Sega Net Link (also called Sega Saturn Net Link) was an attachment for the Sega Saturn game console to provide Saturn users with internet access and access to email through their console. The unit was released on October 31, 1996. The Sega Net Link consisted of a 28.8 kbit/s modem that fit into the Sega Saturn cartridge port and came packed with a browser developed by Planetweb, Inc. The unit sold for US$199, or US$400 bundled with a Sega Saturn.
The Net Link connected to the internet through standard dial-up services. Unlike other online gaming services in the US, one does not connect to a central service, but instead tells the dial-up modem connected to the Saturn's cartridge slot to call to the person with whom one wishes to play. Since it requires no servers to operate, the service, in theory, can operate as long as at least two users have the necessary hardware and software, as well as a phone line. 
In Japan, however, gamers did connect through a centralized service known as SegaNet, which would later be taken offline and converted for Dreamcast usage.
While the Net Link was not the first accessory which allowed console gamers in North America to play video games online (see online console gaming), it was the first to allow players to use their own Internet Service Provider (ISP) to connect. While Sega recommended that players use Concentric, the Sega Net Link enabled players to choose any ISP that was within its technical specifications. The device was capable of connecting at a 28.8 kilobit/s connection in America and 14.4 kbit/s in Japan. However, it suffered from memory limitations; the modem's static RAM could store only account information and bookmarks, leaving only the Saturn's limited internal RAM for any downloaded data. This makes it impossible to download audio or video clips, save e-mail messages, or put previously loaded web pages into cache.
In Japan, the Net Link required the use of smartcards with prepaid credits. These smartcards or "Saturn media cards" cost ¥2,000 and one game credit was ¥20, which means that one could play about 100 games per card. The Saturn had a floppy drive and printer cable converter (both Japan only) which could be used with the Net Link. A web browser from Planetweb was included, and a mouse and keyboard adapter were available to simplify navigation. Sega also released a dedicated Saturn mouse and Saturn keyboard. In addition, to allow users to browse with just the Saturn joypad, Sega produced a series of CDs containing hundreds of website addresses.
Despite the Saturn's relative lack of success in America, the Net Link had a number of users, and five games were released domestically that supported it. Launching at 15,000 yen in Japan and $199 in the USA, it was considered very inexpensive compared to competing online services. Sega of America originally hoped to sell 100,000 Net Link units. Sales records show that the Sega sold 40,000 units.
Net Link games can still be played today, as the Net Link modem can use direct-call to connect two players to each other, but the "Net Link Zone" method, which allowed gamers to meet in IRC, can no longer be used as the servers were shut down in 2001.
Net Link Zone
The Net Link Zone connected to an Internet Relay Chat server irc.sega.com which was changed to the server irc0.dreamcast.com on the release of Sega's Dreamcast. These servers were originally run by Sega employees but were given over to be run by Net Link chat users Leo Daniels and Mark Leatherman.
Games compatible with Net Link
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- "Internet Access, Network Games Hit Saturn - For Less than $400". Electronic Gaming Monthly. Ziff Davis (84): 18. July 1996.
- Ramshaw, Mark James (January 1996). "Generator". Next Generation. Imagine Media (13): 31.
- "Saturn to Get Internet Connection Facilities in '96!". Sega Saturn Magazine. 2 (5). March 1996. p. 8.
- Pelline, Jeff (October 22, 1996). "Sega Catapults to the Net". CNET. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
- Soohoo, Ken. "Rare Sega Saturn File 4.035 Golden Net Link Web Browser Resurfaces; Plus Republished 1998 Interview With Then Planetweb CTO Ken Soohoo". The Rev. Rob Times. Retrieved 16 December 2013.