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Sega's lucky number and other developments

By ROBB GUIDO

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 10, 1999


Sega hopes nine is its lucky number.

The company said its new Dreamcast video game system will launch Sept. 9, or, cleverly, 9/9/99. Sega hopes to score 10's with consumers in the United States and has already received 30,000 pre-orders for the machine. Sega expects that number to climb into the 200,000 range as Sept. 9 approaches.

Sega's dream is that the console makes as big a splash here as it has in Japan, where it has sold 1-million units. The Dreamcast will cost $199.99, and Sega promises 12 games at launch, including high-profile titles from the Sonic the Hedgehog and Virtual Fighter series. Dreamcast will have a 128-bit processor, faster than a Pentium II chip, and will be the first console to include a modem for multiplayer gaming.

***

It has been a long time since Nintendo had any competition for the Gameboy. But now SNK, the company that brought us the first 24-bit console in the early 1990s, said it will release a color portable in September.

The hand-held unit, tabbed Neo Geo Pocket Color, will sell for $79.99, $10 more than Gameboy Color, yet the Neo will boast a true 16-bit processor. SNK claims the little Neo can display nearly three times the colors as its Nintendo counterpart, and at a higher resolution. Ten games will be available for the Neo in September. For those who can't wait, SNK already is selling Neo Geo Pocket Color at its Web site (www.snkusa.com).

***

The saga of video game emulators continues with Bleem!, which allows PC users to play PlayStation games on their computer.

But here is the kicker: Bleem! can enhance the graphics of PlayStation games with the help of a graphic accelerator board. The gizmo can be purchased online for $39.95, a bargain compared with the PlayStation's $129.99 price.

Sony has been terse in its response to the product, probably because of its failure to win an injunction against another emulator, the Connectix Virtual Station for the Mac. Bleem! manufacturers have been very careful not to violate Sony's intellectual property rights and have taken measures to ensure that only authentic, not pirated, games can be played on the emulator.

In Bleem LLC's eyes, its emulator not only sells more software for Sony, which is where Sony's real money is made, but it also would save game companies the $500,000 that it costs to convert a PSX title to the PC.

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