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Panasonic Jungle – should Nintendo and Sony be worried?

Panasonic's Jungle handheld games console

Panasonic has just announced a new handheld games console – the ‘Jungle’. But it’s inspired just one question – could it compete with the 3DS, iPhone and expected PSP2? The answer is almost certainly no.

Panasonic has either been working very hard on creating its next video game handheld, or well and truly resting on its laurels. The 3DO (remember that?) was its last attempt at a games console – a short lived affair over 15 years ago.

From what we’ve seen of the Jungle, a chunky clamshell device, it’ll sport a high-resolution display (with included mini-HDMI port), a full QWERTY keyboard and even touch sensitive buttons. So it certainly looks like it might pack a punch.

A handheld for MMOs

The Jungle is said to be primarily for online games, especially massively multiplayer online ones (MMOs). There’s even a Battlestar Galactica game that appears to have been developed exclusively for the system and actually looks quite cool.

It’s not too hard to see why Panasonic has chosen to go down this route – MMOs are a genre not generally catered for by Nintendo and Sony, whether on their home consoles or handhelds.

However, do people really want to play MMOs on the move? Surely the appeal of portable gaming is that you can play just a quick game of Mario on the bus, train or toilet (if you’re that way inclined).

It’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to hunch over a small screen for hours on end, using a mouse-free control scheme to play an intricate multiplayer game.

Handheld gaming market already bursting

Plus, the handheld market is already pretty packed. Nintendo, established handheld king, has the 3DS coming out next year, which is sure to build on the huge success of its popular DS.

Sony is reportedly sending out PSP2 development kits to software programmers, so it’s only a matter of time before we see the long overdue follow up to the PSP. Then of course there’s Apple’s iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, all of which share a huge gaming library and have the added benefit of being multi-functional devices.

The only place where the Jungle could conceivably succeed is in the Asian market, where MMOs are more widely played. Community portable gaming is also more prevalent in Asia, with the Monster Hunter series being incredibly popular on the PSP.

The Jungle’s been showcased at the CEATEC show in Tokyo and maybe Panasonic has no intention of launching it in Europe. The company hasn’t revealed a great deal of information so far, and obviously any product’s success is massively dictated by it’s pricing and marketing.

But based on what we know so far, it’s hard to see how the Jungle could compete with the established players in the market. Unless it runs World of Warcraft that is…


Personally I can’t see a handheld console that relies heavily on MMOs going anywhere quickly. For one, the control system is going to be clunky at best – seriously there’s only so much you can down-scale a qwerty keyboard and maintain the level of accurate input required to play what are essentially pc games. The last thing that they want to do is add more tedium to the grind of an MMO! Another thing is how slow mobile internet runs at the moment. 3G servers are strained with the boom of the smart phones and chugging under the pressure of the increased load. I just cannot see how a hand held can rely this much on something that can be frustrating enough when you’re just trying to load some basic web pages. I suppose the alternative is connecting to wi-fi but as far as I’m concerned a portable device is most useful as – stated above – on the bus or train, which will have to rely on 3G.

I have no doubt that hardware wise, this is going to impress on some fronts but at what cost? Pricing is a major factor in the console market and for it to sell well they are going to have to be competitive but will they be able to afford to?

I do think that this could be good for the industry, it takes companies taking steps into these unmeasured territories for things to move forwards at the end of the day and I will be interested to see where it leads.

On another note – I really hopeSony do us a favour and don’t carry on with their attempt to monopolise how much we buy games for – I really resent their recent move to make the PSPGO download only, it stinks!

The answer to whether Nintendo and Sony should be worried is now very much ‘No’ since Panasonic has cancelled the Jungle:

“Panasonic decided to suspend further development due to changes in the market and in our own strategic direction,” the company said in a statement.


Oh well. Will it be missed?