When Sega launched its Dreamcast system on September 9th, 1999, it was a company at the end of its rope. After the three straight home systems proved dismal failures (Sega CD, 32X, and Saturn), the Dreamcast was Sega’s last-ditch attempt to win back the loyal followers it had in the heyday of the Genesis. By beating the competition to the market by more than a year, Sega hoped to gain an insurmountable lead in the next generation of home video game consoles

For a while, it seemed like Sega’s gambit would pay off. The Dreamcast had a phenomenal launch, thanks in part to the largest marketing campaign ever for a video game system. Sega took home $97 million on the first day of Dreamcast sales in the US, surpassing the opening weekend gross of blockbusters like The Phantom Menace! With a great library of launch titles and many influential developers (with the notable exception of gaming giant Electronic Arts) pledging their support, the Dreamcast looked as if it might mark the end of Sega’s bad luck.

Unfortunately for Sega, this was not the case.

After the launch hysteria died down, Dreamcast sales leveled off to a rather unimpressive level. In Japan, Sega’s homeland, even the ailing Nintendo 64 was selling better than the Dreamcast. Despite many innovative, high quality games from Sega’s in-house development teams, the Dreamcast never developed very strong third party support. Many developers who had pledged support for Sega ended up devoting some of their development resources to the upcoming Playstation 2, which promised to be more popular among hardcore gamers and more powerful than the Dreamcast. Sega tried many innovative marketing schemes to keep its Dreamcast alive, such as offering a free system with a subscription to their SegaNet ISP, but nothing seemed to help.

The final nail in the Dreamcast’s coffin was last October’s launch of the Playstation 2 (PS2) in North America. Sony’s PS2 quickly rose to dominance, selling more consoles in 5 months than Dreamcast had sold in more than a year.

Early this year, rumors that Sega would no longer be able to support the ailing Dreamcast started flying. These rumors proved true, as Sega recently announced that they would stop producing the Dreamcast console at the end of March in favor of developing games for other systems.

Despite all this, there are still a few reasons to consider the Dreamcast if you’re planning to buy a new video game system. First off, at $99, the Dreamcast is priced a few hundred dollars lower than the PS2, and is likely to be much cheaper than other upcoming systems (Exact pricing for Nintendo’s GameCube and Microsoft’s X-Box have not been officially announced). Used Dreamcast systems are going for as low as $60 or $70 on Ebay, with many used games similarly low priced. You could easily buy a used Dreamcast and ten bargain bin games with the same money you might spend on a PS2 without any games. This makes Dreamcast the obvious choice for the console gamer on a budget.

Second, while the PS2’s library is rather slim at the moment, the Dreamcast already has a library of hundreds of games available. This library ranges from fun arcade-style titles like Crazy Taxi to quirky puzzle games like Chu Chu Rocket to serious RPG’s like ShenMue. With such a large and varied selection of games, you’re sure to find at least a few you’ll enjoy playing.

Third, the Dreamcast is the only console currently available that comes with a built in 56K modem. This allows you to play popular games like NFL2K1 and Phantasy Star Online with millions of people around the world through SegaNet’s online service. Playing on-line with the Dreamcast, however, isn’t painless; the SegaNet service costs $22 a month and the modem requires you to unplug your phone. Playing games through a dial-up modem can also be pretty slow when compared with playing on a PC through the campus network. Still, it’s nice to know the option for on-line play is there if you want it.

Finally, the Dreamcast isn’t quite dead yet. Even though the system itself isn’t being produced, dozens of games that were in development when the Dreamcast was discontinued are still forthcoming. Big name games like Sonic Adventure 2 and a new version of the popular PC shooter Half-Life are still on their way. After this year the supply of new games will likely dwindle down to nothing, but for now Dreamcast owners still have some new titles to look forward to.

The Dreamcast may not be around in the future, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it now. With tons of great games at bargain prices and more titles to come, there’s no reason to write it off just yet.