Enter the Zeebo


In this saturated market is there room for another console? Zeebo thinks there is.

For most of us, the unholy triumvirate of Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft will provide all of our gaming needs, but outside of the US / UK / Japan, things are a lot more complex.

Countries like Brazil, India, Mexico, Russia and China don’t have the infrastructure that most of us take for granted, and piracy is often actively encouraged; which would make the big three nervous to attempt to claw a market out.

As we first reported back in November, one company to try for this emerging middle class market is Zeebo. Its founder, Reinaldo Normand, explains “When it comes to traditional consoles, even if you ignore the cost of importing them, the price of the games is massive. That’s the reason piracy is such a big problem in these countries. It’s the only way people can afford to buy games.”

While Australia may be wincing at the high cost and slow speed of release, places like Russia are looking at $100 for just a basic game, and this is where Zeebo thinks it can score big.

The Zeebo itself is the brainchild of Mike Yuen and Reinaldo Normand, and is formed from off-the-shelf components and pre-built software normally used in mobile phones. The resultant Frankenstein’s console avoids Sony’s mammoth costs while still having a system that’s easy to write for. And with EA, Capcom, THQ, Activision, PopCap, Gameloft and Digital Chocolate realizing the viability of re-releasing to a new console, especially one that has a potential userbase of billions, this could be a very big business.

As for price, the Zeebo is expected to retail at $199 in Brazil, which compares very favorably to the PS 2 (no typo there) which retails at $300. (If you add the $50 you’d need to have it chipped to play games) And the PS 2 doesn’t come with FIFA 09, Action Hero 3D and Brain Age preloaded; with Prey, Quake and Need for Speed Carbon being downloadable for free.

As for the software pirates, they may cackle at selling a $100 game for $10, but the Zeebo’s price of $12 a game may sink that particular treasure galleon.

Another benefit is a new market for Indie games. With PopCap holding a tight rein on the casual market, where starting programmers used to grow, this new market could prove to be a fertile ground for up and coming programmers, as well as programmers who want to develop away from the main “fragfest” audience.

Sound farfetched? Well, it’s due to be released in Rio De Janiero in late May, before sweeping across the rest of Brazil. Mexico looks set to receive it in the Autumn, and if things go to plan, 2010 will see the rest of Latin America and India.

Mike Yuen explains Zeebo’s vast vision, “In Latin America, where there’s a strong gaming culture, that’s what we’ll be, but in India and China we can be more educational or lifestyle-oriented. Localised content means more to us than just language.”

Maybe soon there will be a fourth member of the console wars, with The Escapist bringing them into the fold.

Source: Edge Online

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