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Gamers can gloat online over Sega phones

The game giant says it is working with InnoMedia to allow phone calls over the Net through the company's popular Dreamcast gaming console.

    Sega wants to make sure you can tackle your friends online and then let them hear you gloat afterwards.

    The game giant today said it is working with Internet telephony company InnoMedia to allow Internet-based telephony over the Dreamcast console. Service will begin in Japan in August, with a worldwide launch later this year, according to InnoMedia marketing vice president Robert Selzler.

    "They're a global company, we're a global company, and it will be global," Selzler said in an interview.

    According to a Reuters report in Japan, the telephony venture there will be owned 20 percent by Sega, 30 percent by Sega affiliate Isao and 50 percent by InnoMedia. Selzler said that in the United States, phone service will be offered as a partnership.

    Isao's Takakura predicted, the Reuters report said, that at least 10 percent of those who access the Internet via Dreamcast will use the online phone service.

    The move is part of a broader effort to integrate online services into Dreamcast. Sega said in April that it would offer a $200 rebate--the cost of a Dreamcast--to customers that sign up for two years of its SegaNet online service.

    At the E3 electronic gaming trade show later this week, Sega plans to show off its online offerings including several new games and attachments.

    Among the online titles that Sega plans to debut are sports titles NFL 2K1 and NBA 2K1, as well as an interactive version of Quake. Sega also plans to show off new add-ons such as its digital camera and colored versions of its controllers, and digital memory units. Sega is also touting new types of devices, such as real maracas that players shake to the beat in Samba De Amigo, a Latin dance game.

    Online titles account for 40 percent of the games at Sega's E3 booth, according to a representative. Among the other titles expected to be popular are Shenmue, a long-awaited game from the creator of the Virtual Fighter series; and Space Channel 5, in which the pink-haired heroine, Ulala, must defeat invading aliens by mimicking their dance moves. Gamers that make it far enough will have to try and keep the beat with Michael Jackson.

    Innomedia's Selzler said that adding voice to online gaming is a logical companion.

    "It makes absolute sense," he said. "What's more natural than voice?"

    Selzler said the feature is primarily designed to allow online gamers to talk to each other, but that Dreamcast could also be used to place phone calls.

    In March, InnoMedia announced that Sega was among the investors that provided $115.5 million.

    Reuters contributed to this report.