The launch of a new generation of game systems will begin in the U.S. on September 9, when Sega brings its new Dreamcast video game console, already available in Japan, to North America. The 128-bit system, which has already sold more than 1 million units in Japan, will carry a surprisingly low retail price of $199.
Sega will begin selling the next-generation unit well in advance, with a $100 million marketing and advertising campaign, hoping that a bombastic launch will firmly establish Dreamcast with consumers long before Sony launches its next-generation system, dubbed PlayStation II, in the U.S. during the fall of 2000 (see TWICE, March 8, p. 1).
To coincide with the launch, last week Iomega announced it will include a 100MB Zip drive in an optional "collaborative product" it will develop with Sega that will attach to Dreamcast. The companies said the new product will increase the capabilities of game playing and web-based activities such as content saving of e-mail and web searches.
Dreamcast will be available in the third quarter. Sega will offer the Zip drive - and private-label Dreamcast Zip 100MB disks - in "game-oriented channels," the game maker said.
Sega is launching its system a full year ahead of Sony, and its Dreamcast is more powerful than any current game system. Specs include a 128-bit processor, 26MB of RAM, 64 channels of sound, second-generation PowerVR 3D graphics, a 1 Gigabyte GD-ROM drive, and a 56K modem for Internet access and e-mail.
In addition, Sega is including a specialized version of Microsoft's Windows CE operating system in Dreamcast, which should help developers reduce the time it takes to port games between the game console and a PC.
However, Sony's recently announced PlayStation II system, features a 128-bit, 300MHz CPU co-developed with Toshiba that features floating-point performance three times that of the latest 500MHz Pentium III PC. Also, the system will be DVD-based and backward compatible with existing PlayStation games - an industry first.