Tech and gaming outlets are all abuzz about a new handheld gaming device. Why? Because it’s being manufactured by Panasonic. Panasonic is definitely an electronics company to be reckoned with, but can they really get into the gaming ring? It appears they plan to, with a handheld gaming console called the Panasonic Jungle. Originally unveiled in October, there’s suddenly a lot of chatter surrounding the device. Panasonic is reportedly testing the device in the US, but the process is pretty hush-hush. Some are calling the information leaks about the device a viral marketing campaign. Maybe Panasonic just wants to steal some attention away from competitor Sony’s upcoming PlayStation Phone?
Though the Jungle will be Panasonic’s first foray into handheld gaming, this isn’t their first rodeo in the video game arena. Their last project, the cool but unusual Panasonic Q, was manufactured between 2001 and 2003. Billed as a “multimedia console,” this gaming system was like a Nintendo GameCube, mp3 player, stereo, CD and DVD player in one. Prior to that, Panasonic also tried for a console called the M2 in the late ’90s, ultimately scrapping the project for fear of competing with Sony’s blockbuster original PlayStation.
Competition doesn’t appear to be a factor here. According to Bloomberg (via CNET), an email from Panasonic about the device said “We know other companies out there have traditional handheld gaming covered. We’re doing something very different.” Given early information about the device, “different” sounds about right. Though photos of the Panasonic Jungle resemble a hybrid between a PSP, DS and a miniature DVD player, it seems to be geared to a different class of gamer than your average handheld player. The Jungle is reportedly being marketed as a way to play online games and MMORPGs on the go.
The digital landscape is littered with handhelds that didn’t quite make it, such as Nokia’s N-Gage and the Tapwave Zodiac. Many of these tried to do things a little differently than the Game Boy (and now the DS and PSP), but never found their niche. Though Panasonic is smart to try to carve out their own corner of the handheld gaming market, one can’t help but wonder if they’ll find their audience. In years past, those other failed consoles only had handhelds to compete against. Today laptops and netbooks make “full-sized” gaming possible on the go, and the meteoric rise of smartphone gaming isn’t something Panasonic can afford to ignore. You’ve gotta give them credit for trying, but they’ll need to have something really special up their sleeves to make the Panasonic Jungle a hit.
At this point, it’s worth wondering what Panasonic is planning. There isn’t a whole lot of information available about the Jungle, other than the fact that people are waiting to see whether it’ll flop. Despite this week’s leaks to news outlets and tech blogs, there’s still no word on when this device will be released. It also has yet to be confirmed whether “Jungle” will even be the finished handheld’s name. Since Sega’s not making consoles anymore, maybe Panasonic should call it “the Hedgehog.” Get it? Panasonic the…nevermind.
Paul Miller. “Panasonic Welcoming Crash Test Consumers to the Handheld Gaming Jungle.” Endgadget.
Don Reisinger. “Report: Panasonic Testing Gaming Handheld in U.S..” CNET.