Dreamcast Hoaxes

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I've always been fascinated by how many net hoaxes and scams have revolved around the Dreamcast console and related games (in particular, Shenmue). I thought it might be interesting to have a look at some of the most memorable ones, though this list is by no means exhaustive so please feel free to add to the list if I've missed any.

Fake Shenmue Passport, February 2006: Back in 2006, gamers were amazed to find the Shenmue Passport spring back to life. For those of you who don't know what the Shenmue Passport is, click here. Everyone else can just skip to the "good stuff", which would be seeing this appear on your TV if you'd had the brainwave to go online with your long-dead Dreamcast in February 2006:

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A message proclaiming that downloadable content for Shenmue was back online, and that more would be "coming soon". Forums everywhere started to look like this. All of a sudden, downloads were available from the seemingly official (and freshly reborn) website and messages saying "We'll be back soon" were plentiful, sparking rumours  of a Shenmue 3  announcement (or even something related to the  limbo-ridden Shenmue Online).

However, something didn't seem quite right about all this and the truth eventually came out thanks to a fantastic bit of detective work here. Someone had bought the domain once it had expired, and decided to "give fans hope" with a bunch of uploads and fake messages. As you might expect, this did not go down very well (in fact, you can see the process of SEGA reclaiming the domain from the culprit here thanks to someone who was copied in on the EMail conversations).

Shenmue 3 Youtube Trailer, January 2007: This is a fairly crummy hoax, but did seem to sucker a lot of people. Take some CGI footage from the canceled "Shenmue Online" game, stick "Shenmue 3" over the top of it:

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Place the whole mess onto Youtube then sit back and laugh. Even though the video was placed online in 2007, it's still fooling people a year on.

Dreamcast Phish, March 2008: This one was particularly nasty, and was similar in execution to the way the Shenmue.com domain was swiped for the above scam. Someone grabbed the Dreamcast.com domain, then used it to phish for email logins and caused an awful lot of LET'S KILL THE PERSON RESPONSIBLE IMMEDIATELY type comments across the Net. This is what the previously dormant website suddenly looked like after being offline for all those years:

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Seeing that sent quite a few Dreamcast fans insane (myself included) which made it all the more horrible when it was revealed to be nothing more than yet-another-Dreamcast-hoax.

Luring you in with the promise of an official @dreamcast.com Email address, they asked for your serial number, desired username, password and a current Email address. Once registered, you would end up with a seemingly valid yourserialnumber@user.dreamcast.com address.

The only problem, of course, was that it wasn't SEGA sending out your details, it was the scammer who had grabbed the domain name. The theory is that people would likely use the same password for their desired Dreamcast address as the alternate Email address they provided when signing up to the "service". Thus, you would have spam lists and hijacked email addresses galore.

It didn't take long before SEGA denounced the site, and it was pulled offline shortly after. In retrospect, a dead giveaway should have been the fact that the site had Google Ads and a few other things on it (check out the rather small screenshot) that probably wouldn't have been there if SEGA had actually been in charge. SEGA almost certainly wouldn't have had a Play-Asia affiliate code embedded in the page, for that matter:

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Messing around with one particular videogame is one thing, but whipping fans of the Dreamcast console into a frenzy with the promise of an out-of-the-blue Dreamcast revival was never going to end well. Sadly, the culprit was never found but hopefully they'll drop a really heavy plantpot stuffed with bricks on their foot at some point in the near future.

Shenmue "Believe" Advert, July 2008: Oh dear. EDGE magazine usually post up a cryptic, arty image as a substitute for a regular "Next Month" page. For the September issue, someone started a thread on the NEOGAF forum previewing said issue. In this case, the Next Month page looked like a notepad - and one of the more iconic images of Shenmue was the Notepad the main character used to store notes, items and the like.

A quick photo manipulation later and...

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If you can't see it, in the middle of the pad the original poster has placed "Shenmue 3: Believe" in very faint text.

This spread across the net like wildfire for a few days, until of course people started to get their hands on the issue in question and realised the whole thing was....yet again.....a hoax. I believe the EDGE preview turned out to be for an article about videogame instruction manuals.

Shenmue 3 Disc Hoax, August 2008: Sometimes innocent bloggers (who really should check the source material...) are sent images and post them up. Bad idea. Not so long ago, SEGA unveiled a room containing every single game they'd ever made. One of the images contained a pile of GD-Rom discs which SEGA used to store prototypes and early build versions of Dreamcast games on. Despite the blogger in question actually linking to the original, they were suckered in by a photoshop alteration where someone had placed "Shenmue 3" over the top:

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As SEGA themselves said,

"Ha, that's too funny, they've totally photoshopped the image. I wonder how long it is before we see this getting picked up as fact."

As it turns out, it wasn't too long - I did see this pop up on a couple of forums, but this one was caught pretty early. It's still surprising that the blogger didn't just check the original image more closely though.

This ends our tragic roundup of scams related to the Dreamcast console. I have a feeling we'll be seeing more soon enough...

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This page contains a single entry by Christopher Boyd published on September 19, 2008 6:03 PM.

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