how quickly the market turned.
What ultimately did it in was the PS2 -- a superior console in virtually every respect, released just two years later (in the USA).
I beg to differ. Graphically it was, but it should be given it was two years younger. Sound quality it was too but honestly very few people would have noticed on the typical set up of that era.
However the Dreamcast has 4 controller ports built into the console itself, rumble packs from day one, a portable gaming unit (ok, that was a bit of a novelty), support for using your save games on actual arcades, easy way of sharing save games, online gaming (a good 4 years before the competition too!), downloadable content (which was typically free back then).
The Dreamcast was easily the more interesting console out of the two of them. If the reputation of the two companies had been equal then the DC would likely have won out. But the PS1 was already a proven success and Sega had messed their fans about with all the failed Megadrive /Genesis addons. So a great many gamers didn’t even give the Dreamcast a chance. In a sense, their expectations became a self fulfilling prophecy.
I was gutted when the DC failed. No console before nor since has really captured my imagination quite as much as the Dreamcast did. But ultimately I wasn’t surprised either because Sony had already won even before releasing the PS2. Few people cared about Sega (or Nintendo) at that point.
Of course, Sega pretty much invented this PR game with the Genesis and "blast processing" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sega_Genesis#North_American_sa...), so in that respect they were kind of hoist by their own petard...
That reminds me of the hype around the PS3's cell processor. There was a lot of videos comparing the graphics between the PS3 and the Xbox360 that showed really no difference between the two. I don't know enough about processor architectures to know how awesome it really was. However, I imagine that a game studio making a game for both platforms would use the least common denominator of both consoles, causing them to look the same. Also, it's probably in the best interest of the studio for a game to have a consistent look across platforms.
I wonder if the cell processor was really as awesome as it was made out to be. Going by what one heard, you'd think Sony was losing money from manufacturing costs with each console sold. Then again, maybe it's true in a sense. While the PS3 was $600 and had bluray movie playback as some small feature, bluray players cost around a $1000. It was crazy to see people eyeing those things, considering buying them.
I think Nintendo are the exception to the rule there though.
It was still shitty of them (and I wish illegal) to remove a feature, but now it makes sense. I wish they had limited the removal to only units not yet sold though. It's not like people that were using their PS3s for supercomputing would run the update anyway. It would only be those that were playing games and were restricted without running the latests updates.
The argument I was proposing was that the mindshare was in anticipation of the PS2 because of how the PS1 vs Saturn war panned out. Gamers can be loyal pack animals and Sega had already lost their fan base before the DC was even released thanks to the success of the PS1.
> Dreamcast with ridiculous promises that really didn't pan out.
I don’t get your point there. Everything the DC promised to do it delivered on. Technically speaking it was a success - very much ahead of its time in a great many ways. It just didn’t sell.
That's not really true though because the requirements for online gaming were also lower back then. I agree people didn't have broadband but the DC's online games worked fine with a dialup modem and in fact it used a slower modem than was common in PCs at that era (33k baud as opposed to 56k) that people also used for online gaming.
> Most people never went to arcades (isn't the point of a console that you don't need to)
Consoles were always intended as a compliment to arcades, not a flat out replacement for them. Plus Sega often had a Crazy Taxi (or whatever) cabinet in student bars and other trendy places as well as the usual places dedicated for gaming.
> 4 ports is nice but an adapter fixes that easily,
I agree it's hardly innovative but it's yet another thing you need to buy. Another expense and another device you need to have the foresight of owning before your mates pop round with a handful of controllers. So I think the real question should be: "why the hell didn't the PS2 have 4 ports when every other console of that generation did (Gamecube, Xbox, Dreamcast)?"
The thing I remember as a kid was the hype for the PS2 building right as the Dreamcast was released. This was still in the era where most families would only have one console, so they ended up saving their money aiming for a PS2 instead of a Dreamcast.
I think if the Dreamcast was released sooner or later it would have done better than it did. Either before the PS2 hype, or closer to the PS2 so the hype died down a bit.
This is correct. In the gaming space this is called "attach rate". Consoles tend to have higher attach rates than handhelds (because, for instance, multiple children in a family own a handheld but share software, while a console is typically one-per-family). Attach rates generally go up over time because the geometric mean of owner-weeks generally goes up over time -- there are some exceptions when hardware sales take off as a rocket like in the first 2-3 years of the Nintendo Wii.
When Dreamcast software stopped in the US around 2003, it had an attach rate of about 4 according to NPD figures, which is fairly standard for a console that had been around for 2 years.
