by Ken Gagne
fter stopping at three gas stations for directions, and a drive-by of Dodger Stadium (when did they leave New York??), Ian Johnston, Joe Talladira, and I arrived at Club SoHo for the Sega pre-E3 press briefing. We milled about the lounge for three-quarters an hour, enjoying the catered snacks and taking advantage of the complimentary bar. A Dreamcast equipped for two-player Sega Rally was available, a round of which I won using the steering wheel peripheral. Eventually we were ushered into the conference room.
A brief weather report indicated a Dreamcast-like storm approaching the Los Angeles area; fortunately we were well-equipped to receive it. Bernard Stolar, president and CEO of Sega of America, mourned the Saturn, having experienced the "slow, painful death of a console," but kept his eyes to the future with a $200 million launch budget for the console that will redefine gaming: the Sega Dreamcast.
A brief clip followed, featuring some of the amazing launch titles: SONIC ADVENTURE, which is blisteringly fast; SEGA SPORTS NFL FOOTBALL and SEGA SPORTS NBA BASKETBALL, both amazingly real; SOUL CALIBUR, much to the delight of the audience ("The legend will never die!"); TRICK STYLE – imagine the hoverboards from "Back to the Future, Part II", but effected on all extreme sports; READY 2 RUMBLE BOXING; and POWER STONE. Castlevania was noted as a launch title but was not shown.
Speaking of launch, it's still on for 9/9/99, with an MSRP of $199.99. Bernie boasts the DC to be 15 times more powerful than the Sony PlayStation, 10 times than the Nintendo 64, and 5 times the graphics capabilities of the latest Pentium. More than a dozen store chains, including Kay*Bee, Sears, K-Mart, and Hollywood Video, are prepared to stock the machine and its software — the latter of which will be coming from over 100 3rd parties in the near future, including newcomers Activision, Fox Entertainment, UbiSoft, and ASCII. 15 titles will be available at launch, with 25 total this Fall and 30 by year's end. Sega wants to repeat the source of their strong Genesis sales, saying that "Sega Sports is back."
Vice President of Marketing Peter Moore expects to sell 1.5 million hardware units before March 31st of next year, indicating Sega's already strong start: as of last night, 76,000 preorders had been placed, with 200,000 expected by launch. Advertising will begin soon on ESPN, WB, UPN, and during shows such as Fox's "The Simpsons" and Comedy Central's "South Park". MTV will receive the majority of advertising, as Sega has committed $6 million to MTV commercials, being the main sponsor of the MTV Video Music Awards (also on 9/9/99). Sega will also be sharing some 60-second commercials with Pepsi on the big-screen when people go to see STAR WARS: EPISODE 1 this summer. 45 days of advertising will begin soon, and things will really heat up on August 9th. Early next week, look for a revamped web site at http://www.sega.com.
But, most importantly, a long-standing question was finally addressed: Will the Dreamcast come packaged with the 56k modem? The answer: MOST DEFINITELY!!! The modem will utilize a custom Sega network (ala Saturn Netlink), granting players access to chat, news, real-time sports scores, exclusive web sites, top scores postings, and more. An online game capable of supporting over a thousand online gamers exploring a world of over 5,000 square miles is being developed by Turbine, and is codenamed Frontier. And, best of all, Interplay's Forgotten Realms RPG, BALDUR'S GATE, will also be ported for online DC play. Classic board, puzzle, and card games will also be available.
A video of Shenmue was shown, almost identical to a video sent to the press a month ago, but with 1/4th new footage and irritating music. A final video collage of Sega titles was shown, including new games TOY COMMANDER and AIR FORCE DELTA, and plenty of footage of RESIDENT EVIL: CODE VERONICA. The music, the graphics, the variety — all very impressive.
Dreamcast: "Outsmarting it will only make it smarter." "Don't think out loud — it may hear you."
Sega's made a believer out of me.
This article is copyright (c) 1999, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.
Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 12-May-99