Panasonic has abandoned its plans to launch a handheld gaming console called Jungle, having shown off the clamshell device last year. Designed to be used for massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), it always seemed like a niche product in the making. Now it's not even being made.
"Panasonic decided to suspend further development due to changes in the market and in our own strategic direction," the company tells Reuters in a statement. With stiff competition from Sony NGP, Nintendo 3DS and Apple's iPod touch -- not to mention the Xperia Play PlayStation phone -- it's probably a wise decision, as Panasonic would have faced a struggle to get the best developers making games for its device.
What was Jungle? How quickly you forget. The clamshell device was unveiled in October last year, and crammed in a full Qwerty keyboard alongside a gaming D-pad and buttons, along with mini-HDMI and micro-USB connections and Wi-Fi for the online aspect.
The main game showed off back then was a browser-based MMORPG based on Battlestar Galactica, giving Jungle instant geek desirability, but also raising questions about where and how Jungle would be used.
Do people really want to play immersive, long-session MMOs on a handheld device rather than a laptop or full computer, for example? Is a D-pad above a Qwerty keyboard a comfortable control mechanic for games originally designed with a full keyboard and mouse in mind?
Also, great though Battlestar Galactica is, would there really have been enough MMO-loving fans of the show to give Jungle a fighting chance against new-generation handhelds like the NGP and 3DS? These questions are all academic now.
It looks like Panasonic has put its gaming ambitions on ice. Although if the company is casting about for a new idea, may we suggest reviving the long-lost Panasonic Q? It was only ever released in Japan back in 2001, with the innards of a Nintendo GameCube inside a fully fledged silver home entertainment system.
Revive the idea in 2011, perhaps licensing cloud-gaming tech from someone like OnLive. Stick a Blu-ray drive inside, and people will even be able to watch Battlestar Galactica. Just a thought.