NTT DoCoMo and Sega are working to link I-mode, DoCoMo's hit wireless Internet service, with Sega's home console and arcade gaming technology.
The two companies signed a memorandum of understanding Tuesday to jointly develop a new service that they hope to launch in Japan some time in the third quarter of this year, said Michiko Mori, a spokeswoman for NTT DoCoMo.
The service will provide a link between Sega's arcade gaming machines, the company's Dreamcast home consoles and I-mode telephones through a central server.
Using the new service, users will be able for example to transfer game characters into their telephones and take care of them, much like the Tamagotchi craze of several years ago. The characters will be able to receive extra training by transferring to Dreamcast machines at home and, as they get stronger and develop, will be more powerful when used in the arcade games, said Miyako Shimizu, a spokeswoman for Sega, explaining one vision for the new service.
More development has to be done before specific applications are realized for the new platform, said Shimizu. "The most important thing now is to get the platforms linked together," she said.
At the same time as they are developing the technology for the new service, the two companies will be studying the marketing and commercial possibilities of the system.
The announcement provides a much-needed boost for Dreamcast, Sega's home game console platform. After large losses in the market, Sega announced earlier in January it was to discontinue manufacturing the consoles but to continue supporting the platform through game releases and also by licensing it to other companies for inclusion in their products.
NTT DoCoMo recently introduced a new series of cellular telephones that offer support for the Java programming language. Using Java, developers are able to create much more dynamic and feature-rich content than previously because they are no longer constrained by the cell phone's proprietary architecture and operating system. The service, which was launched in Japan in January, featured a number of games among the launch series of applications.
Tuesday's announcement is not NTT DoCoMo's first foray into the gaming world. Last year it announced plans to link I-mode telephones with Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.'s PlayStation consoles and earlier this year it said it was working with a number of overseas partners to realize the same service in their home markets.