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Sega unwraps SegaNet

Aims at PC online gamers as well as console owners

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Sega today launched SegaNet, its ISP and online gaming service aimed at both PC users and owners of its own games machine, Dreamcast, as expected.

The move marks an attempt by Sega to explore revenue sources beyond its traditional games console and software sales. Dreamcast has arguably done rather less well than Sega hoped, overshadowed by Sony's PlayStation 2, to the extent that the company has even mooted getting out of the hardware business altogether.

As an initial step, Sega is chasing a share of the online gaming market, estimated by market researcher IDC to be worth $1-2 billion within the next couple of years. That Sega is looking beyond the console market is evidenced by its support for PC users, who it hopes will turn to SegaNet for faster connection speeds and thus better gameplay.

Besides, the PC dominates the online gaming world, and Sega would have to be pretty dim to try an build major market share without it. Dreamcast's lead over PlayStation 2 - such as it is - may help it move quickly into the online gaming space, but only PC support can bring in the revenues Sega really needs.

And if it encourages more Dreamcast sales along the way, so much the better for the company.

Sega said it would offer a $150 rebate to Dreamcast buyers who subscribe to SegaNet's $21.95 monthly subscription for at least 18 months. Sega has just dropped Dreamcast's price to $149. Anyone who's already bought a Dreamcast will get 50 hours' free trial usage, the company said. ®

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