A Fool's Lament: Tribute to the Dreamcast

Dreamcast

The year is 1999; the date, September the ninth. The plants did their job and release day is here. The office was even more busy and tense than usual as all eyes followed the first projections emerging from the printer. We had every reason to be confident. All our test groups, all forecasters, all street teams gave nothing but guaranteed success. The mistakes and unfortunate failures of the past would soon wash away. No longer would we be forced the constant reminders of financial inadequacy or our loved ones' questioning about job security. Yes, my stress is lower, yes, I'm getting more sleep. These bags will be removed, hard work pays off. Sega is back! Segata Sanshiro is smiling somewhere, proud of his children. The only question is, how could so many people be so very wrong and so very blind?

The year is 1999 and the wave of inevitability has already overtaken us. Not in our minds, mind you. Our minds believed that we had a real renaissance, a true phoenix inside a little white box. But the pieces were already in play and our actions merely delayed the truth. Sega could no longer prosper in this environment. The bridges were burned and one company can only take itself so far on its own. The climate is forever changed. Can you blame us for grasping onto misguided hope? Hardware is a man's business, certainly no haven for a child's imagination and desires. I guess our parents never warned us. No one wants or needs us anymore. The Ultimate Gaming Machine? Gaming has become passé. They said we needed a centralized entertainment console, a hub for the consumer to plug their lives into. We could connect them to a constant stream of bank withdrawals for products they are convinced to need. We replied, “We are a gaming company.” They spit on us and our toy. They were the smart ones.

Yet we pushed on. Japan's 1998 launch was the first test. To make things brief, it underperformed. Not surprisingly so. We were used to failures, perhaps to the point where merely one sale could give us hope. Somewhere inside me, I still sometimes wish we had stopped at the first sign of failure. Can you blame me? Well-intentioned hope seems like no more than a succubus leading us down the path of fools. Maybe it was just this weakness that led us to continue... and it doesn't feel like a weakness when you're on it. It's just not fair when this hope comes from so many sources; this many people cannot logically be wrong! Expert after expert, poll after poll confirmed the decisions. All our resources were assessed and stockpiled for the last stand. We knew there was a chance of failure but it felt so sure. Foolishness.

Release day came. Positive reinforcement continued to feed through the wire. Pursed faces gave way to relief. We were given the next day off as a “reward.” I slept well that night for the first time in years. With no alarm and no stress, I awoke with a brain so clear it felt lobotomized. Such words are frightful, yet it is the only proper description for the clarity and relaxation I felt. Maybe that white box entered my dreams those nights. Maybe it was living, thinking. That would explain a lot...

To be honest, I could never really pinpoint the beginning to the end. I guess the individual haze of each small failure kept merging until the result choked us out. Sometimes it feels like things could have gone the other way. Just one little thing here... or there... You can't blame the competitors. They're out to make a profit. They amass of wealth and power and exert their influence. That's human nature? We were only casualties in their path. Casualties happen. We could have made a deal. They could have gone a different route, a different path of influence. It's too bad it collided with ours. And you certainly can't blame the kids. Their societies thrive on the free sharing of information. They're just kids with a hobby, trying to make a name for themselves in a world where no one cares. We could have been more clever. But can you even be that clever?

Of course, the new, “improved” company doesn't even care, not that I would either in their shoes. The replacements are just like the rest now, with the same watches and the same schooling and the same point of view and the same hardened minds. This is no anniversary for them. No remembrance, no celebration, no shame. They weren't even there and did their best to immediately forget us. They no longer make machines yet continue to reuse our ideas. More of the same game.

Regrets? I guess not. It was a great, short piece of history, and ultimately warmed this spirit for some time. I almost felt like the spirit of Segata was alive in that box, mirroring his birth to his demise. Perhaps that was the calming power. In the final days, as the offices closed and cubicles emptied, you still felt that the little orange light never completely faded. Segagaga only affirmed its message. How else does a lighthearted sim of the industry so perfectly mirror events from the future? I still remember it clearly, the final swan song in a changing world. Truth be told, I always shut it off before the ending comes on. Call me a coward, but I don't need to hear the words. Just knowing they're there is enough of a conclusion.

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