9/9/99. Hedgehog's Day. As Sega America launches its much-vaunted Dreamcast in the US, some owners of the high-powered videogame system are disappointed. The reason? Certain games they've bought for the system refuse to load properly.
Jennifer Walker, a spokesperson for Sega America, explained that Sega Dreamcast CDs (actually a proprietary technology called GD-ROM) are manufactured at four different facilities. Apparently, the first batch of Sonic discs -- which according to Walker accounts for less than ten percent of the total manufactured -- we're faulty. No explanation was given about faulty Blue Stinger discs.
After calling online game retailer www.ebworld.com, we were immediately asked by the representative whether we were having any trouble with Sonic Adventure. We were also informed that several calls had come in by customers wanting to return or exchange Sonic Adventure. We were also told by the representative that about half of the total shipment of Sonic Adventure games was found to be faulty. A press release is scheduled to be posted on www.ebworld.com by today or tomorrow.
When GameSpot TV (a sister publication of ZDNet) got word that there might be problems with certain Dreamcast games, we decided to check it out for ourselves. Two games -- Sonic Adventure and Blue Stinger -- would not load properly until a special Sega boot disc had been loaded first. Boot discs are distributed only to system developers and to editorial publications so that beta software can be previewed.
In another test, both Sonic Adventure and Blue Stinger loaded successfully on an older system we had received from Sega months back. When we tried to load the same games on the retail Dreamcast we received last week, no dice.
After entering the phrase "Dreamcast Problems" into www.deja.com's news search engine, several messages pertaining to disc-loading errors showed up. Among the messages were complaints about Sonic Adventure and Blue Stinger, and a few about another highly anticipated Dreamcast game, Ready 2 Rumble. Finally, we saw at least one complaint lodged against the Dreamcast Internet disc, which connects the system to the online Dreamcast network via modem.
It might seem ironic that one of the faulty games features Sega's star mascot Sonic the Hedgehog. Overall, Dreamcast owners seem to be pleased with the system's non-Hedgehog games. Whether or not the source of the problem will be found to be software- or hardware-related remains to be seen.