The immediacy of the internet creates some frankly risible stories that pass as news these days, with everything from death by mobile phone to conspiracy theories making the headlines. The latest wild speculation to be splashed all over concerns the possible comeback of a dead games console to challenge the PS3, Wii and Xbox 360.
According to just about every news website with an interest in electronics, Sega could be on the verge of resurrecting the Dreamcast console six years after it pulled the plug. However, Sega has now denied the story (see update below).
The source of the speculation is a U.S. Patent and Trademark office filing from August, in which Sega updated its original Dreamcast listing with some new terms that will be covered until the end of 2009. These include "floor pads or mats [and] flash memory cards".
Most gamers from the West have taken this to mean that Sega is getting back into the hardware business simply because the Dreamcast never had floor mat controllers or standard flash memory cards in their experience.
Japan did it differently
However, Japanese Sega fans have long been able to buy floor controllers for games released only in that country. And the Dreamcast actually did use removable flash memory in the form of the VMU (Visual Memory Unit) pictured above.
While the VMU was not a typical memory card - it had a screen and could run games by itself - it, and the Japanese accessories, clearly show that everything in the updated filing already exists.
So, what are Dreamcast fans hoping for a comeback left with? In a nutshell, nothing - the chances of Sega going head to head with Nintendo, Sony et al in the near future are practically nil. Until then, they might want to get themselves over to Japan - second-hand games emporia there still do a roaring trade in everything Dreamcast.
UPDATE: Sega has issued a statement denying the entire story. Sega of America PR director Charlie Scibetta confirmed what we suspected: that Sega "has no plans to get back into the console business."
"We're very happy being a platform agnostic company and have moved up the ranks the past three years from number 11, to number 9, and now stand at number 6 in terms of our market share by units among third-party publishers," Scibetta said. "We like our current strategy and have no plans to change in the middle of this outstanding growth."
Oh well, it was good while it lasted.