October 25 has been slated as the Australian launch date for Sega's new Dreamcast games console and all the mainstream retailers are queuing up for a piece of the action, according to local distributor Ozisoft.
However, not all specialist games retailers think it will be a winner. One has even stated that although it will be selling the product, it feels duty bound to recommend customers look at the looming alternatives.
"We give honest opinions," said Robert Lukic, managing director of the seven-store video gaming retail chain, The Games Wizards (TGW). "We will be selling the platform and any games that are published for it, but we will also be telling customers of the other games consoles."
Lewis Triche, managing director of games merchant Electronics Boutique, which opened its 34th Australian store last week, is not of the same opinion. He greets the launch of any new platform with glee as it "offers terrific opportunity" to attract new customers and entice existing ones back to the stores.
"That is what we do best," Triche said. "We have a very dedicated customer base, so we can have a lot of fun when something genuinely new comes along."
Being Internet-enabled has given Sega the jump on Sony and PlayStation and it's going to make it easy to sell, Triche said. Maintaining that position in the face of the next generation of platforms from its two bigger rivals, rumoured to be on fast tracks for 2000 releases, will be interesting to watch and good for business, he added.
"It is a question of how well the senior management [of Sega] in Japan handles its worldwide strategy and how they take advantage of the strong position they have achieved," Triche said.
Steven O'Leary, communications manager for Ozisoft, said that every major retailer from the Coles Myer Group through to Harvey Norman to Big W, and many others in between, would be getting behind the launch. Sales projections were estimated to be "200,000 units in year one" and over $10 million dollars had been allocated for advertising and marketing, according to O'Leary.
"Everyone is incredibly enthusiastic," he said. "Dreamcast is opening a whole new market that extends well past traditional gamers. Once people get their hands on it, they will love it."
O'Leary also spoke of growing difficulty amongst retailers to make money from PlayStation titles which are being badly affected by piracy. Dreamcast, he says, will not have that problem as the drive it uses is totally proprietary.
Ozisoft is going to market with a $499 retail price on Dreamcast in a package that will include a modem and three months of 50 hours Internet access to a national ISP that can be accessed from anywhere for the cost of a local call.
The Games Wizards have been doing well over the last couple of years and intend to open three more stores before Christmas, bringing to 10 the number it operates in NSW and the ACT.
Lukic is prepared to endorse the fact that Dreamcast will be the best console available when it launches. However, he also firmly believes it will be a short window of opportunity and feels Sony's new PlayStation II and Nintendo's next-generation console, code-named "Operation Dolphin", both coming next year, will be much better.
"We don't see [Dreamcast] as a viable platform for the long-term future. PlayStation II and Dolphin will annihilate it," he said. "Dreamcast is the best at the moment, but when you take into account the next generation of platforms that are coming from Sony and Nintendo, you will see that they are way ahead."
"A lot of retailers are hoping Dreamcast will do well, but we see PlayStation II as being the saviour. The Games Wizards will be adopting a wait-and-see attitude with Dreamcast."