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Video Game Show Pits Sega vs. Sony

September 17, 1999

TOKYO (AP) _ Thousands came to play, but it was more than just fun and games on Friday for rivals Sega and Sony at the opening of the three-day Tokyo Game Show.

Amid pumping pop music and big-screen displays, the two video-game makers battled it out for the attention of hordes of enthusiasts who flocked to the international expo to get a glimpse of the future in gaming.

At Sega’s exhibit, uniformed girls danced in sync atop high platforms to advertise the company’s new Dreamcast game system, touted as the first on the market with Internet access.

But the biggest crowds flocked to the Sony booth to check out the yet-to-be released PlayStation2, the upgraded version of the current global bestseller that will hit store shelves in Japan in March.

Aficionados didn’t mind waiting in long lines to try their hand at new games like ``Bouncer,″ a Playstation2 game involving high-speed train crashes, bone-crunching karate chops and highly realistic graphics.

Like Dreamcast, PlayStation2 will also have Internet capabilities as well as stereo-quality sound and spectacular graphics.

Sega was the first to come out with its next-generation video game system, launching Dreamcast in Japan a year ago and in the United States last week.

While sales have been disappointing in Japan, U.S. demand has been unexpectedly strong, which is good news for Sega since it is counting on Dreamcast to bring it back to the top of the U.S. gaming market.

Sega was an industry leader in the early 1990s with its Genesis gaming console, but its next system, Saturn, bombed when it was launched in 1995.

The Tokyo-based Sega now holds about 1 percent of the U.S. video-game market, having been trampled by Sony and Nintendo products with more powerful machines and wider game selections.

``We’re not worried about a thing,″ said Sega spokeswoman Miho Masuda. ``We’ve captured the hearts of consumers. If we can hang on to them, we’ll be fine.″

But Dreamcast’s success could be short-lived as market-leader Sony prepares to launch its new PlayStation2.

Sony officials were out in full force at the game show pushing the new machine, which will store data on DVD-ROM discs, a step up from the more common CD-ROM disc used for the current generation of PlayStation software.

A key feature of PlayStation2 also is that all games sold for the old system will be compatible with the updated console, so the hundreds of software titles available for the current PlayStation will not become obsolete overnight.

Nintendo will also launch its next-generation gaming system next year.

A total of 75 companies were at the Tokyo Game Show and organizers expect attendance to reach 150,000.

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