Peter Moore talks Dreamcast 10 years later

Q&A: EA Sports president and former Sega of America head details the triumphs and failures of third-party publisher's hardware swan song.

On September 9, 1999, Sega released the Dreamcast in North America. While the launch was successful--Sega touted a one-day sales total of nearly $98 million--the good news and the console itself were short lived. The Dreamcast soon faltered, and Sega pulled the plug on its final hardware effort in January of 2001. Since then, it has become a third-party publisher, with its former hardware standard-bearer Sonic the Hedgehog appearing on systems made by former rivals, such as Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft.

EA Sports president and former Sega of America honcho Peter Moore.

Throughout the Dreamcast era and for two years afterward, Peter Moore was president and CEO of Sega of America. For the 10th anniversary of the console, Moore took time out from his current duties as president of EA Sports to speak with GameSpot about the lessons to be learned from the Dreamcast's brief life and rapid demise. Excerpts of the interview follow below. A more thorough version of the conversation--one in which Moore talks about the changing industry, EA Sports' downloadable content plans, and this year's lack of NCAA football, NHL, or NBA action on the Wii--can be heard on this week's episode of the HotSpot podcast.

GameSpot: What lasting impact do you think the Dreamcast made on the industry?

Peter Moore: I think there are a couple of things. As an employee at that time and somebody now looking at this milestone of 10 years, I think the lasting impact on the industry is that we put an online console onto the market...albeit dial-up and at a time when the huge majority of Americans were connecting through a phone modem rather than cable, DSL, or any form of broadband.

And secondly, you look at the way we built the launch, made the launch a huge event, and, I think, catapulted video games into the general psyche of entertainment and made it a legitimate entertainment medium. We had looked at the numbers we felt we were going to get in the first 24 hours a few months prior to that [and] had done a ton of research on entertainment launches. It was very clear to us that we were going to be--if we hit our numbers--the biggest 24 hours in entertainment retail history. And we put a lot of stock behind that as a PR message.

I think it was instrumental in vaulting video games into the minds of even non-gamers as a legitimate entertainment medium that could stand on its own and wasn't the domain of boys in their bedrooms. To this day, I think you can look back at the Dreamcast as being a benchmark in how to launch a console, how to push technology forward, and how to change the view of observers as to what video games are all about.

GS: We're now living in a world where 10-year life cycles are an entirely realistic goal for successful consoles. Is there anything you think could have been done differently that would have the Dreamcast only now winding down its last days?

Quake III Arena was one of the biggest online Dreamcast titles released.

PM: Yeah, I wish. They were challenging times, if you recall. It had been a difficult few years prior to that for Sega with the Saturn not quite doing what I think the expectations were. I wasn't with the company then. I was still with Reebok in those days. Once I arrived at Sega, I realized we needed to do two things: a little bit of rehabilitation with the consumer and then start fresh with the Dreamcast itself.

When you think about the challenges that were impending, it was obviously the launch the following year of the PlayStation 2 and what that would mean for us. Could we actually establish a platform that could live alongside and be very competitive with the PS2? And that platform was going to be online gaming. But of course, we had determined to build a dial-up modem in, and the broadband peripheral came later with just a couple of games. Quake springs to mind and maybe Counterstrike...that allowed you to play on a broadband modem through the Dreamcast and it just certainly wasn't a portfolio that was big enough.

I think the overall platform of online gaming and expression we'd coined at the time, "taking gamers where gaming was going" were probably somewhat premature in that positioning. The market wasn't ready for it. The infrastructure in North America wasn't ready to deliver broadband to everybody's home like it is today, for the most part. And we simply didn't have the pipeline of software that we could sustain for a number of years that was going to make the platform a must-have even in the face of a very powerful competitor in Sony coming to market with the PS2.

GS: Some of the Dreamcast's best-loved and most memorable games--Shenmue, Jet Grind Radio, Skies of Arcadia, Seaman, Crazy Taxi--were original intellectual properties. Was there too much of an emphasis on these original and unproven franchises?

