Last week it was widely reported that the Zeebo gaming console was near completion and scheduled for release in emerging markets.
Today, at GDC 2009, Zeebo Inc. has made the announcement official. Coined "the wireless video game console for the next billion," the Zeebo will initially launch in Brazil for around USD $199 (with prices expected to come down further within a year), will include four pre-loaded games, and allow owners to download a fifth game of their choice.
That's right; while the Zeebo may not be the most powerful 3D platform out there (it is said to be somewhere between the N64 and PS2) it will feature wireless game downloading via 3G technology. In fact, because software piracy is so rampant in markets such as Brazil, downloading the software will be the only way to purchase games.
The Zeebo has been hailed by industry experts as being a much-needed solution to tapping into emerging markets without breaking gamers' banks and still providing an attractive vehicle for developers and publishers to hawk their wears.
What's more, according to the presser, "Leading game publishers and developers, including Capcom, Com2uS, Digital Chocolate, EA Mobile, Gameloft, Glu, Id Software, Machineworks Northwest LLC, Namco Networks and THQ, are porting a wide array of console, PC, dedicated handheld and high-end mobile titles to the Zeebo platform."
March 23, 2009 - Zeebo Inc. announced today that its new wireless videogame console will begin shipping in Brazil through targeted retail distribution next month. Zeebo is the first affordable 3D game console designed specifically for emerging global markets. The console features secure 3G wireless game delivery and addresses the special requirements of these regions, where the current generation videogame consoles and content is expensive for the middle class, content is not culturally or locally relevant, and software piracy makes these markets unattractive for content providers. The Zeebo system ships with four pre-embedded games and provides users the ability to download a fifth title for free. It carries a suggested retail price of USD $199 in Brazil - nearly one-fifth the price of mainstream leading consoles. In other international markets, Zeebo is expected to retail for less than USD $179 this year and well below USD $149 in volume next year.
"The Zeebo console will deliver a truly engaging and entertaining gaming experience to a potential billion new consumers around the world, many of whom have never experienced gaming in the home," said John F. Rizzo, CEO, Zeebo. "The system provides an intuitive, quick, and easy-to-use home shopping user experience featuring popular, culturally optimized content from leading game publishers and developers around the world. It also delivers high value and warranty protection compared to gray-market products with no need for a separate wireless access plan."
"Zeebo is bringing an innovative console and distribution model to untapped consumer markets with significant potential," said Michael Pachter, director of Research, Wedbush Morgan Securities. "Zeebo provides a solution for a difficult emerging market problem by combining 3G wireless technology with compelling content and a secure business model that addresses the challenges presented by piracy and price sensitivity."
Leading game publishers and developers, including Capcom, Com2uS, Digital Chocolate, EA Mobile, Gameloft, Glu, Id Software, Machineworks Northwest LLC, Namco Networks and THQ, are porting a wide array of console, PC, dedicated handheld and high-end mobile titles to the Zeebo platform.
The Zeebo console enables the secure purchase and delivery of content, as well as user interface system updates through an over-the-air automatic connection to the ZeeboNet Wireless Network using 3G broadband wireless cellular service. Connection to ZeeboNet is completely transparent to the end user with no wireless service plan required. In the future, the Zeebo system will also enable consumers previously unable to access the Internet, or limited to slow, expensive dial-up services, to connect PCs or netbooks to high-speed broadband wireless service by using the ZeeboNet Wireless Network.
The launch of a new console platform like the Zeebo is an important milestone for the entertainment industry - gaming companies and beyond - as it provides a direct entry point to deliver branded content into a potential billion homes in emerging markets," said Kathy Vrabeck, a veteran in the videogame industry who has held executive leadership roles with top publishers including Activision and EA. "Zeebo demonstrates the innovation required for a digital direct-to-consumer channel to expose a whole new set of consumers around the world to exciting new forms of content."
The Zeebo system is based on Qualcomm's MSM chipset and BREW solution, together with a custom user interface design, a back-end billing system, and a wireless distribution mechanism for advertisements and messages which appear throughout ZeeboNet. In addition to enabling secure mobile digital content delivery and monetization, the BREW solution provides a proven development and content monetization ecosystem for publishers and developers to port their titles to the Zeebo console.
"We've had a vision for a wireless videogame console targeted at the special economic and culturally relevant content needs in emerging markets for several years and we're excited to see Zeebo embark on this ambitious new venture," said Mike Yuen, senior director of games and services, Qualcomm. "Qualcomm has had a long history of enabling our partners with disruptive wireless technologies and services and we look forward to continuing our support of Zeebo."
GDC 2009: Zeebo 3G Wireless Gaming Console Officially Announced