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Panasonic cancels the ‘Jungle’

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Panasonic Jungle

Panasonic finally saw the Jungle for the trees.

The consumer electronics company has abandoned its plans to
create a handheld gaming device - which was codenamed 'Jungle' - that would
have focused on massively-multiplayer online games for the portable audience.

"Panasonic decided to suspend further development due
to changes in the market and in our own strategic direction," the company
said in a
statement
given to Reuters.

The Jungle was first announced last October and ran full
speed into a wall of skepticism and indifference from games. Panasonic, after
all, has a dubious reputation in the industry after the ill-fated release of
the 3DO system in 1993 (which carried a shockingly high $700 price tag).

Beyond that, the prototype for the device -- a clunky
clamshell system with a QWERTY keyboard, a touchpad, dual d-pad controls and
shoulder buttons -- was a far cry from the sleek gaming machines that are the
norm for portable gaming. And Panasonic's use of the browser-based Battlestar
Galactica MMO in its promotional video was a clear sign that no major
publishers were supporting the company.

While the company did put together a website for the Jungle,
it never showed the device at trade shows or to the electronics media. A select
number of gamers might have gotten their hands on it, though. Last November,
the company announced it had begun a public beta test of the Jungle.

"We know other companies out there have traditional
hand-held gaming covered," Panasonic said in the e-mail. "We're doing something
very different."

It wasn't different enough to make the Jungle a venture
worth pursuing, however. Panasonic, which is already betting heavily on the 3D
TV market, was unwilling to put its marketing behind the device.

In the end, that might have been the wisest call. The handheld
gaming space is incredibly crowded these days. Later this month, Nintendo will
launch the 3DS system in North America (it's already a
significant hit in Japan
, having sold out throughout the country in under 48
hours.) And by the end of the year, Sony is expected to begin selling its next
portable, currently codenamed NGP.

On top of this, of course, is the growing presence of Apple
in the gaming market, as more and more people begin using their iPhone, iPad and
iPod Touch to download bite-sized games on the go.

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