GameSpot News sat down with Sega of America's Charles Bellfield today to discuss the Dreamcast in 2000. While Bellfield was quick to point out that Sega is currently focusing on this holiday season, he did reveal some details on the company's plans for next year that will surely make Dreamcast owners happy.
First, we discussed system sales projections. Sega now projects to have 1.5 million Dreamcast units sold by the end of 1999 an increase from its original estimate of 1 million. So far in the US, the company has already exceeded 750,000 units sold. The next milestone figure Sega forecast as 2 million systems sold by the end of this fiscal year (March 31, 2000). After that Sega also projects 6 million systems sold by the end of the next fiscal year (March 31,2001) in the North American market. While these numbers seem quite promising, Bellfield mentioned that they are figures he believes Sega will surpass. While it's highly likely we'll deliver many more units than what we've announced, we don't want to just pump out numbers. I won't give you any numbers we won't meet, he said.
We then moved on to the Dreamcast network. As Sega has been stressing over the past few months, there are several phases it has outlined for the network first there will be downloadable content for games, then parlor games like chess and checkers, then e-mail based games, then point-to-point games, and then finally true multiplayer gaming. Bellfield commented that these phases come as the result of Sega needing additional time to work with AT&T on building up the network as latency (the slowdown of data) can be lowered on the network more online offerings will become available. He states that games like Sonic Team's Chu Chu Rocket (an eight-player online board game of sorts) will be offered only when high latency (slower data) gaming is available. As latency levels decrease, point-to-point gaming and full multiplayer gaming will be offered (summer 2000 for point-to-point games, Q3 and Q4 for full multiplayer titles).
Bellfield also revealed that many third parties will offer other online gameplay through servers outside Sega's network. Windows CE incorporates an online component known as DirectPlay, which offers third party companies their own point-to-point gameplay through Windows CE (DirectPlay is also used as the gaming network protocol for Windows 95/98 gaming). The first third party games using DirectPlay could appear as early as next spring. Currently there are over 75 Dreamcast titles being developed for the Windows CE operating system.
As for future Dreamcast software, Bellfield confirmed that there are going to be more games based on the characters in the Sonic the Hedgehog series for the Dreamcast. He also commented that Virtual On: Oratorio Tangram could very well make it to the US when point-to-point gaming is available. That would be an idea title for point-to-point gaming, he said.
The last topic we inquired about was the Dreamcast Zip Drive. Bellfield stated that the drive should be available in Japan by February 2000. A US release release date has not been named, but it's likely that the drive will make it here by next summer at the latest. As shown in early mock-up photos, the drive rests beneath the Dreamcast and interfaces through the modem port. The modem then attaches to the Zip Drive. According to Bellfield, the Dreamcast Zip Drive will have fast access times because it connects directly to the several key processors the connection offered in the modem port allows for broadband data to be sent through it.