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Xbox to Dreamcast: Resistance is futile

Andy Brown
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Rumors of my demise fueled by my absence from TR are greatly exaggerated. I’m not dead, I’m just getting married. This Saturday, actually, but that’s another story.

On a more tech-related front, take a look at this fascinating little blurb from gamers.com. Some anonymous sources are claiming the Microsoft’s new Xbox game console will be able to play Sega Dreamcast games. Although I first rejected this out of hand, the more I think about it the more credible it seems.

First came rumors back in November that Sega was working on putting the Dreamcast onto a PCI card to plug into a PC. Then earlier this week came rumors that Sega might be stopping production of the Dreamcast.

Read between the lines and a possible scenario develops. The Dreamcast isn’t doing nearly as well as Sega had hoped, and with the PS2 and Xbox on the horizon things aren’t looking very good. Microsoft calls up and offers to write a big check if Sega will (1) let Microsoft incorporate the ability to play DC games into the Xbox and (2) will stop production to give MS an eventual lock on consoles that play DC games.

It’s hard to say if plans are still on tap for the Dreamcast PCI card; that was a couple of months ago, and it could’ve been a desperate ploy by Sega to increase Dreamcast’s installed userbase (and hopefully developer support with it) that was rendered unnecessary by Microsoft’s rumored intervention. According to the gamers.com article, development on software titles is continuing in spite of the fact that production of the hardware will cease; what remains to be seen is whether those titles are now being written for a PCI card or for a DC-compatible Xbox.

Assuming the information about titles in development is true, I’m inclined to go with the latter possibility. It seems extremely unlikely that Sega is working on over 100 first-party titles, and if you were a console developer, would you be ready to continue development if you found out that your target console was being phased out in favor of a PCI card? The fact that development is continuing lends strong support to the Xbox rumor.

Of course I’m not sure that the information about Xbox getting a DC chipset is necessarily correct. You’ll recall that the Dreamcast uses a variant of Windows CE as its operating system, so the systems are fairly close already. With the huge advantage in raw power that the Xbox has over the Dreamcast, it seems feasible that, given development support from Sega, the Xbox’s native chipset could be made to play Dreamcast games.

For an opposing viewpoint, Daily Radar apparently has an article up debunking all these rumors. I say apparently because their site is currently hosed; the nifty “DC Compatible Xbox debunked” picture leads to a crapload of Oracle database errors. Somebody get Larry Ellison on the phone, NOW! Scott informs me that the DR article has an MS spokesman who denies that Xbox will have Sega hardware, but says that Dreamcast games would look great on the Xbox. My theory on the necessity of the Dreamcast chipset is sounding better and better.

In the meantime, please feel free to comment on all this. I’m interested to hear what everyone thinks.

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