Sega and Nintendo's history has been well documented in the past, with the two firms being bitter rivals during the 16-bit era. In recent years things have become a little more rosy, what with Nintendo publishing some of Sega's games on its consoles. Sega's transition from hardware maker to third-party publisher was a rocky one, instigated by some questionable hardware choices (Mega CD, 32X) and the failure of the Saturn in the face of the PlayStation, but it would be the Dreamcast's passing which would signal the company's exit from the console arena.
Even before the Dreamcast was released it was seen by industry experts as the last throw of the dice for a company on the ropes - it had to be a smash hit to secure the future of the firm as a hardware maker. Despite posting some impressive numbers in North America, that didn't happen - and from a UK perspective some of the blame has to be laid at the doors of Sega Europe's befuddling marketing campaign.
You might feel that Nintendo has dropped the ball with its promotion of the Wii U, but Sega's commercials for the Dreamcast in Europe make Nintendo's efforts seem incredibly effective. Sega kicked off its campaign with an ad that focused on a group of military barbers shaving the heads of new recruits. The advert didn't feature a single shot of the Dreamcast itself nor did it showcase any of the visually-impressive games that would be published on the console at launch. Sega poured money into this ad and others, even screening them before Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace at cinemas.
While this commercial was criticised at the time for wasting the opportunity to show off Sega's new hardware, it did feature an interesting hero in the shape of the barber who wins the race to shave quickest; his face would even feature on print adverts for the system. Despite this lofty role, he faded into memory as the Dreamcast's life was cut short and Sega began publishing on other systems.
One person who wasn't going to allow "the barber" to be forgotten was The Dreamcast Junkyard's Tom Charnock, who made it his quest to track down the actor who played the role:
He was the face of the console in Europe and his image was everywhere for a few months in late 1999 and early 2000...then he simply disappeared. No record of his name, or who he was left anywhere on the promotional materials, and internet searches turned up nothing. His identity could have been lost to the digital mists of internet lore...that is until The Dreamcast Junkyard stepped in and decided to find out who he was.
This journey has been superbly documented in three features on the site, which are well worth reading. However, if you'd rather cut to the chase then Charnock is now able to reveal that the barber is in fact French actor and comedian Pierre Santino. Santino appears to be somewhat bemused that so many Sega fans consider him to be a legend:
In truth I was really surprised - in a good way - when you contacted me. It's true that it's been a long time since this commercial and the Dreamcast and I still like to share it. But in the intervening time? I've been busy with my acting career for the past 16 years, and have appeared in many different TV shows, movies and commercials.
The full interview is well worth a read, as are the accompanying features. Which Sega commercials stick out in your memory? Did you grow up with Sega of America's focused attacks at Nintendo, or was it Sega Europe's Pirate TV campaign which tempted you to invest? Share your thoughts with a comment below.