By the time the Dreamcast was released in USA you could say that the gaming industry had already moved on from Sega and didn't trust them anymore. The Saturn launch was a disaster and almost no one owned the thing (I didn't know anyone with one) and nearly everyone I knew who was a gamer had a PlayStation.
So when the Dreamcast was released I don't think that many people were actually looking forward to it and there were a lot of retailers, who after getting stuck with many Saturns that they could not offload, were hesitant to stock the machines at all and simply refused to do so. This system, unfortunately, was doomed to fail before it even launched which is a shame since it was one of my favorite systems of all time.
The controller was inventive with the mini window so that a couple of the games incorporated certain aspects of the game into this small LCD (I think it was LCD) screen. It would have been particularly useful on football games because finally your opponent wouldn't be able to have any idea what play you were selecting.
The initial launch of games was stellar, including some popular favorites such as Sonic and Crazy Taxi and also was the unveiling of fighting games that live in infamy, such as Soul Caliber
They got pretty ambitious with this machine and even included a connection for online play and while I only played two of the online games, they were both really inventive for the time period. One of them was Phantasy Star Online and the other was some racing game that I don't recall the name of and disconnected from the servers more often than not. Phantasy Star was considerably more reliable.
There are a number of reasons why this machine failed but the major one was that the PS2 was going to launch a bit later in the year and everyone who was into gaming already knew that this upcoming machine was a far superior console. The PS2 also had the ability to read and play DVD's, and the Sega Dreamcast was still using CD technology. Obviously, this set the ability of the games to compete at a massive disadvantage as well because there was considerably less storage capacity on a CD than a DVD.
The world also wasn't yet ready for online gaming, and that was a major focus of the Saturn and their marketing team. A few people here and there and on college campuses were into online gaming, but for the most part, the world was still very offline. Sega really should have embraced advertising Quake III arena a lot more than they did because I really think that the gaming nerds would have picked one of these systems up simply for that one game.
Not sure how much time i spent playing this, but it was a while!
Sega was kind of visionary in this regard but unfortunately, the gaming world was already pretty leery of Sega in a general sense after the Saturn was such a disaster. I know that I had my reservations as well and waited until several years after the Dreamcast was released before I picked one up and then I got it at a massive discount. Also, most of the games cost damn near nothing at this point also as it was already apparent that GameStop and everyone else was liquidating their Sega stocks.
In the end I think the Dreamcast is one of those systems that could have been and honestly should have been a much greater success than it was and it wasn't really the Dreamcast's fault that it failed. The industry had already moved on from Sega at this point and for me, Sega lost most of their audience with the repeated failures on the Sega Genesis and the add-ons that they kept selling us that all sucked.
Are you one of the few people that owned a Dreamcast? Wanna talk about it?