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Sega set to license Dreamcast to set-top box builder

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If Sega has indeed decided to end Dreamcast production, the console may yet live on as the basis for a new product being developed by UK set-top box maker Pace.

Sega is believed to be preparing an announcement to that effect, with press and analyst briefings scheduled for Monday, 29 January. The official launch of the Pace box will be made two days later on 1 February, we hear.

Essentially, Pace has been working with Imagination Technologies, the company that developed the PowerVR 2 chip that drives Dreamcast's graphics. Imagination was then known as VideoLogic. As a company more focused on the televisual side of set-top box technology, it's not hard to believe that Pace would seek outside help to extend its products' functionality to take in Internet access and gaming.

Certainly, Sega has been keen on working with third-parties keen to bring Dreamcast technology on board. Last June, it emerged that various firms were in discussions with Sega to license Dreamcast. One of them was - you guessed it - Imagination Technologies.

Pace's plan appears to centre on the creation of a consumer-oriented entertainment system and information appliance, which is pretty much where Sega thinks the market is going.

"The future game box will be an all-in-one, set-top box," said Sega Vice Chairman Shoichiro Irimajiri last year. "In that case, Sega's role is one part of many functions, so we cannot do it alone. We need very good alliances or a joint venture."

Such a scheme may very well be what Pace and Sega will announce next week.

One missing piece in the puzzle is Sega's own plans. That it wants to focus on software is clear, but that doesn't rule out its involvement in the hardware business. If Sega were to ship Pace's box itself, as a remade Dreamcast aimed at new markets - a bit like Sony's reinvention of the PlayStation as the PS One - that plan would be consistent with suggestions that Sega is ending Dreamcast production (it's dropping Dreamcast Mk.1) and the company's claim that it will continue promoting the console for a long time (it's going to push Dreamcast Mk.2).

Whatever, we should find out soon. ®

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