That's not to say there wasn't widespread piracy or whatever, it just means that as you note we don't see an obvious absence of software sales where there ought be software sales.
If memory serves me... and it doesn't always terribly well, but still... I think you can make the even stronger argument that by the time the piracy was widespread and convenient, the console had already visibly failed. It took a while to get to the point where you could torrent an arbitrary game, burn it, and play it. You can tell that a console is going to fail to another before the last game is shipped. The PS2 was clearly going to crush the Dreamcast before it had literally passed it in numbers. I don't think the Dreamcast's fate would have materially changed if it was pirate-proof.
I ended up owning both, but I got more mileage out of my DC that year or two I owned it then I did from the PS2 for a while (I don't think the PS2 really hit its stride until the 2nd year it was out).
Especially so, given that the BitTorrent protocol hadn't even been designed when the Dreamcast was officially discontinued.
The big issue is that so many people were still on modems back then that downloading a DC game wasn't easy. Plus public WiFi wasn't really a thing yet. It was the kids on college campuses who were connected to brand new and shiny Ethernet networks that really went nuts.
That said, I've always seen the original Xbox as the spiritual successor to the Dreamcast.
In what sense? The architecture between these two consoles is IMHO quite different.
Then again, Sega's main initial portwork was focused on the GameCube. The Dreamcast games Sonic Adventure 2, Ikaruga, Crazy Taxi, Phantasy Star Online and Skies of Arcadia were ported to the GameCube and not to the Xbox. They also brought originally-for-Dreamcast titles Super Monkey Ball, Beach Spikers and Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg to the GameCube exclusively.
Super Monkey Ball was on the Xbox too. I was very happy when I discovered that, and even more so when it was playable on the X360.
"Unlike Windows Embedded Standard, which is based on Windows NT, Windows Embedded Compact uses a different hybrid kernel."
I am also pretty sure that Windows CE's architecture is quite different from the OS running on the XBox, but cannot give a quotable source on this. At least for the Xbox 360 and XBox One, I am pretty sure that I have read that their kernel is actually not so dissimilar from the kernel used in the NT line. The difference between the Windows NT line and the XBox 360/One OS rather lies in the software running above the kernel.
The OG Xbox kernel is an extremely heavily stripped down and modified Win2k kernel. No support for user mode, multiple address spaces, or more than one running process. No win32 in the kernel. USB, sound, and the vast majority of the graphics driver are statically linked into the process executable.
That's a rather persistent myth. The project that became the Xbox originated from an entirely different division within MS. The team in the Windows CE group that worked on the Dreamcast SDK actually had their own separate proposal for a non-x86 based console but MS chose to move forward with the Xbox proposal instead. IIRC, very, very few of the people on the Dreamcast SDK team moved over to Xbox when they were disbanded.
Indeed, if that'd be really the case then Sony's PSX should have failed 10 times over because it was the original "piracy console" due to the use of CD-Rom vs cartridges.
Sure, the burners and blanks used to be expensive in the beginning, but it didn't take long for prices to fall.
Also didn't help that the PSX was region locked, so many people chipped their consoles to be able to play releases from other regions, which then also allowed the console to play pirated/burned PSX games.
During my childhood, growing up in the 90s in Germany, I don't remember anybody owning a PSX that was not chipped, some would literally make a business out of selling burned PSX games on the schoolyard, bringing binders full of games and printed lists with all of their "offerings".
I had a large group of friends who got the Dreamcast right when it came out. I still remember many of the commercials touting the AI of the console and the end of their commercials showing the light on the op of the console glowing with the voice over "it's thinking".
Everybody in our group wanted it because the Dreamcast touted the ability of the machine to think and gone were the days on NFL games were you could run one play over and over and the game would just let you. Here was a console who advertised this wasn't going to happen, that it was actively learning.
Huge disappointment when we all realized we had been had by a marketing campaign that touted a functionality the games and console could never have. After the first month and realizing all the AI claims were totally bogus, my whole group of friends didn't buy another game.
Once the PS2 came out, that was it for Dreamcast.
The interesting thing is I've seen a ton of articles about the history of the Dreamcast lately and none of them mention this very large marketing campaign of essentially lying about the capabilities of the console.
The turn of the millennium was a weird time for gaming.
The dreamcast was forward thinking in many ways (Built in Modem, MMO console games, 3D graphics that could rival arcades) but the lack of a real system selling game was very noticeable.
> if it was a piracy issue then you’d expect they’d sell many consoles, but few games
This is very true, every time I go to south america I still see street vendors selling PS2 bootleg games!
The only RPG I can think of was Phantasy Star Online. It was down for at least a decade when we downloaded games.