PM: Yes and no. We had nine studios in Japan and relatively decent third-party support across the board. But there was a little bit of the second phase of "wait and see." In other words, we had not secured, two to three years out, a pipeline that we could look at from our third-party partners at that time. But we had a very strong engine out of Tokyo that was supplemented. A number of those were actually arcade games, Crazy Taxi being the most memorable. You still had the arcade teams--the AM teams as we called them--that had two platforms they could develop for: the Sega arcade machines in Japan, which were during that period of time still successful and popular, and then it was a relatively quick port to the Dreamcast.

The development teams there were very strong and had a very clear view of what they wanted to do to develop new intellectual property. There was no questioning that that was the right thing to do at that time. As you mentioned those games, all of them were groundbreaking. You think of Seaman, which was so quirky and unique, but really caught the attention. And then Shenmue...still to this day if I start talking Dreamcast to people I meet on the street, it's still one of the games they feel was groundbreaking. Still to this day, everyone wants sequels to Shenmue.

To answer your question, I wouldn't have changed the strategy. I thought new intellectual properties were where we needed to go. We needed to make sure we were delivering a differentiated experience and weren't relying too heavily on third-party games that also might show up on the PS2.

GS: Games like Seaman and Shenmue obviously made a very strong impression on people. Did you find that translated well into sales?

Shenmue still commands a loyal following, although it's been years since there were even credible rumors of a third installment in the series.

PM: Yes and no. New intellectual property is always a challenge because you've got to build it from scratch. You've got to explain it to the consumer. It wasn't easy explaining how you keep your Seaman alive through oxygen and heat, making sure you talk to him and why he would know you hadn't played with him the previous day. And in fact, you were cheating on him by playing Sonic the Hedgehog. It was all very new and different, and it was a tremendous amount of fun.

Shenmue was Yu Suzuki's masterpiece. It was deep, but we needed to be able to build upon this, and in those two instances, neither of them were truly mass-market games. You needed a microphone. Certainly Seaman was more expensive than the average game. We didn't have enough games to justify the microphone on top of that. And Shenmue was a very deep experience. But in those days role-playing games of that nature were still somewhat of a niche genre rather than a mass-market genre.

We really didn't--maybe with the exception of Sonic Adventure--have that game that was aimed at a broad mass market that could really be the "killer app" to drive the hardware. Certainly sports were serving a purpose for us then, but there was nothing when we look back that said, "This is the one game that is going to sell millions of units, the must-have game." We had a tremendous portfolio at launch--18 titles and some great games that followed up quickly--but nothing you can look back and say was the game that drove Dreamcast where it needed to be.

GS: The Dreamcast had at least some support from every major third-party publisher except EA. From your perspective on the Sega side, what kept EA from embracing the Dreamcast? How badly did the lack of support hurt the machine?

PM: Difficult to say how badly it hurt the machine. The one thing it did have us do at Sega was invest heavily in our own sports brand--Sega Sports--that evolved into 2K Sports. It created a great and fun competitive element between Sega and EA, which I enjoyed thoroughly. And interestingly, now being on the other side, [I] talk fondly of people who were here at the time, including [EA CEO] John Riccitiello.

NFL 2K's presentation and animation were revolutionary in 1999.

It actually, I think, helped grow the sports genre during the 1990s because there was tremendous competition between ourselves and EA and--depending on the sport--Acclaim and Konami. They were fun times. Do we wish that EA had published for the platform? Of course, but they had their own reasons. It was their business; they made a decision. And we just had to get on with it, not worry too much about what we couldn't have, and just focus on what we could get.

GS: At Sega, you oversaw the company's last attempt to reestablish itself in the hardware market. At Microsoft, you fought with Nintendo for a distant second behind the PlayStation 2. At EA Sports, you're finally the biggest dog on your particular block. How different is it playing the favorite instead of the underdog?

PM: You tend to think about your brand, your business, what the consumer wants, and worry less about the competition. Do you look back at those days and enjoy being the feisty underdog? Sure. But in my role today, I'm absolutely blessed to have such a great brand as EA Sports and phenomenal licenses. And I think the world has changed.

