This article is slightly more unusual than is normally featured on the site but due to a complete lack of information surrounding a unique subset of games i thought that i’d draw attention to their existence. Personally, before acquiring an example of this obscure collection i simply dismissed them as something SEGA had planned to implement but due to the inherit logistical nightmare of actually bringing them to market had simply abandoned the idea.
The five games featured in this collection were announced at the SEGA New Challenge Conference ’99’ trade event. It might be worth explaining exactly what this event was which was a SEGA trade show that they used to disseminate information about the Dreamcast. The inaugural New Challenge Conference ’98’ is arguably better remembered as it was the first time SEGA publicly unveiled the Dreamcast hardware. The second SEGA New Challenge Conference event while widely reported on at the time has largely been overlooked in the intervening two decades since it took place.
I’ll cover these New Challenge Conference event’s in detail in their own separate article but i’ll give a brief overview of the second event as it directly relates to the five titles that were to be included in the price reduction campaign and part of the main announcement at the festival. Software support rather than hardware was the big announcement of the SEGA New Challenge Conference ’99’ with the news that Virtua Striker 2 was being ported to the Dreamcast from the Naomi arcade original. The big reveal of the conference was Project Ares which was the pre-production codename for エターナルアルカディア or Eternal Arcadia which until its reveal was speculated to be a new instalment in the Phantasy Star franchise.
Arguably the main announcement at the New Challenge Conference ’99’ was the much-rumoured impending price cut for the Dreamcast hardware for the Japanese market from ¥29,800 to ¥19,000 this aggressive price reduction was officially confirmed at the event. SEGA obviously wanted this reduced system price to stimulate sales and build up the installed user base in Japan before hardware launches from their rivals Sony, Nintendo & Microsoft. The event was covered by multiple media outlets of the time and you’ll find an archived article by Gamespot Japan which details the New Challenge conference ’99’ event. Copyright (c) 1999 by Softbank Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.
As well as this ambitious hardware strategy SEGA wisely chose to accompany it with a corresponding software initiative. This software campaign saw SEGA announce a price reduction festival which included five previously released Dreamcast titles which would be reduced from their recommended retail price of ¥5,800 to ¥1,990 for a very limited period between the 24th of June ’99’ to the 31st of August ’99’. The five titles included were not just only SEGA published titles but also featured software from other publishers. Strangely one aspect i’ve found somewhat unusual is the fact that even at the New Challenge Conference ’99’ event or any in-print media distributed in support of this campaign none showcase the unique branding that denoted them as being part of this software initiative.
One similarity that all five titles included in this offer shared was they were originally from the systems launch period. The five games included in this price reduction campaign were ソニックアドベンチャー, Sonic Adventure, ゴジラ・ ジェネレーションズ, Godzilla Generations, バーチャファイター3TB, Virtua Fighter 3TB all three which were published by SEGA themselves. ジュライ, JULY which was published by Forty Five & finally ペンペントライアイスロン, Pen Pen Trilcelon which was published by General Entertainment. An oddity is the fact the ペンペントライアイスロン sample cover used in media supporting the campaign is actually an unreleased and rarely seen sample cover concept that was discarded in favour of the final retail version. It’s use in a print media campaign over a year after the game was launched is a somewhat bizarre turn of events. As i’ve previously mentioned this event was covered by a variety of media outlets and below is an archived report from a western perspective by IGN. ©1996-2017 Ziff Davis, LLC Games
The reason for this article is to showcase just how invested SEGA was in promoting their reduced-price software campaign. Most contemporary sources acknowledge the announcement of this software initiative but it’s almost unknown that the company actually went to the trouble to print sample covers intended to publicise this campaign. While the festival ultimately went ahead the sample covers intended to promote the event aren’t actually known to have been distributed to the company’s retail partners. Personally, i think it’s fascinating that SEGA took the time and expense to produce sample cover variants for the five titles included in the campaign given the very limited timeframe the reduced price point predominantly printed on the front cover of the games was due to be in effect for. The fact is they must have printed the sample covers in anticipation of the upcoming event but didn’t actually use them in any media relating to the festival which is a strange occurrence.
