Sure, the PSP and Nintendo DS have online multiplayer gaming, but it’s not the core of what they do. That’s why Jungle seems more like a tiny PC, with a full QWERTY keyboard and a touchpad along with the d-pad and shoulder buttons you’d expect in a tiny gaming console – so you can take online games from the PC with you.
In case you’re not getting it, let me spell out the potential of this device: It could enable MMORPG addicts leave their apartments for the first time in years. So get ready to see that cousin of yours. Might want to have some sunscreen waiting for him.
The Jungle looks like almost like the original Game Boy Advance, but bulkier and more rugged, designed to withstand a hail of gunfire. It is not a dainty device. The heft is cradling a high definition screen so good, a test gamer who got to see it at PAX told us, “The screen resolution is bananas. Everyone was freaking out about it.” It’s not confirmed what kind of guts are powering it, but it follows that the silicon’s gotta be substantial to push decent-looking games on that kind of screen. (And push video out through the HDMI port that the device is rumoured to have.) Wi-Fi is obvious, but if it’s going to be truly play anywhere, it’s hopefully got some kind of 3G powers too.
Also unconfirmed, we hear that Jungle runs a Linux OS. Which could make content tricky, since it means games will have to be ported over – you won’t be able to just load up World of Warcraft and be on your way, goldfarming while you’re in line at Starbucks, since WoW doesn’t run on Linux. It’s gonna require partnerships and ports, to say the least, and this thing is going to live and die on the content it’s got. Or, it’s gotta run games in a browser.
The screen and processor point to something pricey, as high as $US400 depending on what other capabilities it has, but it won’t sell unless it’s around $US200 or lower – which is where a carrier partnership, delivering 3G and subsidised pricing would make pricing interesting.
It would take a slightly crazy company to launch something this ballsy – a not-twee, dedicated online gaming machine in a world where you can play a damn good rendition Street Fighter IV on an iPhone – so it’s being designed by Panasonic Cloud Entertainment, a tiny(ish) startup company uber-Japanese mega-corporation Panasonic’s planted in Silicon Valley. But if online gaming titan Zynga and its ripoffwares can emerge as its own juggernaut from under the teet of Facebook, maybe this thing can work too. Depending on how much it costs and what kind of games it’s got, anyway.
Personally, I’d love to play some Team Fortress 2 while sitting in the park, watching dogs bounce themselves stupid in the dogrun.