We get competitive challengers all over the place, from my old friends at 2K Sports, from Konami...particularly in the world of soccer, obviously. But in today's world of 24-hour-a-day interaction with our consumers, we've got to listen to them and make the best game they're looking for, rather than worry about what the competition is doing. It's a whole different world today than it was as recently as seven or eight years ago.

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Discussion

291 comments
hewoks
hewoks

I think what i'm more sad about is that DC died when the game cube didnt have problems. Also the Xbox didn't really have a lot of games for itself when it released. It was all new IPs. If those 2 managed to exist along side the ps2. I think the DC could have if Sega didnt jump the boat like they did to go Publish awful sonic and movie games.

Daigo_TNT
Daigo_TNT

i will never forget the UT for dreamcast online gaming TY DC

ChiefFreeman
ChiefFreeman

they just couldn't compete with the hype and anticipation of the Playstation 2 launch.

the-bat-child
the-bat-child

The only console I ever bought at launch. EVAR!

Fantasy_Gamer
Fantasy_Gamer

I loved Evolution, Shenmue, Grandia 2... I also loved Project Justice.

maverick_76
maverick_76

Some of my best sports memories were playing NFL 2K with my buddies, man that was an awesome game back then.

maverick_76
maverick_76

Or you kill your competition by buying out the rights to the NFL so a better game dies, thank you EA, you bloodsuckers! I know Peter wasn't there at that time but lets see what he does while he is there, other than just put it in cruise control.

narutoquest
narutoquest

Once upon a time there was a powerful and ambitious company called Sega...

brendanhunt1
brendanhunt1

only 10.6 million units sold. i expected alot more than that, most people i knew said they own a dreamcast.

Rolzie
Rolzie

Sega is a cursed company. I swear it is based on their suspicious trail of failure. I love Sega I really do, but I could never understand how Sega would be the only company that had consoles that screw up so bad they ended up a 3rd party. It's depressing I tells ya... I think I'm gonna go draw a "3" on my old Sega Saturn with a piece of chalk and leave it on my shelf of great things that shoulda been...

S_Pac_316
S_Pac_316

Nice read. I hope they make sequels to Jet Set Radio, Skies of Arcadia, Shenmue and Chu Chu Rocket. Heck, maybe a ChuChu Rocket remake for the XBLA, PSn and Wiiware services would be great as well!

astro_viper
astro_viper

I love my DC, bought it long after it's demise though. I couldn't afford one back in the day. I agree that there are many things they did wrong, and the timing of their launch made it extremely difficult to compete with the PS2 and Xbox. However, I personally see the breaking of ties with MS as one of the biggest hurdles which eventually caused the DC to falter in the marketplace. I also see a lot of similarities between the console designs, albiet, MS's was far more polished given two years of advancment in the industry... just my two cents...

yinyang3
yinyang3

Still one of the best consoles ever. My favorite game being Jet Grind Radio, I loved it. I hope they make a sequel some day. (A real one, not Future.)

ParappaDeAmigo
ParappaDeAmigo

still my favourite system ever...for its time, no system ever blew me away with new advancements the way the DC did...I have two still, both in great working condition =)

masterman280
masterman280

i blame peter moore for no 2d games and no rpg

FinalDuo1886
FinalDuo1886

The DC was a great system. I remember when you could take out the memory card, and play games on it. The Sonic Adventure one with the baby cho was fun. It had the Internet. Which in fact sucked, but was the first console to do so I think. And had the best collection of games within it's time. The controllers sucked, but people manage like how they did with the Xbox. But what I really think why the DC failed, was cause of money issue Sega was facing, and the fact that the PS2 was officially about to take over that generation of gaming, which it did.

Glade_Gnarr
Glade_Gnarr

When was Microsoft a competitor of Sega? Anyway, I really miss those days when a console was 200 at launch and when Sega could release a good game.

BigBoi17
BigBoi17

Man, everybody's coming up with explanations of why the Dreamcast died. All I have to say is this... The fact that EA wasn't behind DreamCast sucked a FEW years from it's life cycle. I think Sega would still be alive if it had the support of EA. 2K sports demolished Ea Sports in terms of game presentation, but Madden+Dreamcast= Epic Win. Just my two cents...

prkprkprk
prkprkprk

Dreamcast was da bomb. For once I was mad at Sony releasing a console, because the PlayStation 2 had to bomb the dreamcast. Everyone, buy a dreamcast.