I look at PlayStation, and it was RPGs galore. And while there was shovelware, there were all sorts of games from every genre.
The Saturn was Sega's best-selling console outside of Japan. It did terribly in America, mostly because they screwed-over retailers and developers with a surprise early release. Some retailers would straight-up not carry it, American third-party support was pulled, and this all carried forward to the Dreamcast. Sega of Japan was undermining Sega of America and there's a whole tragic story behind it. The Sega of America CEO, who helped the Genesis be successful in the US, quit over this nonsense.
As far as not hacking it, it was so easy to mod the CD drive to play back-ups (1 wire and a ribbon cable) - there probably wasn't much incentive.
One thing I lament in hindsight was that the CD's we burned were not GD-ROMs, and so the backups or ROMs we burned often had their assets compressed in order to fit on the smaller disk.
Further pity is that even 15ish years later, many people in the ROM collection scene are still relying on those early, compressed CDI rips that were made over a decade ago. The higher-fidelity GDI dumps are comparatively rare and hard-to-find, especially with such reliable repositories as Emuparadise shutting down. If I had the proper equipment, I would probably try to make proper GDI dumps of my collection.
The music is one of the most memorable parts of MvC2. It pretty much sat as the capstone of a decade of fusion jazz soundtracks that seemed to dominate Japanese games, fighting games and Capcom games in particular.
Once upon a time I had a stomach virus. The virus left me running to the bathroom frequently, and at its worst stage left me hunched over in the bathroom for the better part of an hour. Additionally, the only separation between the adjacent bedroom and the bathroom was not even a proper door as much as a stall door--it was very easy to hear whatever was going on in the next room.
During this time, my younger brother was in the next room playing MvC2 on the Dreamcast. My brother had this annoying habit of just leaving the system on and walking away when he went to go do something else, rather than turning off the system or the TV. So he did as he usually does and walked away after a match, leaving the game running at the versus menu character selection screen. And so for the next 40 minutes, I was trapped in the bathroom, too nauseated to move, and listening to this on repeat:
It was after this incident that I decided to change MvC2's soundtrack.
> The mashed potatoes problem was solved when a Katana SDK (the official Sega SDK for the Dreamcast) was stolen by the hacking team "Utopia" in late 1999. It turned out that the scrambler was nothing more than "security through obscurity".
I doubt this was security through obscurity. Most likely, it was hard (or impossible) to burn a GD-ROM for internal testing. Thus, this mechanism was probably used to burn games onto CDR for internal testing.
I haven't seen anything that explains how scrambling and descrambling work; but it's important to understand that, at a certain level, all encryption is "security by obscurity." It just comes down to how easy or hard it is to figure out how to bypass. In this case, hacking to get ahold of the scrambler is no different than getting ahold of the private part of a key pair.
> SEGA quickly released a DC v2 which disabled MIL-CD altogether but unfortunately damage had been done. With revenues plummeting and the PS2 ogre coming out, developers abandoned the Dreamcast and SEGA retired from the hardware manufacturing business in order to focus on software.
I also wonder if disabling this system was "the straw that broke the camel's back?" If I were a developer and it suddenly became much harder to test, I'd probably think very critically if it's "worth it" to jump through so many hoops for such a small market.
This isn’t true at all. There is a very significant fundamental difference between obscure information and secret information. Obscure information is by its nature known to many people. There are likely hundreds (if not thousands) of engineers who had access to the code or design documents that describe the scrambler. Information about it was probably given to sales people and representatives at other companies, and transmitted insecurely over a variety of communication mediums. Compare that to secret information, which is known only to the parties using it to authenticate.
Perhaps you could argue that in this case, security by obscurity was not the reason that the system failed, but that isn’t the same as saying all encryption isn’t security by obscurity.
Not at all. Sega had a GD-ROM burner that could be attached to the Katana devkits that worked with Sega-issued media. Remember, there were no hard drives in consoles back in those days so getting the disc layout right so that the game had reasonable loading performance was important.
My memory is admittedly a bit fuzzier here but I also seem to recall that these burned GD-ROMs were normally only bootable on the devkit but could be run on a retail Dreamcast by using a special "system disk" beforehand.
Sure, I guess, in a sort of pedantic sense, but the point is that a robust cryptosystem must have the "obscure" information as a dynamic input variable, like an encryption key -- if the key is discovered, you discard it and use a new one, and the cryptosystem as a whole is still intact. Moreover, discovery of my key doesn't make your encrypted data any less secure.
If, however, the obscure information is a static, integral component like this scrambling algorithm, then discovery means the entire system is now compromised.
