Phantasy Star Online (2000)
Sonic Team's action-RPG for the Dreamcast, first released in Japan in 2000 and elsewhere a year later, is largely responsible for demonstrating the potential for online gaming on consoles. While the idea of a party-based online game was familiar to PC players, there'd been nothing like it before on consoles. This is largely down to Sega chairman Isao Okawa being a firm believer in the concept, and pushing his strongest talent to explore network play ideas. Unlike previous turn-based Phantasy Star games, PSO was a 3D action game with a Diablo-like design that allowed four players from anywhere in the world to team up. Although players weren't required to play online, the cooperative play centered around the game's three different classes – close-range Hunters, long range Rangers, and magic-using Forces – was the source of its enduring appeal. The game was later released for the GameCube, on PC, and for the original Xbox, and is widely considered one of the most significant game releases of all time. By 2003, there were 600,000 people playing it – small by today's standards, but for a game that had single-handedly created a whole new way of playing on consoles, it was unprecedented.