SpikeJones767
SpikeJones767

Gosh Peter Moore has it been 10 years already?! Man, I still remember waiting in line for six hours at funcoland to get my hands on my first dreamcast. The games were ground breaking and had long lasting appeal like Shenmue, skies of arcadia, jet grind radio and sonic adventures. I'm going to play some of those old classics tonight because its the dreamcast 10th anniversary. I hope my dreamcast never breaks because we would really miss it.

budosam
budosam

I remember the Dreamcast online play costing a bomb. I easily used to spend about £30 a week on Phantasy Star Online. I was gutted when the server closed. I dug mine out the other day and had a great time on Confidential Mission, Shenmue and Soul Calibur. Shenmue is still one of my favourite franchises. It's a shame the Saturn was a flop and took away consumer confidence in Sega's consoles. Viva la Shenmue!

LinconSixEcho
LinconSixEcho

Wow, I can't believe it's been 10 years. I remember getting to Target two hours before they opened on 9-9-99 and saw the decent size of a line. Sonic was the first game I purchased and then Soul Calibur. The countless online hours that I put into Phantasy Star and Unreal. Anyone else remember the It's Thinking commercials for the Dreamcast? Good times.

snarple_basic
snarple_basic

ALL I ASK OF SEGA IS GIVE ME A NEW XBOX 360 CRAZY TAXI!!!!! I DON'T NEED ANYMORE SONIC GAMES GIVE CRAZY TAXI A CHANCE!!!!!

capitalthoughts
capitalthoughts

@education... Go read gamespot's original review of Soul Calibur for the dreamcast and explain to us all how it did nothing to push video games forward.

McGregor
McGregor

I wish the dreamcast had more success. I remember liking the controller, games, and graphics more than any other system at the time. It might have been too ahead of its time, but it was a great ride while it lasted.

imjustjames
imjustjames

I could go on forever regarding the DC's short-but-sweet lifespan. I'll look fondly back on games like Soul Calibur, Power Stone 1 & 2, Dead or Alive 2, Skies of Arcadia, Sonic Adventure, Jet Grind Radio, Ikaruga, and especially, Phantasy Star Online. I swear to god I invested more time into that game than any other game to this day. It was how WOW is today for me back then. It was the first MMORPG that really appealed to me and I ate, slept, and drank that game for years. I met dozens of people on PSO that I still keep in touch with to this very day. Alien Front Online was another keeper, the first console game that I can think of that properly utilized voice chat in online gaming despite the hurdles of a dial-up connection. Very good times. The only people that would naysay the DC are most likely people that never owned one or never played the right games for it. Most of the games were gorgeous to look at, especially compared with the PSone, N64, and Saturn. I'll even go as far as to say the DC's games were better looking than a good portion of PS2 games (thanks to the Power VR chip's FX). The DC was awesome for its time and was a truly underrated system. It pushed the industry forward when everyone else was afraid to and most of its standards remain common place in the industry to this very day.

imjustjames
imjustjames

education, saying stuff like that shows just how misinformed you are. You don't have to be a DC fanboy to know that Sega really propelled the industry forward with their final system. Sega just didn't have the money and marketing muscle compared to it's competitors to be a longterm contender against the PS2 and XBOX 1. I look back at my days gaming on Sega consoles with fine memories but also with equal frustration because there were times where I was thinking, "what the hell are they doing?". I'll never forget the DC launch, it was pure marketing genius, for the most part, the 9/9/99 release date. No one forgot that date and people were dying for some killer app that made Sony's PSone look like a caveman's tool. Like Moore seemed to imply, the push for a successful launch didn't give them an opportunity to be contenders in the long run. I don't think they analyzed the industry as a whole to see what would work based on what gamers wanted in that time period. It sold well at launch because it was new and was more powerful than the competition's offerings but also because of faulty hardware. For all you haters out there, the Windows CE portion of the DC wasn't even built into the hardware but was rather software implemented into every game that utilized it, so that wasn't why the DC had some notorious launch problems. (cont.)

