By Shawn Rider
One of the promises of the Dreamcast was Internet connectivity right out of the box. Sega realized early on that consumers not only want to game online, but to have easy access to web sites, email, and the plethora of applications that have made the Internet and the World Wide Web so attractive. Indeed, right out of the box users could plug their new Dreamcast into the wall and get online with a few quick clicks. While the Dreamcast Web Browser 1.0 wasn't fully functional on the contemporary network, everything worked pretty well. Within a short time you could download mods for Sonic Adventure, check out the questionable content provided by IGN, kings of the misguided headline, and, most importantly, access the external web and email. Odds are, some of you are reading this article on your Dreamcast right now, so you know what I mean. Hopefully you're using the 2.0 browser, which now supports Flash and MP3s.
But what we've seen so far is just the beginning. Chu Chu Rocket brought us the first online multiplayable game, and the puzzler was addictive and fun. However, not everybody is thrilled by ushering cute little space mice into rockets to save them from cute little space kitties. Nope, some of us want the blood, the gore, the rough and tumble hits, and no game with the words "Chu Chu" in the title will give us that. Now, everything has changed.
Sega has reinvented itself as Sega.com, and the dot-com addition represents the new focus of the company. Sega.com, working with and through SegaNet, has built an ISP and gaming network that rivals any other. With the experience of Heat.net behind them, these two companies are really offering new services to customers. Optimized for the 56K modem that comes standard on all Dreamcast units, the network guarantees that you will be no further than one hop away from a gaming node, something that no other ISP or game network can offer. If you don't believe that even Sega.com can optimize connections for narrowband transfers, broadband connections will be supported through the Sega ethernet adaptor, which will be available later this year, hopefully in time for this Fall's glut of new online titles. In addition, Sega.com is offering consumers a rebate and a free keyboard for signing a two-year contract. Sign up for two years, and they'll send you a check for $200. If you already own a Dreamcast, you can spend that money on games and Mountain Dew. In addition, everybody who signs up for the ISP will receive a free keyboard, which makes those online chat rooms a lot more interesting. Sega has partnered with a half dozen or so major network companies to provide infrastructure and support for the new network.
SegaNet will launch in September 2000, and that launch will be augmented by a slew of new online titles. Sega will be releasing NBA 2K1 and NFL 2K1, both of which will allow players to form local teams of up to four, then face the competition online. This is a breakthrough in online gaming that could not have come from the PC world, where gaming is generally conducted with only one user per monitor. In addition, Quake III Arena is in development from id Soft. The id Soft gang is working furiously to insure interoperability between PC and DC versions fo the game, which will likely require a patch for PC users, opening up another new realm of online play. Also represented at the SegaNet pavilion at E3 were: Alien Front, Black and White, DC Bomber Man, Sierra Sports, Kiss Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child, Magic the Gathering, PBA Tour Bowling, POD 2, 4X4 Evolution, Phantasy Star Online, Railroad Tycoon II, Half-Life, and Worms Armageddon.
With the incredible roster of games, it's no wonder SegaNet stirred up so much attention at E3. Quake III Arena looks as good as it does on the PC, although console fans have got a lot to learn about deathmatch multiplayer in a massive environment. We witnessed gamers trying to pick off enemies located across the level with the shotgun. And if what we saw at E3 was any indication, we can expect a mouse for the Dreamcast sometime soon, which will at least even the odds for console players. It all looks great, and Sega will beat the other systems to full-fledged online playability by probably at least a year, which can do a lot to keep Dreamcast owners content. Even with the PS2 launch in sight, it wouldn't be a bad idea to pick up a Dreamcast.
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