From Sega Retro
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SegaNet was a short-lived internet service provider operated by Sega of America in the early 2000s. Built on the experience gained at SegaSoft when constructing its PC-only online gaming service, Heat.net, SegaNet was tailored to provide North American Sega Dreamcast owners with a means to play against each other online.
The Dreamcast launched in North America with a built-in 56k modem on September 9th, 1999, however like Japan (and the forthcoming European release), very few early titles made use of the feature. With a web browser disc one could surf the net and send emails, and some games (such as Sonic Adventure) offered free downloadable content, but the concept of playing games with others over the internet was in many ways still a pipe dream.
In early 2000 Sega released ChuChu Rocket!, the first Dreamcast game to support online multiplayer out of the box, however Sega's plans were more ambitious, announcing that they would be launching a dedicated internet service provider (ISP) engineered to offer low-latency online play for Dreamcast consoles using the built-in modem.
Eight severs were set up across the US, including in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, Dallas, Tampa, Washington D.C. and Boston.
SegaNet launched on the 7th of September alongside NFL 2K1, and within its first few weeks, roughly 20% of the North American Dreamcast base had signed up, giving the service 400,000 users in the region.
Just over a month after launch, by October 27, 2000, SegaNet had 1.55 million Dreamcast consoles registered online, including 750,000 in Japan, 400,000 in North America, and 400,000 in Europe. In comparison, Xbox Live, which later launched in 2002, took nearly two years to reach 1 million online users, in July 2004.
SegaNet originally offered a $200 rebate with a two-year contract, to encourage sales of the Dreamcast.
In July 2001, Sega announced they would discontinue the service. At this point, all subscribers were given the option to transfer their accounts to EarthLink.
Online games on the Dreamcast initially allowed free access to their game servers, to be offset by SegaNet subscriptions and game sales. But with the demise of SegaNet, most games began charging for game server access, or closing down their servers altogether. The online gaming service was reactivated briefly in the fall of 2002 sans service charges, but was closed for the last time at the end of the year.
There are some private servers still online that can be played with the following games: 4x4 Evolution, Maximum Pool, Phantasy Star Online, Quake III Arena, Toy Racer, Sega Swirl (Using play by e-mail), Planet Ring, Alien Front Online, Starlancer, Chu Chu Rocket, The Next Tetris On-line Edition, PBA Tour Bowling 2001, Worms World Party, POD 2 and many more coming soon.
- Electronic Gaming Monthly, "December 2000" (US; 2000-10-30), page 38
- Electronic Gaming Monthly, "December 2000" (US; 2000-10-30), page 32
- File:IR EN 2000-10-27 2.pdf
- Interview with Larry Hryb, Director of Programming: Xbox Live (Wayback Machine: 2016-02-01 10:49)