How Panasonic’s Jungle Portable Game Device Can Survive

By  |  Tuesday, October 5, 2010 at 9:39 am

Panasonic has barely announced the Jungle, a tank-like portable game console, and already the skepticism is piling up.

Rightfully so; the Jungle comes at a time when smartphones endanger handheld game consoles (and all standalone mobile gadgets). It also has an oddball concept of supporting massive multiplayer online games, and brings the bitter taste of the 3DO, Panasonic’s failed home console from the mid-1990s.

But I prefer optimism. The Linux-based Jungle reminds me of the Pandora handheld, which is finding some niche success, and it has potential for major content partnerships, like the marquis title Battlestar Galactica Online. And according to Gizmodo’s unnamed source, the Jungle has an awesome screen, a touch pad, a D-pad and a keyboard — basically everything you need to play games. I’m not ready to write off the Jungle until we know more about it. In the meantime, I can think of several ways the Jungle could be taken more seriously.

It needs PC games: The browser-based Battlestar Galactica Online is a good start, but MMO fans won’t care about the Jungle unless it supports some games they’re already playing. If Panasonic can nab ports of a few popular MMOs, and get some cross-promotion to PC gamers, it’ll at least have a chance of getting noticed.

It should browse the web — with Flash and Java: The Jungle’s biggest liability is Linux, which doesn’t support many of the biggest MMOs, like World of Warcraft, Eve Online and Everquest. Browser-based MMOs like RuneScape, and the Web’s bounty of Flash games, provide easy solutions.

It must be affordable: Nintendo’s 3DS will cost the equivalent of $300 in Japan, and probably less elsewhere. That’s the price Panasonic needs to aim for with the Jungle. Otherwise, it’s the 3DO all over again.

It needs cheap or innovative mobile broadband: MMO players are already paying subscription fees. Why not create package deals of games and 3G coverage from a wireless carrier? Panasonic could also work with carriers to offer Wi-Fi hotspot coverage around the United States.

It has to last for hours: Battery life can be the bane of any handheld, especially those that claim to pack a wallop. I don’t see the Jungle taking off if it can’t be unplugged for an entire evening.

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  1. Tony Says:

    Great post- they just announced that Runescape will be playable on it. This offers some hope for this device since Runescape is the most popular free MMORPG