Why, in a world flush with sleek, pocket-sized gaming handhelds would we want something bigger and heavier? Panasonic thinks the answer involves a chunky old-school flip-top that looks like something dredged from the late 1990s, when clunky Windows CE microcomputers that sat like bricks in your pocket were still in vogue.
Enter The Jungle, Panasonic's almost-but-not-quite-announced games device, designed to let you play online games on the go. Not only that, but games in the cloud. That's right, an honest-to-goodness mobile cloud gaming device.
Crunchgear broke the story (or the embargo, it's hard to tell) about the device and grabbed a few snaps from a promotional video clip. Apparently "The Jungle" isn't just the handheld's name, it's a full court branding press, encompassing a video content partnership with Machinima.com (a games video aggregator) and third party developer relations.
The pictures display a clamshell device with bevelled "lips" that may or may not lie flush against each other when closed. The top piece has what looks like a 5 or 6 inch LCD, while the bottom half has a keyboard, touchpad and possibly two circular control pads. The frontside of the bottom lip harbors an audio jack, a micro-USB port and a mini HDMI port. Other bits and bobs that look button-y are too obscure in the shots clipped from the video to tell.
What'll you play on it? Why Battlestar Galactica Online, of course. What's that? I have no idea, or how it's going to be relevant after that show jumped a whole school of sharks and concluded appallingly. All we know is that it's made by Bigpoint, a German developer known for dozens of Flash online roleplaying games, which I've (and I'm guessing you've) never heard of.
Rumor has it this thing runs Linux, which means I have no idea what it'll play down the road. Google 'Linux online games' and you get a handful of no-namers. Of course there's always EVE Online, if this thing can handle Wine or Cedega or Codeweavers, anyway.
If they could fold an MMO like World of Warcraft into the architecture somehow, it might stand a chance, if only in a fictitious world where playing an online game like WoW on a chunky handheld instead of a more comfortable netbook could actually work. Or, you know, one where Blizzard agrees to port it over (to be fair, the OS X version of WoW's already technically a Unix variant, but would you really want to play WoW on a portable?).
Does it stand a chance? Not if we're talking about the waters Nintendo, Sony and Apple swim in. Gizmodo says someone at PAX was hyping the screen resolution and that "everyone was freaking out about it," suggesting Panasonic's put something powerful under the hood. But powerful equals pricey and who honestly wants to pay $300 to $400 for a plastic brick from a company whose last gaming adventure was the 3DO?
Okay, clearly prejudging here, but if you've got hundreds of dollars to burn on an online games device, are you buying this, or a netbook?