Sega was always thought to be a forward-looking company many times to its own detriment was constantly pushing the technological limits in design. When it came to the Dreamcast Sega of Japan was determined to take advantage of the consoles modem to position the Dreamcast not just as a games console but as a network entertainment terminal.
Unlike the western browsers such as Planet Web or the much derided European Dreamkey browser discs Sega of Japan had designed a much more fully featured browser for the Japanese region. The Dream Passport browser in its various revisions was built into most Japanese Dreamcast titles.
The Dream Passport browsers issued by Sega of Japan featured much better functionality and through the internet option on most games you were able to generally go to the respective titles dedicated homepage, connect to the dricas network & play online if the title supported online play. You were also able to access the Dream Passport browser for regular internet activities such as web browsing & email.
The Dream Passport browsers were updated regularly in comparison to their western equivalents. In early 2000 the next major iteration of the Dream Passport was about to be launched entitled Dream Passport 3 it was set to include a host of upgrades over the previous incarnations of the Dream Passport browser. The Dream Passport 3 browser was much better at handling various multimedia content with Ch@b talk, mp3’s & MPEG support.
Dream Passport 3 was launched in April of 2000 and replaced the older Dream Passport 2 browser disc that was bundled with the Dreamcast hardware. Through the transitional period the Dreamcast box had a sticker denoting that the Dream Passport 3 browser was included and users of older Dream passport discs could contact Sega for an upgrade which would be sent to them by post.
Sega also sought to take advantage of the Dreamcast’s internet connectivity and planned a downloadable game service that users would be able to rent popular older 16-Bit software from its Mega Drive console as well as select titles from NEC’s PC Engine system. This service was to be known asドリームライブラリ or Dream Library.
I’m not sure exactly what department of Sega of Japan was responsible for the implementation of the Dream Library service but reading the articles on the staff notices i’m under the impression that it was a small but certainly passionate team behind the service. The Dream Library service was seen as a direct successor to the セガゲーム図書館 or Sega Game library that was a downloadable game service that was available through the Mega Drive with a Mega Modem connected and a relevant subscription in place. The what is “Game library” article explains the connection between the two services and reasons for the formers failure. You’ll find that staff page linked to below which that explains not only the Dream Library but also about the Sega Game library. (C) SEGA CORPORATION 2000
The Dream library service was launched one month after the Dream Passport 3 browser and according to Sega of Japan the Dream Library service was to be the world’s first instance of digital distribution of consumer titles to a games console. Which is strange since it was Sega of Japan themselves that launched the Sega Game library service ten years earlier. The stated goal of the Dream Library service was to deliver a selection of older titles from the 16-Bit era in a fashion similar to the ease of renting videos.
The service would consist of games from the Sega Mega Drive and the NEC PC Engine systems with Sega initially securing titles from the following publishers Atlas Co., Ltd., Capcom Co., Ltd., CSK Research Institute, Inc., Hudson Co., Ltd., Irem Software Incorporated, Japan Bussan Ltd., Japan Computer System Co., Ltd., Kaga Tec Corporation, NEC Electric Home Electronics Co., Ltd., Quest, Inc., Sims Co., Ltd., Sun Electronic Co., Ltd., T & E Software Co., Ltd., Video System Co., Ltd as well as Sega themselves. The end goal was for the Dream Library service to have a catalogue of around 300 titles available. Below is the official announcement from Sega from March of 2000 that outlines the Dream Library concept. Copyright (c) SEGA Enterprises, Ltd.1999
The Dream Library service launched in May of 2000 with 50 initial titles available to download while a mix of 15 games from both systems was to be planned to be released each month. The actual emulator that the Mega Drive titles used was developed in-house by Sega unfortunately not much information currently exists about it. On the other hand, the PC Engine emulator was developed by a company called Target Laboratory Co., Ltd who were a multimedia development company that specialised as a sound design studio. You’ll find the companies official page about their PC Engine emulator linked to below. © 2000 Target Laboratory Co., Ltd
The Dream Library games provided by the service were downloaded and temporarily stored in the Dreamcast systems ram this meant that the games were effectively wiped from the system once the Dreamcast had been powered off. To make sure users of the service could continue playing where they left off it was possible to save Mega Drive games that supported the backup function to the VMU. Also, most of the PC Engine titles as well as many Mega Drive titles and games in general of that time used a password system to save your progress and was the same for the Dream Library versions of the games.
The Dream Passport 3 browser disc shipped with various offline trial content for online dreamcast software and included five Dream Library Mega Drive titles that could be played offline for up to 15 minutes so you could experience a selection of different games the service offered. Below i’ve linked to the Dream Library trial software site which lists the five games & their respective genres. (c) SEGA Enterprises, Ltd.1999
The Dream Library service was a paid subscription service which was paid in “Dreams” which was an online currency used by Sega of Japan throughout its dricas network. Once you registered your details and created an ISAO.net account it automatically set up a Dream account for you. You were able to add funds to your account by credit card or Web Money this was at a rate off ¥1=1 Dream. I’ve linked to the official information page about how to add funds to your Dream account by way of the payment options listed above.
by having Dream in your account, you could purchase various dricas services for example a hunters license for Phantasy Star Online, downloadable songs for Samba de Amigo or games through the Dream Library service as well as a multitude of other goods & services.
