Sega delays Dreamcast Network

The next-generation console's leap into cyberspace is delayed. No online gaming until the second half of 2000.

Sega of America, currently based in Japan for the Tokyo Game Show, said Thursday its Dreamcast Network will not support online gaming until the second half of 2000.

Although the Dreamcast Network won't be immediately available, Sega said it will:

  • Offer such Internet functions as Web browsing, chat and email by the fourth quarter of 1999.

  • Support such online mini-games as board, puzzle and card games by the first and second quarter of 2000.

  • And expand to encompass full online gaming during the third and fourth quarter of 2000. Twelve online titles, including Half-Life, will be released during this period.

Why the delay?

A company spokesperson claimed that these phases have been planned all along for the Dreamcast Network. However former Sega COO Bernie Stolar had said previously -- on several occasions -- that online gaming would be available on day one.

Later, when it became known that the network would not be ready to handle online gaming on day one, Sega spokespeople said it would definitely be able to support online games by late winter or early spring of 1999. Now Sega says online gaming won't fall into place until the third quarter of 2000.

That announcement has the potential to impact Sega's Dreamcast Network strategy. By the time Sega's Dreamcast Network is finally able to fully support online gaming, broadband Internet connections (such as cable modems) will be more commonplace. It's very likely that Dreamcast owners will want to adopt the broadband connection speeds for their Internet gaming, and do away with the current modem included with the Dreamcast. This may cause prospective Dreamcast buyers to question whether they really want to pay the extra money for the Dreamcast modem if it's merely to browse the Internet and play online card games.

Also, by the time fully-fledged online gaming becomes a reality on the Dreamcast Network, the big titles that have been announced for the system won't seem nearly as big anymore. Titles like Sega Rally 2 will no doubt seem inferior to second-generation Dreamcast racers -- and titles like Half-Life and Baldur's Gate will already have sequels or pseudo sequels on PCs.

Looking ahead, though, Sega is rumoured to have some truly ambitious projects lined up for its Dreamcast Network.