Realistically, implementing such a time sensitive campaign would’ve been quite a logistical nightmare to put into motion. It would certainly have been financially prohibitive to simply decide to manufacture new print runs for the five selected titles with new covers as they would have to be issued with new catalogue codes which isn’t really feasible due to the limited time they were intended to be on sale for. Even promoting the price reduction campaign with point of sale materials like the sample covers could cause problems for retailers as any unsold titles that remained after the event had ended would still display the reduced price. Japanese retailers often affix stickers or other printed media on sample covers or games themselves which generally signify any price change or inclusion in an event or promotion. Below is an example from my collection of a Japanese retailer using a sample cover to advertise a game in this case SEAMAN 2001. For whatever reason the retailer either never received or had enough sample covers for the game so they simply reused a sample cover they had on hand for the previous iteration of SEAMAN and affixed a photocopied list of new features in this version of the game. They’ve also used a simple card denoting the price of this instalment of the game. Image ©2018 dreamcastcollector
I had rather presumptuously assumed that SEGA would just liaise with its retail partners to drop the price of the five selected titles featured in the campaign while the promotion was active. This would allow retailers to reduce the price of the games using existing promotional materials like posters, sample covers & other point of sale materials by affixing the reduced price much like the example of SEAMAN 2001 showcased above. This seems the easiest and certainly cheapest way to promote the software festival and SEGA could simply produce promotional material like the poster shown in the Dreamcast Magazine advert and other media which clearly & concisely shows the newly reduced price of the Dreamcast and the five temporally reduced software titles included in the festival. Again, none of this official promotional media actually displays the branding which stated the length of time the titles were reduced for and their newly discounted price which is quite strange.
Much to my amazement SEGA did apparently reissue the five software titles exactly as the sample covers predicted but rather being printed on the games front covers it is a sticker affixed to the front of the games packaging. Personally, i believe that if SEGA actually distributed a limited amount of these newly stickered games using existing stock it was to accompany the initial new hardware orders. While i can’t conclusively state this was the case it would allow them to control stock levels and provide an incentive to retailers to order the newly reduced system.
The other option is much like i suspect is the case is SEGA never actually used the sample covers in any promotional endeavour given their lack of inclusion on any media distributed to media & retail partners. They probably produced a batch of test titles which featured the unused branding in anticipation for the upcoming event which was probably discounted in favour of simply using on hand stock which would be easier and not require distributing new software of old titles to the retail market. This would also mitigate the various logistical problems surrounding this campaign.
The reason why i believe SEGA chose to run a limited software promotion with such a minimal timeframe is that all five included titles in the promotion were Japanese launch titles which realistically apart from Sonic which would probably still sell well it was a way to liquidate the remaining stock of those titles still held in SEGA’s inventory. Virtua Fighter 3TB had previously enjoyed a high attachment rate to hardware ratio when it was first released and probably would’ve enjoyed decent sales during the festival. The other three titles while no doubt popular were probably in all honesty simply to clear excess inventory SEGA had on hand or at retailers.
I’ve been collecting Dreamcast games since the system first launched and in the intervening two decades since SEGA ran this promotion i’ve only ever seen one example of title that was included in this price reduction campaign. Obviously, if in-fact these branded titles were supplied to retail a important factor why examples of these very obscure re-releases are unknown is simply due to the fact is the majority of titles sold baring the branding would’ve been opened by prospective players. Once the packaging had been opened the game was exactly the same as the original version of the selected title. Even with this taken into account it is unusual that there haven’t been more examples documented in the years since this event took place. This makes me believe that these branded versions of the five titles included in this promotion were never retailed and where an internal test sample much like the corresponding sample covers.
I personally only know of two other collectors who have the full-set of the five sample covers that comprise this unique subset. I’m sure that there are more out there but i’ve only seen the two other complete sets. As for the games themselves as i’ve already stated i own one example and it’s the only one i’ve ever seen no doubt more are out there but i’ve been unable to find any documented online which i suppose given that SEGA themselves never seemed to use any sort of media with the unique branding on makes determining their origin almost impossible.
Since both the sample covers and branded games featured in this campaign are ambiguous at best to their availability to the public presented below is my complete set of sample covers relating to this campaign and also the only example i’m aware of an actual title which featured this unique branding.
HDR-0001 Sonic price reduction sample cover variant.
Virtua Fighter 3TB price reduction variant
HDR-0004 Godzilla Generations price reduction variant
T-35401M JULY price reduction variant
T-17001M Pen Pen Trilcelon price reduction variant
T-35401M ジュライ price reduction variant
A somewhat obscure set of sample covers and their even more obscure corresponding matching software which hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading about this largely now forgotten campaign. I’d as always like to say thanks for taking the time to read this article about SEGA’s New Challenge conference ’99’ software initiative and if you can add anything i’ve missed about the five titles included in the price reduction campaign or you have any of the other four titles in the series please get in contact either through the site or on Twitter @dreamcastcollector or instagram