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Sega of America Inc. has made a counter move to remain competitive in the game system market by dropping the price of its Sega Saturn videogame system to $199.99.

Sega, a division of Sega Enterprises Ltd. of Japan, wasted no time getting the word out. By midmorning Friday price tags announcing the news plastered game consoles at Sega's booth at the Electronic Entertainment Expo.Sega's decision came a day after Sony Computer Entertainment America set the price of the Sony Playstation at $199. Jim Whims, executive vice president for Sony Computer Entertainment, shocked a panel of colleagues when he announced the new price during a panel discussion.

Tom Kalinske, president and CEO of Sega of America, who was on the panel, made a quick, calculated recovery.

Sega is counting on matching prices to spur buyers to focus on features. And Sega believes the new features of its Saturn system will be persuasive.

New Sega Saturn videogame players will allow users to access the Internet when hooked to a Sega Saturn Net Link, a 28.8 kbps modem and browser, also priced at $199.

With the system, users can surf the 'Net, play online multiplayer games, handle electronic mail, participate in online chat groups and browse the World Wide Web.

The odd man out in the new pricing structure is Nintendo, which plans to introduce its new Nintendo 64 system in September at $249. Two days ago, that would have put it in line with Sega and Sony.

The pricing skirmish between the game system manufacturers may be a signal of how hard they're being hit by the growing number of people who are using their personal computers to play games. A majority of the 2,000 plus new software game titles announced at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the largest trade show for games and edutainment software, are designed for personal computers.