If so, it would be one of the only cases I know of where IP piracy led to financial ruin of the content creator.
The story how the Gamecube was cracked is also quite interesting, ironically also related to SEGA. The way they cracked it was with the GCN port of Phantasy Star Online by them. The first thing that game did when it connected to the SEGA server was to download a binary patch and execute it. People figured out they could just DNS spoof the server and run pretty much anything they wanted.
You needed a pretty specific set of stuff for that to work, though. You needed an early version of PSO as well as a Gamecube broadband adapter. By pure chance I had that back in the day and I remember getting this to work, attaching the gamecube to my pc with a long crossover cable between two rooms, trying to figure out the network settings and running the spoofing software. Good fun.
I guess you were happy with your Wii and DS.
Sony and Nintendo have faced huge piracy and it never killed them.
The Dreamcast sold well at release and some time after (in North America at least), however Sega's financial situation was bad they didn't have loads of cash like Sony or probably even Nintendo at the time.
The system was selling well but not well enough for Sega to recoup it's financials.
Also EA boycotted the system completely and was not publishing games for it. Add to that the hype of the PS2.
Just a perfect storm for Sega, even though they really made good console correcting a lot of their earlier mistakes.
Moore stated that the Dreamcast would need to sell 5 million units in the U.S. by the end of 2000 in order to remain a viable platform, but Sega ultimately fell short of this goal with some 3 million units sold.
The Gamecube sold about 3.8 million first year and the PS2 9Million something first year
In contrast the other consoles in that era Xbox, PlayStation, etc. all needed hardware modifications in order to run copied content.
Sidestepping the "Mechacon" (the DVD driver chip) happened a few years later, modifying ISO to mimic a "video" DVD and using a "loader" resident in RAM...
It wasn't hard, just getting the timing down.
I wouldn't know anything about that. But I did love the original Splinter Cell and Mechassault games. 007 Agent Under Fire was also halfway decent.
You wouldn't want to lose your progress though, so I'd also suggest picking up an Action Replay so you can back up your game saves to PC. Just in case you lose your XBox or something.
If you need instructions, you could search `splinter cell action replay xbox` and probably find what you need...
Also, and again only from vague memory, wasn't the dreamcast itself underselling drastically. If it was game sales that broke the manufacturer then maybe - but I recall the console itself being a bit of a flop?
Does it matter? You only need a few people to download and burn the CDs, and sell them in stalls or out of a backpack. From what I remember from that era, physical distribution of warez through burned CDs was very common.
One active netizen with a CD writer was enough for an entire school :-).
I don't know what impact this had over sales. Back then (~2001, 2002) I knew people who bought a Dreamcast precisely because they could get cheap games.
As I remember from my high school days, there were lots of people who were downloading ISOs (i.e. in their work or university, where they had access to fat 1Mb/s pipes), burning them and selling at a significant profit. Of course it was illegal, but still they managed to sell them through their friends or from improvised stalls on the weekend computer market, etc.
I certainly don't think piracy killed the Dreamcast, it was a lot of built up 'bad will' by Sega and lousy execution. Third parties didn't want to develop for Sega, because Sega was flaky. I remember I had the broadband adapter for the Dreamcast, but it was only supported by one game(Quake). If I wanted to play NBA2K or NFL2K online I'd have to physically remove the ethernet adapter and plugin the dialup modem. Those games would have been great over ethernet, but as it was dialup online play had its share of frustrations. I had a Genesis, a Saturn, Master System and Game Gear before the Dreamcast but I think if Sega came out with another system after Dreamcast I may have had to bolt the company, they were the epitome of 'overpromising and underdelivering,' piracy gave them an excuse to focus in on the things they were better at (not selling consoles).
The sales of the Xbox and Dreamcast never catched up to those of the N64 or the PS2. I would say the market was over saturated around that time with 4 stationary consoles.
Maybe the Dreamcast too, in theory, but I think it had long been obvious it was a goner. I think Sega might even have dropped it by the time the Xbox was released.
The GameCube and Xbox were fighting for second place that generation.
Yes and no. N64 was 3 years earlier. PS2 was a full year later, Xbox/Gamecube were two years later.
I've always been confused how Dreamcast didn't win a that fight. The previous three rounds of console launches were heralded by improved graphics technology and immediately took over the market (1990 SNES/Genesis, 1994 Playstation/Saturn, 1996 N64). Dreamcast came out when nothing relevant had come out for 3 years, with a generation better graphics and a 1-2 year head start on competitors.
Then Microsoft stepped into the foray and was just throwing money around like crazy for exclusives. They were the smallest fish in a shrinking pond.
