Free Dreamcast for Sega's New ISP

Sega announces new company, Sega.com, and its online strategy, including ISP service, a gaming community, and a free Dreamcast as incentive.

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The Sega Dreamcast has been available for more than seven months in the US, and we have yet to see the system's online component seriously put to the test. Sega of America today, however, announced its aggressive twofold plan for creating and building the online console-game market. Sega named its new company Sega.com, which will focus on turning the current Sega.com site into an online destination for games instead of what it has been, namely a company information site. The company is operating under the tutelage of the newly appointed CEO, Brad Huang, who worked with Sega Enterprises chairman Isao Okawa for several years. The second function of Sega.com is the development of Sega's branded Internet service, SegaNet.

This is where it gets interesting for gamers. Sega's philosophical approach to online gaming, which is to act as a catalyst for the shift from antisocial to more social gaming (sitting at your PC alone vs. sitting in the living room with others), is driving the company's determined plan to give customers who signs up for two years of Internet service through SegaNet a $200 rebate check and a free Dreamcast keyboard for making the commitment. So if you already own a Dreamcast, you'll still get the rebate check for $200, even though the company is primarily targeting PC gamers and non-Dreamcast console gamers who will be able to buy a Dreamcast and then use the rebate check to get their money back. SegaNet's ISP is priced competitively with most service providers at $21.95 per month for unlimited usage, offering, according to Huang, the same services you'd receive from competing ISPs already in the market such as e-mail.

Sega plans to launch Sega.com in its new incarnation at the Electronic Entertainment Expo next month in Los Angeles and plans to offer SegaNet in August, with an official launch of the service September 7, 2000, during the MTV Video Music Awards. Sega launched the Dreamcast last year, on September 9, 1999, at the MTV Video Music Awards as well.

Several games will launch to support SegaNet in August. Besides the already available Chu Chu Rocket, Sega announced Quake III, NFL 2K1, and NBA 2K1 as three confirmed titles that Sega says will play like their console counterparts - online. More than a dozen online games will be available by the holiday season, including Phantasy Star Online, Half Life, Ready 2 Rumble, Magic the Gathering, Tetris, Dreamcast Bomberman, and Railroad Tycoon. We spoke with Activision, and the company's representative told us that the online DC version of Virtual On: Oratorio Tangram, currently available in Japan, will not be compatible with the US Dreamcast for online play.

Sega.com's Huang said that a major Internet backbone provider and partner will be named in the future and that the company is in negotiations for this relationship right now. This partnership will help SegaNet guarantee the quality service it plans to provide.

In addition to developing the online gaming community strategy, Sega is partnering with US Web as well as MP3.com. In September, Sega will introduce an MP3 player that you'll place in the VMU slot on your Dreamcast. This device will let you download up to 128 megs on two 64MB cards.

We'll have many more details on the announcement; the presentation with Sega's Peter Moore, senior vice president of marketing; Charles Bellfield, director of marketing communications, and Sega.com CEO Huang, and the pending partnership with an Internet backbone provider. Stay tuned.

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