KaizerJinn
KaizerJinn

Dreamcast was good... ONE of the best, arguably... THE best, HELL NO. =D but i truly did enjoy it while it lasted though.

education
education

I've been playin video games all my life but I only know one sucker that bought the dreamcast. Sega did nothing to vault the video game industry forward. It just showed what would would happen if you put out 2 consoles in a row that sucked.

wondernova
wondernova

hey everyone, inlcuding gamespot, have forgotten that in the late nineties and early 2000s, EA sucked. they lost their touch on the ps and saturn gen. its only in the last couple of years that their sports games are reaching the quality they were producing on the megadrive.

Kool212
Kool212

Shenmue III and a New JSR must happen! You know people still love the games.

Sanguis_Malus
Sanguis_Malus

Recognition......its good to remember. Gaming has progressed so much !

NuKkU
NuKkU

man the dreamcast was a great system i wish i would have owned it.... :(

enragedrenegade
enragedrenegade

The Dreamcast was a great system for its time. It was actually the most advanced system of the 3 console makers (Sega, Nintendo, and Sony). Only the Xbox was more advanced than the Dreamcast when it came out a few years later. Dreamcast had everything that the current gen consoles have right now back then. It had online gameplay, interactive environment with the console through the use of its memory card, web browser, great launch games, and many more features. However, due to Sega's past failures and the growing anticipation of the launch of the PS2, the consoles's eventual premature demise was inevitable. Had Sega been successful with some of its previous consoles, then the Dreamcast would've been more successful. Nonetheless, I along with millions of others consider Dreamcast as one of the best consoles if not the best console that was ever made. Sega did a great job at manufacturing the console but failed at delivering it to the millions of Sega fans and other gamers alike.

simonbelmont2
simonbelmont2

The dreamcast was a great console and I had so much fun playing mine. Powerstone, Marvel vs Capcom 2, Shenmue, Jet Set Radio, Soul Calibur, Phantasy Star Online and House of the Dead 2 were great games I played for weeks.

Leg3nd4ry
Leg3nd4ry

Heh i still have my old dreamcast. Was a great console really...to bad it had to end so quickly. Maybe sega will make a comeback someday.

ItsEvolution
ItsEvolution

"Also another big reason it died is it came out only a month before the PS2, and up until a few months before the PS2 came out no one really knew how good IT was gonna be. When the PS2 came out, the DC quit selling." Wrong. DC came out in 1999. The PS2 came out in Fall 2000. The DC had over an entire year lead on Sony.

SuperBladez
SuperBladez

Geez, stop overrating the Dreamcast ffs. It was short lived and had a few amazing games but, what else apart from a non existent online community? N64 had many Legendary games and loads of greats games.

travisstaggs
travisstaggs

The Dreamcast was so awesome and ahead of its time, I have tons of games for it still.

cyborg100000
cyborg100000

Gunbird, Powerstone, Shenmue, Sonic, Chu Chu Rocket, Hydro Thunder, DYNAMITE COP!!! My favourite console; the games were very fun.

x-2tha-z
x-2tha-z

I never owned a Dreamcast. I feel like I missed an important part in gaming history.

Odnomiar
Odnomiar

LindBergh2007, is that true? sega sammy making another console? I hope so, i'd buy one tomorrow! lol! so long as it had the games of course! Shenmue 3 is the ultimate most wanted game I think.

ElJay2010
ElJay2010

@SalarianChemist Umm idk what your talking about the ps3 always talking about future with graphics because PS3 has the best graphic games for consoles with killzone 2, uncharted 2, and god of war 3. IDK if you havent heard but ps3 users are very happy with their consoles. The main reason they discontinued dreamcast had nothing to do with graphics, ps2, or even its controllers. It was the lack of games it had. I loved my dreamcast but was always dissapointed with the lack of games. Games sale consoles, its just that simple.

Shadow_Fire41
Shadow_Fire41

man.........so many awesome games, such a short lifespan, it reall is a shame....

Kakua_Omari
Kakua_Omari

Man I'm feeling old, I remember playing Phantasy Star Online for hours on end. It was a great console, but just couldn't live up to its potential.