Wat? That sounds like you confused the Saturn and DC. The Saturn had iffy hardware choices for 3D (because nobody saw the PlayStation coming), but the DC was a 3D system through and through. I don't recall anyone at the time claiming otherwise.
No, the logic was the game critics were underwhelmed by the 3D hardware of the DC at the time. While it was state of the art for 1998. When Sega started shipping the DC Sony put out videos of PS2 previews and DC sales tanked. Also, at $499 the Saturn was DOA. No one but enthusiasts could afford that.
Part of it was the DC came out in between cycles. An undecided buyer would sit out purchasing waiting for all 3 consoles to arrive. By then the DC was years old hardware wise.
But I don't think this hacking was the reason for the end of Sega, because nearly all consoles at that time could be modded to play hacked games. Sega had been messing up for years before that, with all the useless hardware (Sega-CD, Sega 32X, and even the Game Gear and Saturn weren't big successes) they had been releasing after the Megadrive. The Dreamcast was good but just no good enough to save the company, they basically would have needed a console that completely dominate the market to recover, and to compete against Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.
I won't deny that there is also a piracy aspect to it - I have a fairly large collection of boxed original Dreamcast games but there are a few on my GDEmu that couldn't be classed as "backups". The unreleased Half-Life beta is well worth checking out, for example.
At first we had to download loader discs, just a few hundred Kb on a disc, then pop in the 1:1 burned game. Eventually they managed to put the loader on the game ISOs and you could just burn a game and pop it in. Plenty of fun, lots of great games and it primed me to eventually crack open my Xbox for the 007 Nightfire exploit.
You cannot assume that an attacker will have an "honor code" or that you can keep information secret from an attacker. Because of the latter one, there exists Kerckhoff's principle
which on a high level states that security by obscurity will in the long run become broken (and as a corollary DRM does not work).
I suppose it's a good reminder that in the real world, the easiest way in is often through a gullible or untrustworthy employee.
The key seemed to be the descrambler.
Why on earth did they scramble the executable in a deterministic way?
(I would _suspect_ that internally, they deliberately made this choice, so that the same inputs would produce the same output, because someone important thought that was valuable and either didn't know or thought it wasn't risky enough to possibly leak key information by doing this. But I have no special knowledge, just a suspicion that people who pick elliptic curve crypto would be aware of the leaks involved in reusing IVs.)
Because they wanted official developers to be able to create MIL-CDs that would load.
They just didn't want anyone else being able to do that.
The conversation here seems to settle on the idea that piracy wasn't a primary cause of the system's failure, and I could hardly disagree more from what I widely observed (local + gigantic internet communities).
Given the state/speed of CD Writers at the time, quality of CDs, difficulty of finding ISOs, download speeds, and the temperamental Dreamcast laser, it was far easier to just buy games imo. It was even easier to chip your Dreamcast to region unlock it and buy cheap, legitimate Jap/US games, rather than wasting CD after CD trying to burn them.
On assemblerforums, I remember reading a post from someone who claimed to be from Sega about the DC. He also said they knew from the beginning, but did it anyway. He said most people knew or had an idea that this would be Sega's last console, so they didn't put as much time into DRM and such as they would have.
Could never verify that it was a Sega person, but the way they spoke about stuff led me to believe it was legit.
Back in the early 2000's once it was canned, I always liked to think that it was put there by someone intentionally who knew the system was going to fail. This way piracy would keep the system alive longer than any manufacture would. That piracy part is at least true since some company released a new DC game in the past year or two.
/I want to believe
One thing i also remember is how it taught me an upside of actually purchasing games. I ended up having so many DC games I barely played any, because I became more interested in simply collecting them.
I would later decide against missing my consoles for that same reason. Although those Wii mods looked pretty sweet, with their home screen replacement and launchers
I think it’s hard to overestimate how important privacy is for building wide fanbases. Games are expensive, kids have time but no money.... of course now that I have a job I can just get stuff off of Amazon and not worry about patches.
With the 360, you can do a firmware hack to the system's disk drive to make it report every disk is the special type of disk to allow you to play games from burned disks. There are some known utility/demo disks containing executables signed to be executable from burned disks, so they can be copied (and have resources modified if the executable doesn't verify the signatures of everything it loads).
Isn't the first sentence of the "SECOND PROTECTION LEVEL" section exactly what you described?
Also, i'm pretty sure that such "special dvd drive" you're mentioning didn't exist back in 1999 as I remember using my Dreamcast as a reading device connected to my PC.
Seems 100% accurate to me.