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Xbox to be Dreamcast compatible?

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Xbox will play Dreamcast games, "credible" sources have claimed, according to videogame Web site Gamers.com.

The plan appears to be the inclusion of the "Dreamcast chipset" inside Xbox, and Bill Gates is going to get up on stage and say as much at the Tokyo Game Show (TGS) this spring.

No, we're not sure about this one either. Supporting its claim, Gamers.com notes previous stories that "an incredibly huge" games developer will announce its support for Xbox at TGS and how Gates said at the Consumer Electronic Show earlier this month that some "state of the art" chips have yet to be incorporated into the Xbox.

Both points are purely circumstantial. The first story could be about absolutely anyone. The Sega connection is being inferred because of this week's hints coming out of Japan that the company plans to develop software for Xbox. Let's assume that Gamers.com's does indeed refer to Sega - and there's no reason why it shouldn't, in the circumstances - it doesn't even remotely suggest Xbox will be Dreamcast compatible.

As for Gates' comments, these surely refer to Nvidia's technology. Its Media Communications Processor (MCP), to be included in Xbox, is a darn sight more "state of the art" than Dreamcast's components, at least as far as a Bill Gates marketing speech goes.

But if Gamers.com's supporting evidence doesn't amount to a hill of beans, what about its sources' claims?

The question to ask is why Microsoft would want to include Dreamcast compatibility? It can't be for the software, since one of the key aspects of Xbox is its scope to leverage existing PC games development to allow publishers to ship Xbox titles quickly.

That leaves Dreamcast's user base, to whom Microsoft could market Xbox as the successor to their current console. Dreamcast may be a minority platform, but it does have a large number of users out there. Getting them on board over time would certainly drive up Xbox's own user figures.

However, it seems unlikely that Microsoft would want the expense of adding otherwise unnecessary components to Xbox simply on the hope that existing Dreamcast users migrate. Especially since, with the Sega console's future uncertain, they're likely to come over anyway. And Microsoft is so confident in its own technology that it would go against the grain to admit that it can't win customers on its own merits - ie. that it has to use a rival's technology to do so.

One other option is some form of software emulation, but again the cost of developing this kind of code would outweigh any advantage that Microsoft might gain.

No, we reckon there are some very crossed wires here. Has Sega been talking to Microsoft's Xbox people? Yes, but almost certainly about games development, not about console hardware. That's what Gates will say at TGS: Sega is to develop games for Xbox. What he won't say, of course, is that the company is working on code for other platforms too. ®

Related Link

Gamers.com.'s story can be found here

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