The current video game industry features three major players in the console wars, PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii, and believe it or not, a fourth platform has been built, tested, and is ready for release with aims at joining and not only finding acceptance but thriving in the industry.
The Zeebo console was announced today by Zeebo CEO John Rizzo and Qualcomm games and services senior director Mike Yuen with the intention of penetrating emerging markets worldwide, specifically Brazil, China, India and Russia, a total of over 800 million people.
“In 2000 Bill Gates introduced the original Microsoft Xbox at GDC,” said Mike Yuen. “We’re honored here to release what we believe will be the fourth big console.”
Both the Wii and PS3 are not commercially available in Brazil and the only means of procurement is through piracy, something the Zeebo aims to combat.
The Zeebo will launch at a price point the equivalent of $199 outfitted with 3G wireless network capabilities for the download-only method of game distribution.‚ Games themselves will cost between $5 and $15 and the Zeebo can be used as a wireless connectivity point for homes without Internet access.
“Lots of companies have tried to conquer the big three, and died doing it. So, within Qualcomm we’ve been thinking about how we can do this differently, and with cellular technology,” said Yuen stating why the Zeebo will not fail as others have in entering the already dominated market.
In terms of publishers and consumers Rizzo highlighted main points regarding affordability, local language, culturally relevant content, and ease of purchase and play.
“Our focus is frankly not at the top of the pyramid,” says Rizzo. “The richest people in those regions frankly can afford to buy the biggest consoles. We’re aimed solidly at that middle class.”
Rizzo conceded that the Zeebo will not be able to hold its own in relation to the newest titles, but that isn’t the aim of the product, rather to introduce an accessible, safe, and affordable way of gaming to these emerging nations.
“Maybe it doesn’t hold up against the newest games, and it might be a bit slow…but imagine these people in emerging markets who haven’t been exposed to the marketing of these titles, playing Quake for the first time.” Quake is one of five titles that comes embedded on the Zeebo flash drive at launch.”
Now what about the console itself?
The Zeebo console “sports a game-by-game single screen UI with games rotating on a wheel in 3D space. In the top left corner, you see signal strength, and in the top right your number of Z-credits, similar to Xbox Live points.”
Games that will be eventually available on the Zeebo include Quake, Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart Racing, Tekken 2, Double Dragon, and Zeebo Racing, each clocking in around 5-50MB, and with the 1GB internal memory, the space available will be quite adequate.
Zeebo is focusing on quality with a small number of respected developers unlike the over 6,000 iPhone games possibly created in someone’s basement.
Notable development studios include Com2Us, Digital Chocolate, Glu, id, THQ, Namco, Capcom, Pop Cap, EA, Activision, and others.
The Zeebo will be available in Rio de Janeiro in May, in Mexico in late 2009, in India in 2010, in Eastern Europe in the middle of 2010, and in China in 2011.
Full story and interview over at GamaSutra.
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