Initially the service charged 150 Dream to rent a title from the service which gave you access to the chosen game for 48 hours. Sega employed various methods to prevent circumnavigation of the rental time and even if you never powered your Dreamcast off you’d only have access to the game for 48 hours. As the service developed different pricing was implemented for certain reasons which will be discussed later.
The Dream Library service was generally well maintained and normally updated weekly the longest interruption in the service was on the 27th of January 2001 which was anticipated to last through to late March of 2001. This was due in part for the delay in issuing of the Dream Passport Premier browser disc and to upgrade the Dream Library service to become broadband compatible. Linked to below you’ll find information about the service’s suspension.
Unfortunately, problems arose and the resumption of the Dream Library service was delayed from April of 2001 till the service resumed in July of 2001. While significant problems still persisted, it meant that a fully operational service wasn’t finally achieved until the end of that month. The reason given was due to the change in network infrastructure and the changes implemented to accommodate the Dream Passport Premier browser. Below you’ll find the staff notice which explains the transition to Dream Passport Premier and the integration of the broadband service.
Until the service was resumed users were told to enjoy the offline trial titles offered by the Dream Library service which obviously wouldn’t be affected by the interruption of the network service. While i’ve previously covered the games above by linking to the official site i’ll include screenshots from each of five games offered by the Dream Library service actually running on an Dreamcast and the commands to access them.
Dream Passport 3 title screen
Dream Library game options
Controller configuration options
Daimakaimura or Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
ぺぺんが or PENGO
ぷよぷよ or PUYO PUYO
x-avefront://—.dream/proc/launch/8 launched the Dream Library online service.
After the service was resumed the Dream Passport 3 browser was no longer compatible with the Dream Library service even if you were still using a dial up connection to connect online. The reason given was an incompatibility in the way the Dream Passport 3 software connected connected to the service.
Unfortunately, the Dream Library service still seemed to encounter random connection problems so Sega of Japan made two test titles available for a free rental so users could check that were able to connect to the Dream Library service and download games without any problems. The two titles were originally developed for the Sega Game library service and were 16t & aworg Hero in the Sky respectively. Personally, i’ve never heard of these two titles or the other Sega Game library titles which isn’t surprising given their somewhat niche status and many readers of this site will probably not have heard off them. So below you’ll find the Dream Library screen shots for the two games free test titles from the Sega Game Library which hopefully will give you an idea about them.
As a way of thanking patrons of the service for their patience while the service was suspended the administrators of the Dream Library announced that starting on the 29th of September 2001 select titles were to be available to rent at a much reduced cost of 50 Dream for seven days. At least initially all these games were former Sega Game library titles which for many was the first time in over ten years they had been made available officially. The service also instituted a longer rental period around this time of 400 dreams for a week’s rental this was because more RPG’s were being released like the Phantasy Star titles among others and the cheaper longer rental time was something users of the service had asked for on the official Dream Library BBS board.
Another nice touch that was implemented fairly late on was that the Dream Library website had been updated to include cheats for each title in the Dream library. The team behind the service obviously cared enough to have the original button commands and the updated corresponding key commands for the Dreamcast controller. When new titles were added to the service that titles respective cheats where also added.
While the Dream Library was beset with technical problems early on once they were resolved the service seemed to be well supported by its patrons. The concept and the digital distribution model of the Dream Library service was intriguing and has become common practice adopted by all the major platform holders to distribute their older game software but at the turn of the millennium it was still quite an innovative idea that Sega of Japan pioneered.
The service managed to overcome some major challenges with the transition to broadband and the default connection browser being rendered obsolete and significant downtime for an online service. The service never seemed to be a high priority for Sega of Japan more an experimental test. I’d expect with better planning and more resources allocated most of the technical hurdles the service faced wouldn’t have been an issue which was certainly beyond the control of the small team actually running the service.
By December of 2001 the administrators of the service announced on the Dream Library homepage that the Dream Library service would be ending by the end of December 2002 while the titles would still be available to download till the end of January 2003. Outside of the games you can access offline and vmu backup saves that are stored from titles that supported them saves nothing really exists pertaining to the Dream Library service. I’ve linked to a Game Watch Impress article below which covers in detail the closing announcement of the Dream Library service. Copyright (c) 2002 Impress Corporation All rights reserved.
The concept of re-releasing older titles from the Mega Drive was an appealing concept and both Sega of America & Sega Europe were actively developing their own Mega Drive emulators. But the digital distribution model of those titles was unique to Japan. Sega of America launched their emulated titles on a disc called the Sega Smash pack and Sega Europe never finished development before the announcement of the discontinuation of the Dreamcast in early 2001 meant that it was abandoned.
The front cover of the North American only release of Sega Smashpack Volume 1.
The in-development Sega Europe Mega Drive emulator on GD-Rom media image courtesy of the Dreamcast Junkyard.
Thanks to the Dreamcast Junkyard you can find the Dreamcast Junkyard here.
They also have an article about the discovery of the European Mega Drive emulator on various GD-Rom media as well as various information pertaining to the emulator itself. You’ll find their article linked here
Thank you for taking the time to read this article about the Dream Library service hopefully you’ve found it interesting. Thanks again to the Dreamcast Junkyard for allowing me to use their image of the European GD-Rom. If you feel i’ve missed anything or can contribute any other information about the Dream Library service please get in contact either through the site or on Twitter @dreamcastcollector.