Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last six months, you’ve probably heard that Sega of America is trying to steal a chunk of the hard-core gamer demo away from console mainstays Nintendo and Sony PlayStation by releasing a really high-tech system called Dreamcast. With its September 9 retail launch looming on the digital horizon, the time to dissect Dreamcast’s market share-winning components is nigh.
With a 200 Mhz CPU that is four times faster at processing 3-D graphics than Intel’s Pentium II, this speedy system can render on-screen characters that have a more rounded, life-like visual quality and that can support artificial intelligence. Villains in the new console’s software lineup can actually recognize repeated play patterns and will then strategically outfox their opponents. Also on the circuit side of things, Dreamcast’s NEC PowerVR DC chip can handle more than three million polygons per second, lending game images a crystalline quality that reveals minute detail missing in most Nintendo and PlayStation games.
Sega plans to bolster Dreamcast’s North American retail debut with a whopping 16-title software array, which will be beefed up to 30 games by the holidays and 100 by the end of 2000. First-party launch games include: Sonic Adventure, an action-adventure title that stars vid game veteran Sonic the Hedgehog, ramped up with new supersonic shoes and longer legs to trek through the game’s expansive 3-D worlds; and sports duo NFL 2000 and NBA 2000. On the third-party front, Midway is designing a Dreamcast version of Mortal Combat Gold, and Ubi Soft is in the final production stages on racing game Monaco Grand Prix.
Despite this impressive launch slate, Dreamcast’s most highly anticipated game will not hit store shelves until some time next year. Created by arcade game genius Yu Suzuki, Shenmue is an adventure/role playing title that features real-time changing environments and over 500 characters with which players can interact. Originally conceived five years ago, Shenmue was put on the shelf because none of the hardware on the market at the time was advanced enough to support it.
Lastly, the console newbie will ship with a 56K modem, bringing the dream of on-line multiplayer video gaming to fruition. Users can link to the Sega Dreamcast Network (an on-line hub that can support thousands of users at a time) to play against one another, as well as to trade gaming tips and other vital geek info.
For more details on Sega’s marketing strategy, see ‘Infecting the teen psyche with Dreamcast’ on page 25. To check out the gameco’s retail plans, see ‘It’s official: The console wars are underway’ on page R7.