For the past few months, gaming news has been taken over by Dreamcast. But that changed the minute Sony let the PlayStation 2 cat out of the bag in Tokyo on Tuesday. The fact that Sony's next machine already sounds like a huge leap over current PC technology isn't the only thing to consider. It could also dash Sega's hopes for becoming the dominant console in the next-generation market.
But it's not impossible to think that the Dreamcast can survive this challenge from Sony. It's already been reported that Dreamcast will retail for US$199, compared to the next-generation PlayStation's price tag, rumored to be around the $500 mark. Being the lower-priced alternative could give Dreamcast the mass-market advantage for the first year or so. Because there will be a year span between the launch of the Dreamcast in the US and the launch of PlayStation 2 here, there's plenty of time for Sega to get a foothold and carve out a niche for itself. But will a niche be enough? And is Sega up to direct competition with Sony, and do they have the kind of third party support to back them up?
The task has become infinitely more difficult now though - Square and Namco, having presented the first technology demos running on PS2 hardware, are almost assuredly going to support PS2. Dreams of Namco putting full support into Dreamcast are pretty well gone, and Square, while reportedly it does have Dreamcast development kits, will probably also make the jump right into PlayStation 2 as its "Emotion Engine" is exactly what Square has been fiending for since Final Fantasy VII was first in development.
Sega is expected to make an official statement later today or tomorrow regarding Sony's announcements (but has not as of press time). Dreamcast will be directly affected by today's events, whereas Nintendo's next system (early in development now) will likely catch the market after the PS2 has been introduced.
It's too early to judge which system will come out on top (and especially from today's excitement it seems that the pendulum has swung back in Sony's favor). As is always the case in this industry, things can change on a daily basis. And PlayStation 2 is still over a year away for the US market.
But finally, many questions have been answered about Sony's next system. Enough to get excited about it, but don't sell your PlayStation and camp out in a bunker until Fall 2000 just yet. There's still plenty of good gaming experiences left on PlayStation, Dreamcast and Nintendo 64 to come before PlayStation 2 is a reality. While we watch the events unfold in Japan, we'll bring them to you.