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WHAT'S COOL IN JAPAN
On November 27, 1998, Sega, the home-computer-game giant, released its latest video-game hardware: Dreamcast. The first shipment of about 150,000 units sold out in a single day, and the game continues to fly off store shelves. Shoppers are still having a hard time getting their hands on a Dreamcast set.
The new machine is proving to be popular for a number of reasons. Of course, game players like the high-quality 3-D graphics that the powerful new technology can handle, as well as the communication features that allow them to connect to the Internet. But another thing that gained lots of attention for Dreamcast was an unusual series of TV commercials that starred Eiichi Yukawa, then a director of Sega Enterprises. The ads were not like most you see on TV--they had bad things to say about Sega and praise for the company's rivals' products!
One of these popular TV commercials features some elementary-school kids saying surprising things about the company: "Sega is so uncool," "PlayStation is a lot more fun," and so on. Yukawa, who happens to overhear the kids bad-mouthing his company, is upset by this; he then sees his day go from bad to worse until he hears a voice from nowhere telling him to get up and fight back. The company produced and aired the sequels to this ad after it proved a huge success, bringing Sega back into the public eye (and maybe getting some pity for poor Yukawa, who has such a terrible time in them).
Demand for the new game machines was huge, and only people who had reserved a Dreamcast unit in advance were able to buy one of the first shipment. But even these people, who were guaranteed of being able to buy one, lined up in front of stores around Tokyo the night before the game went on sale. Yukawa himself showed up at some of these stores, cheerfully greeting and shaking hands with customers. Dreamcast sales have been so good that stores throughout the country have been constantly sold out of the game--it seems that Sega didn't make enough of them! In December, Yukawa took responsibility for this shortage by accepting a demotion. But the former director remains a highly popular figure among children. He even made his debut as a singer in December, when a record company came out with his CD--appropriately titled "Dreamcast."
Photos (from top): The new Dreamcast unit; Yukawa having a bad day in one of his commercials. (SEGA ENTERPRISES., LTD.)