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UK set-top box builder licenses Dreamcast

Pace to integrate console's technology into digital VCRs

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UK set-top box maker Pace today said it will integrate Sega's Dreamcast console into its latest products, as we predicted it would last week (see Sega set to license Dreamcast to set-top box builder).

Pace plans to use Dreamcast technology to enhance the TiVo-style digital video recorder it announced last year. The plan is to promote the new, "games-enabled" box to cable and digital TV companies as a way to entice customers to their networks.

Indeed, Pace stressed the opportunity for download-based pay-per-play gaming and pay-for-time-online multi-player action, both of which suggest that the Pace box won't be equipped with a drive capable of reading Dreamcast discs. Console owners expecting a 'Dreamcast 2' will be disappointed.

"The benefits of integrating gaming technology into the set-top box go beyond just games," said Neil Gaydon, the president of Pace's US operation. "For instance, the powerful 3D graphics capability can be used to spice up other applications, like the electronic program guide (EPG)."

Essentially, Pace is targeting the same territory Sony has its eye on with the PlayStation 2 and its successors: the home entertainment gateway. Pace is approaching the arena from a different direction than Sony's. Where Sony is taking the games console and extending it with Internet access into which it can ultimately connect broadband-delivered digital entertainment services, Pace is bringing Net connectivity and games to the cable or digital TV set-top box.

Like Sony, Pace sees this gateway as the point from which a home's various entertainment delivery systems - hi-fis, TVs and even PCs - will receive much of their content.

"It will soon be possible to wirelessly distribute games to other devices in the home, once they have been delivered through the home gateway," said Gaydon. Games can be ported from the set-top box to numerous devices in and outside of the home, including PCs, PDAs, cellular phones and more."

That, of course, provides Sega with access to many more users than it could hope to reach through the videogames market - particularly since it now wants to focus more on software development than hardware production. However, while Pace is onto a winner providing digital video recording facilities, we wonder how many buyers wanting to pause on-air TV broadcasts will also want to play games. And while there are over a hundred games available for Dreamcast, how many are suitable for downloading on a pay-per-play basis? Success will depend on network companies sponsoring development of titles designed for this market. ®

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