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After an absence of more than a decade, Japanese consumer electronics maker Panasonic is reportedly jumping back into the video-game market with the development of a handheld game player dubbed "Jungle." A source told Reuters the handheld is being targeted at the U.S. gaming market. According to Bloomberg, it will be "very different" from traditional handheld gaming devices. A new subsidiary, Panasonic Cloud Entertainment, has been set up to oversee the project. The device will go up against players from Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft, along with several other services offered on smartphones and tablets such as Apple iPhone and iPad.
Registered customers received an email on Monday saying that users were invited to Panasonic's U.S. operations to test the player, said Bloomberg, which also reported that a Panasonic spokesman in Tokyo confirmed the email but didn't provide other details.
The clamshell device will have a touchpad, QWERTY keyboard and other gaming controls and focus on online gaming that can be played anytime, anywhere, according to TechCrunch, which also reported that it may run on Linux. The supposed website for the Jungle device said the mission is to "create an ecosystem around online gaming" and that "leading online gaming developers" are working on new content. A browser-based MMO (massively multiplayer online) game will let players "delve into the mysteries of the Battlestar [Galactica] universe as a human or cylon,'' the site states. The subsidiary will also create video content for the Jungle brand and has partnered with Machinima.com on a new weekly show called Online Underground.
The video-game industry is expected to reach sales of $20 billion this year in the U.S. The last time Panasonic launched a gaming console was in 1993 with its $700 3DO device. A month later, Atari came out with a $249 Jaguar player. The last 3DO model came out in the fall of 1994 and then Panasonic folded the business unit.