What am I on about? Well, it appears that in 2001 Sega entered into a partnership with set-top box manufacturer Pace with a view to create a digi-box...with a 40GB hard drive and the guts of a Dreamcast chucked in. The vision was an all-in-one digital TV receiver that could also download 'on demand' Dreamcast games that were subsequently to be stored internally. Yep...mind: blown. Obviously, this kind of thing is the norm in this age of broadband, Xbox Ones and Hi Def thingamajigs...but in 2001? It was truly groundbreaking stuff.
"Set-top boxes with built-in Dreamcast architecture will enable consumers to play network games as well as view TV shows and other entertainment content using this single product. Games will be downloaded on demand to an integral hard disk - currently 40 Gigabytes - that Pace has incorporated into its digital TV home gateway. These devices will enjoy complete compatibility with Dreamcast games content by utilising the proven Dreamcast technology, including PowerVR graphics processing."
You can read the rest of the press release here. There's also an archived report on the Guardian website here. Alternatively, you could use AltaVista and search for 'Sega Pace.' Or Lycos. I think there's another popular search thingy called Bing too.
So, what happened to this Pace/Dreamcast hybrid? Not much, by all accounts. As we all know, Sega backed out of the hardware business not long after the deal was announced so I can only imagine that somebody had to phone Pace and break the news to them. Not an enviable position, I'll wager. I've looked around online and there don't appear to be any of the pictured prototypes out in the wild...but I could (as ever) be wrong. If I am, you know what to do...
It's a very interesting story, and just another twist in the 'before it's time' tale. Motion controls, online play, the VMU, the Sega Swatch, Zip Drive, Dream Eye, Karaoke add-on...the list of innovations goes on and on. Now, the question remains: why didn't you buy a Dreamcast in 1999? Eh? Eh?! It could have all been so different :'(