Sega Outlines US Dreamcast Launch

Sega of America says to expect new Mortal Kombat for the Dreamcast at launch, add in a 56k modem, and what about DVD?

SAN JOSE, CA - At the Game Developer's Conference Wednesday Sega's Bernie Stolar addressed a room of developers and other attendees and spoke about how Sega intends to take on the console market - and what it will release when the Dreamcast reaches US shores.

"We're going to take back our position from Sony," Stolar said.

He continued by talking about Sega of Japan selling close to one million Dreamcast in Japan and said that the system is truly revolutionary. "At Sega, we're out to change how people view software and hardware. We're dreaming big and we're delivering big," Stolar said. He then showed video of the titles already released in Japan and those expected for the US launch including: Sonic Adventure, Rally 2, Geist Force, Blue Stinger, Virtua Fighter3 tb, and House of the Dead 2.

Stolar closed by saying that Sega would develop "games as alive as developers can make them. He then outlined that Sega would give developers extended support via a 24-hour help line and would give developers access to its technology and engineering teams to help developers built their titles. He also explained that developers would have a choice of what to use as a development platform for the system but didn't indicated whether that meant OS environments or programming platforms.

Focusing on developers, he went on to say that Sega talked to developers and determined that what developers really wanted in a system was more RAM so the company has placed 26 MB of RAM into the system so designers don't need to steal RAM from other system functions allowing animators to build more complex models and animations.

"Will the Dreamcast have DVD in it's future? Yes it will." Stolar continued to say much like he has in the past, that the Dreamcast will support DVD when consumers demand it. He cited that current consumers wouldn't buy a machine costing US$350 and games that cost $125 each. Yet many wonder how DVD would actually be able to add to the system since the current Japanese Dreamcast uses an embedded CD drive and not a modular drive where one could pop out and replace with a DVD device. Replacing a modem with a faster one is a simple task but adding a DVD drive could prove to be a disaster of Sega CD proportion.

Unique for the US launch will be a 56k modem and Stolar spoke out saying it was the first showing of how the unit can be quickly upgraded. Yet there were no new announcement regarding any new Internet connectivity for any DC titles.

Then he went on to talk about Powerstone being the first title ever to move from the console to the arcade. Next, Stolar talked about a listing of US launch titles including Cart Racing, a new Mortal Kombat title, Ready to Rumble, Soul Calibur, a football game, and a basketball title. The mention of the sports title was an excellent introduction to the first semi-public appearance of two Sega Sports titles that many have been waiting for. Being developed by Visual Concepts, the titles were shown on screen and showcased the a powerful engine with highly detailed players, active crowds, smooth animation, and discernible faces of each of the players. No doubt, if Sega Sports can keep the quality of the game as high as the video depicts - sports fans are bound to come to the platform in droves.

Next, Stolar said that national retailers including Best Buy, Walmart, KB Toys, Toys R Us, and Target have all signed up to sell the console when it releases (Sega has yet to announce a release date on the record). SOA says that retailers are expecting to have sold 250,000-300,000 units sold prior to launch and expects the launch to be the biggest launch in history.

After a brief sigh, Stolar began to talk about "Sony's desperate times" referring to Sony's recent next generation PlayStation announcement. While he didn't come out and berate Sony, the sound of his voice indicated what we've already heard Stolar say, "the next PlayStation is still on paper." Interestingly, Sony's Phil Harrison was in attendance and didn't seem to flinch at the proclamation. At the end of the conference, we asked a few Sony reps about the situation and one said laughingly, "Gee, we're just going to have to stop giving out all those free TVs."

"Let's talk about a guy named Nick." Stolar suddenly chirped. One afternoon he said he met a local retailer who while talking, mentioned that he was a big Saturn player. After telling Nick that he was the president of Sega, the retailer gave Stolar his opinion about what Sega needed to make the new system good. After a moment, he introduced Nick – an eleven-year-old who apparently met Stolar when he visited Nick's lemonade stand. The boy talked about a few of his ideas and one of his ideas was to take game characters from games and give gamers the ability to put those characters into other games. After a few minutes, Stolar took the boy off stage and didn't indicate if he'd incorporate any of Nick's ideas.

To close the keynote, Stolar introduced the crowd to Shenmue - the upcoming title that we've heard hyped for so long. The game was only shown on video form and not in playable form but the video showed off lush green arenas, complex urban areas, great water effects and the main character running thorough a deep forests. So far it is difficult to see where Sega of Japan will take the title regarding gameplay but graphically - the title looks to take Final Fantasy head on.

As more information comes from Sega regarding the title - we're sure to report it.

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