Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pandora: The Other Handheld

Here's another contender in the handheld gaming device market... only it's not really trying. Still, it's got some impressive hardware. It's an interesting testament to crowdsourcing: They managed to put together a fully realized handheld gaming device at a reasonable price of $349, which is pretty impressive considering the minuscule production runs (800 so far).

It's a cross between a gaming handheld and a PC, with an 800 x 480 touchscreen and enough horsepower to run various gaming emulators. You can surf the web, play videos, and use the built-in gaming controls to play a wide range of games. You've got WiFi, Bluetooth, dual SD card slots... the specs are really quite impressive. And it's only slightly bigger than a DS. You'll also have noticed the full QWERTY keyboard on it, which will make your Quake games easier (yes, you can play Quake with it).

What's the catch? It's a Linux box, which means you need to be comfortable with installing software and tinkering with the system. Not to mention hunting down software. This device does not have a mass-market veneer on it; it's a raw hacker's delight.

It took their team a couple of years to pull it together, which is not bad considering it was a hobby project. Heck, hasn't Sony been working that long on the PSP2? Which, by the way, continues to heat up the rumor mills. More people are saying it will ship sometime in 2011. Some people are looking at Sony job postings and wondering if their open reqs for Android programmers has anything to do with the PSP2. Others are looking at patent applications and talking about a backside touch-sensitive control scheme (while you're holding the PSP2, your fingers could be controlling it by touching the back of the device). Apparently there may still be battery and heat issues to overcome, though, as Sony stuffs plenty of power into a small package along with a drop-dead gorgeous screen.

Well, Sony should take their time and get it right; the competition is fierce, with the 3DS poised to hit in March, and the iPhone 4 already rocking an amazing screen and some serious horsepower (plus an array of sensors that makes for some interesting game design possibilities).

Still, the Pandora and the PSP2 and the 3DS are lacking a key competitive advantage the iPhone possesses: the iTunes store. Not just because it has a huge array of music and video to choose from, but because it makes buying games and media products dead simple. Yes, it can be hard to find the right choose among a zillion games, but compare that to the DSiWare store... it is to laugh.

I only hope Sony is putting some energy into an online store experience. Or hoping to tap into the Android Market. Nintendo... I'd love to be shocked and see them come up with a real online store for a wide range of products.

The Pandora? It's a niche machine, to be sure, but it sure looks like a fun one. A hat tip to Randy Reiss who told me about it. Randy, I hope you have fun with your Pandora!

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