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Plugged In

Panasonic ‘Jungle’ to enter portable game war, analysts unimpressed

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Welcome to the Jungle.

Remember the ill-fated 3DO console? While it boasted pretty
impressive tech when it was released in 1993, an exorbitant launch price
tag ($700, LOL) and lack of solid support from game makers
sent it out with a whimper, marking the last time electronics giant
Panasonic would dare set foot in the video game space.

Well, once bitten, twice...uh, bitten, it seems: despite a crowded
field dominated by Nintendo and Apple (and Sony, sort of), Panasonic is
dipping its toe back into the choppy waters of video game hardware with
their upcoming Jungle, a portable game system tailored specifically for online gamers.

The device looks like a hybrid between a Nintendo DS and a
smartphone, sporting a high-res display, clamshell design, a full QWERTY
keyboard, a D-pad, a touch pad and shoulder buttons. Panasonic sees it
as a way for fans of online games -- be it an MMO like Warcraft or a
Facebook game like Farmville -- to quickly and easily access their
addiction on the go.

But don't pre-order one just yet: like the doomed 3DO, analysts aren't expecting The Jungle to last very long.

"The Jungle is a highly specialized dedicated portable for a non-existent market," M2 Research's Billy Pidgeon told Industry Gamers.
"This is an unprecedented hardware strategy, and probably for good
reason. If MMO players want to go more portable than a laptop, I guess
this would be the way to go. Frankly, this looks like a non-starter."
Ouch.

He's not the only one with concerns. Three other analysts -- David
Cole of DFC Intelligence, Colin Sebastian of Lazard Capital Markets and
Jesse Divnich of EEDAR -- agreed with Pidgeon, each pointing to a lack
of support from other publishers and a particularly competitive portable
game landscape as reasons why the device will face an uphill battle.

Nintendo and Sony certainly aren't helping matters. The former recently announced
a release date and pricing for their hotly-anticipated 3DS, which
manages to pump out 3D graphics without requiring special glasses. Sony,
meanwhile, has the rumor mills buzzing over its long-awaited but still
unofficial PSP 2 handheld. Add the deluge of gaming apps for Apple's
various i-devices and you get a very small window for another portable
gaming system.

So far, the only announced game for The Jungle is the upcoming
browser-based MMO Battlestar Galactica Online. Great name, to be sure,
but it's a totally unproven title. Until we see some established
properties sign on, color us skeptical.

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