With today marking 15 years since the Sega Dreamcast launched in North America, we thought it was fitting to dedicate this edition of Gaming Rewind to the year of 1999. Even excluding the release of Sega’s sixth-gen console, the penultimate year of the twentieth century is often lauded as being one of the greatest for video games in general. Power Up Gaming takes a quick trip down memory lane as we look back at 1999: the year that was.
The Nintendo 64 and Sony Playstation consoles continue to perform strongly worldwide throughout 1999; each carving out its own niche. In terms of portable systems, Nintendo’s Gameboy remains top dog following the official discontinuation of the Sega Game Gear and a poor showing from Tiger’s Game.com. Sales of the Gameboy Color, a relatively minor upgraded version of the original Gameboy, continue to grow.
August 6: The Neo Geo Pocket Color handheld is released in North America. Although technically impressive, the system’s sales are hampered by poor third-party support – not to mention the continued phenomenal success of the Gameboy and Gameboy Color. The Pokemon franchise continues to drive sales of Nintendo’s rival systems, boosted by the 1999 release of Pokemon Yellow release in North America and Gold and Silver in Japan. Following the acquisition of the Neo Geo’s creators SNK by Azure in 2000, the Pocket Color is discontinued in North America and Europe; it lasts until 2001 in Japan.
September 9: The Sega Dreamcast is launched in North America (the 9/9/99 date being heavily promoted) to monumental hype and initially strong acclaim. With gamers clearly sold on the Dreamcast’s potential and launch titles – which include Soul Calibur, Power Stone, The House of the Dead 2 and Sonic Adventure – pre-orders top an impressive 300,000 units in the US; with a record-breaking 225,000 selling on launch day alone.
In the first quarter of the year, the Nintendo 64 is boosted by the post-holiday releases of brawler Super Smash Bros. and the fun-filled Mario Party. Not to be outdone, meanwhile, Sony sees similarly popular but altogether-different games in seminal survivor horror Silent Hill and critically-acclaimed RPG Final Fantasy VIII released for the Playstation.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is released in August for the PS1, capitalising on the fad popularity of skateboarding at the time and performing extremely strongly both in terms of sales and critical reception.
The Dreamcast comes out with a strong selection of launch titles in September, including arcade fighter Soul Calibur and Sonic the Hedgehog’s hotly-anticipated first foray into proper 3D, Sonic Adventure. A number of sequels to existing successful franchises – namely Grand Theft Auto 2, Crash Team Racing and Resident Evil III: Nemesis – are also released in the same month to rave reviews and strong sales.
In quarter four, the release of Pokemon Yellow, Spyro 2, Unreal Tournament, Shenmue and Donkey Kong 64 completes 1999’s strong lineup of games.
Game of the Year: Soul Calibur, Final Fantasy VIII and Unreal Tournament each pick up numerous game of the year awards from gaming publications.
Notable Q1 Releases
January 21: Super Smash Bros. (N64)
January 31: Silent Hill (PSX)
February 8: Mario Party (N64)
February 11: Final Fantasy VIII (PSX)
March 16: EverQuest (PC)
Notable Q2 Releases
May 12: Street Fighter III: Third Strike (Arcade)
June 12: Counter Strike (PC)
Notable Q3 Releases
August 12: Syphon Filter (PSX)
August 16: Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver (PSX)
August 31: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (PSX)
September 9: Sony Adventure (DC); Soul Calibur (DC)
September 22: Resident Evil III: Nemesis (PSX)
September 30: Crash Team Racing (PSX); Grand Theft Auto 2 (PC)
Notable Q4 Releases
October 19: Pokemon Yellow (GB)
October 31: Spyro the Dragon 2: Ripto’s Rage (PSX)
November 11: Medal of Honor (PSX)
November 18: Chrono Cross (PSX)
November 24: Donkey Kong 64 (N64)
November 30: Unreal Tournament (PC)
December 2: Quake III Arena (PC)
December 29: Shenmue (DC)
March: The commercial Playstation emulator, Bleem!, is released for the PC (and later the Dreamcast), allowing consumers to play PS1 games on their home computers. Sony soon initiates litigation proceedings against the company, alleging copyright infringement and unfair competition. Although the lawsuit ultimately fails, Bleem! is forced into bankruptcy by its substantial legal fees.
April 20: After a media backlash surrounding the release of seminal action game Grand Theft Auto in 1997, gaming is soon to be thrust back in the spotlight as the Columbine High massacre tragically occurs in Colorado.
Two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Kebold, murder 12 fellow pupils and one teacher in a premeditated armed rampage before turning their guns on themselves. When it later comes to light that the killers were fans of violent video games – most notably Doom – hysteria takes hold of North America, with many mainstream media outlets helping to propagate a moral outcry against the creators of shooter games; Sega subsequently bans lightguns from US versions of the Dreamcast. A number of lawsuits are filed against developers and publishers by victims’ families, though they are ultimately thrown out of court later.