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Execs: Tech Changes, Visual Concepts Issues Behind EA's Lack Of Dreamcast Support

When EA said, "Dreamcast can't succeed without EA," it angered Sega and its fans alike. Then the console failed. Former EA and Sega execs give differing sides to the Dreamcast-EA story in a
September 09, 2009
When Electronic Arts proclaimed in the '90s, "Dreamcast can't succeed without EA," it angered Sega and its fans. The reasoning behind EA's initial snubbing of the doomed console varies, depending on whom you ask. "I was the person who got quoted in the press as saying, 'Dreamcast can't succeed without EA.' The Dreamcast people hated me for that," said Bing Gordon in a new Gamasutra feature chronicling the rise and fall of Sega's final console. He was the creative director at EA from 1998 to 2008. But it wasn't so easy for EA to pull support from its longtime partner, Gordon said. "EA had a deep love affair with the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, because it was the platform that brought EA into the big time. EA leaders shared loyalty and affinity with Sega and it over-invested to help Sega make Sega CD and 32X into winners." So why didn't EA support the Dreamcast? Gordon said a number of red flags went up in regards to Sega's competency at the time. The hardware maker had flip-flopped on which chipset it would use, eventually choosing on that was unpopular with EA developers. Then there was Sega's purported inability to make a clear decision on whether or not to include a modem. The final straw, he said were hardball tactics from Sega when negotiating royalties. "There was a push from Sega, which was having cash flow problems, and they couldn't afford to give us the same kind of license that EA has had over the last five years. So EA basically said, 'You can't succeed without us.' And Sega said, 'Sure we can. We're Sega.'" Bernie Stolar, who was president of Sega of America at the time, had a markedly different version of the story. He said simply that EA's then-CEO Larry Probst wanted EA to be the one exclusive sports brand on the Dreamcast. This didn't meld with Stolar's acquisition of NFL 2K developer Visual Concepts. Stolar recalled Probst as saying, "No, I don't even want to compete with Visual Concepts." Stolar replied, "'Forget it then, end of story.' That's what it was all about, right there." For greater detail on the rise and fall of Dreamcast, including other factors that led the console to go from a spectacular launch to its demise within 19 short months, read Gamasutra's new feature, available now (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites). [UPDATE: On his official EA Sports weblog, Peter Moore -- a former Sega and current Electronic Arts employee -- has been discussing the Dreamcast and EA's support. He notes, among other things: "It is hard to argue with EA's rationale at the time and the ultimate outcome - get in position for the impending arrival of the Playstation 2, deploying all resources against the newest version of Sony's already wildly successful video game platform."]

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