Sega Enterprises, maker of NetLink, an early WebTV competitor, has announced that Dreamcast, their next generation high-performance gaming system will use WebTV for WindowsCE.
Dreamcast will debut next month in Japan and next September in the US and Europe. The Japanese price is expected to be 29,800 Yen ($220 US). No US pricing has been announced.
But next spring, Japanese Dreamcast owners will be able to surf the Web WebTV-style courtesy of a CD-ROM upgrade enabling the WebTV for Windows CE technology. At a future date, Microsoft will port Internet Explorer to the Dreamcast.
Sega also confirmed that a 33.6 kbps modem would be included for e-mail and Internet access, and for on-line network gaming. The box will include a 128-Bit RISC processor by Hitachi as well as 3D Audio from Yamaha and a 3-D graphics engine by NEC. It will also have an expansion port for future development.
Sega has announced that it will sell a microphone that will facilitate telephony and future voice recognition capabilities. Sega will also release a variety of other add-ons, including a keyboard ($34 US), and a VGA computer monitor adapter (price to be announced).
The software will be created for a customized version of Microsoft Windows CE, Microsoft's light version of Windows 95 for handheld digital devices and settop boxes such a future WebTV product with General Instruments. Windows CE will allow programmers to easily port their games over to the Sega Dreamcast and should cut down on the cost of production.
Another unique feature of Dreamcast is the Visual Memory System (expected to cost less than $20 US), which is a memory card and a portable game card with built-in LCD screen. Plugged into the Dreamcast controller, the LCD screen lets players set up secret moves against their opponents, such as killer plays in sports games, for which the defensive player will not be able to plan, thus adding an even more realistic feel to the game. Pull out the VMS card and it becomes a portable electronic game card no bigger than a business card.
In addition, users will be able to save game features, such as user-created special players or teams, and share them with friends simply by linking two VMS cards together.
Sega is the maker of NetLink, a cartridge that turns its Saturn game console into an Internet browser on TV. It was critically panned for its fuzzy graphics and weak browser performance.
With the Dreamcast game console, Sega joins a growing list of companies who have WebTV products available or in development. Sony, and Philips-Magnavox were the first with the first generation WebTV Internet Terminal (now called the WebTV Classic).
Last fall, they were joined by Mitsubishi with the second generation WebTV Plus, which integrated television and the Internet. Hitachi announced it to would build WebTVs, but no WebTV products have made it to market with the Hitachi label.
This spring, Samsung released its dead-ringer for the Mitsubishi Plus box. Then, this summer, Microsoft released WebTV for Windows, which integrated some of WebTV's TV/Web technologies into their Windows 98. Thomson Multimedia has announced plans to build boxes under the RCA and Thomson labels. WebTV is expected to release details on their third generation WebTV based on WindowsCE. The Sega Dreamcast is the first official announcement of a product using WebTV and WindowsCE.
Sega demonstrated several games at the Tokyo Game Show, including Sonic Adventure, the latest appearance by Sega's mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog. Next-Generation magazine reports that Sonic Adventure would not be ready for the Dreamcast launch, but the Sega expects five titles at launch, including: Godzilla Generations, July, Sega Rally 2, Virtua Fighter, and Pen Pen Triathlon. Sonic and six other games are expected by year's end in Japan.