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Sega applies game expertise to Net Link

By Published on .

Sega of America launches the first videogame-based Internet device for home TVs this week, hoping to sharpen its image while rebooting videogame hardware sales.

Billed as the first low-cost Internet device bringing the World Wide Web into living rooms, the $199.99 Sega Saturn Net Link targets families with a parental control option screening out thousands of Web sites.

TV ACCESS TO INTERNET

Using the hand-held controller or a $19.95 keyboard sold separately, users can send and receive e-mail and Internet information from home TV sets. The device includes a modem but requires a Sega Saturn videogame player--which also sells for $199.99.

In addition, the marketer is bundling Saturn, Net Link, a keyboard and the hit videogame Sega Rally Championship for $450.

By being the first to link a videogame player to the Internet, Sega hopes to pump up sales of its faltering 32-bit Sega Saturn unit, which consumers have bypassed in favor of Nintendo of America's 64-bit N64 gaming unit and the 32-bit Sony PlayStation.

It's also hoping to undercut rivals in the fledgling category for TV-based Internet devices.

Philips Electronics launched a $40 million-plus yearlong network and cable TV campaign this fall that will be devoted entirely to its WebTV product, the Philips Magnavox Internet TV Terminal (AA, Oct. 7). Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, New York, handles.

Sony Electronics is currently promoting its WebTV Internet Terminal in brochures created in-house inserted in major magazines.

Sega fell from No. 1 to No. 3 in the $6 billion videogame industry two years ago and analysts are cautiously optimistic that Net Link may help it regain some footing.

NEW APPROACH NEEDED

"Nintendo and Sony are doing a great deal of business at Sega's expense, and Sega needs [to find] a different way to approach the market. Maybe this is it," said Gary Jacobson, toy analyst with Jefferies & Co.

A retail promotion and a print and radio campaign from Ingalls Moranville, San Francisco, themed "Play, watch and browse," begins Oct. 31 when Net Link launches nationwide. Included is a special promotional offer of three days of free Internet usage when renting the system from electronics stores.

Concentric Network Corp. is providing one month of free unlimited Internet access with purchases of Net Link; after that the cost is $19.95 a month with discounts for longer-term packages.

Sega has also made sure to include extensive parental controls in Net Link, including a simple system offered by Planet Web.

Copyright October 1996, Crain Communications Inc.

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