Zeebo Debuts New Game Console for Emerging Market

3/23/09

Zeebo, a San Diego video-game company backed by Qualcomm, today launched the “world’s fourth console” for video games. The company’s strategy, outlined by Zeebo CEO John Rizzo at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, is focused on the video-game market in emerging countries.

Zeebo is entering an industry dominated by the big three of game consoles: the Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox, and Sony PlayStation. Instead of challenging them head-on, however, Zeebo is aiming at the middle-class market in Brazil and countries like Mexico, Russia and India. The Zeebo system goes on sale next month in Brazil.

Zeebo, founded in 2007, was formed as the result of a partnership between Brazilian video-game company Tectoy S.A., which has sold 5 million 2D game consoles in Brazil, and Qualcomm, the San Diego-based wireless chipmaker. Both parent companies have provided funding for the San Diego game company. The game web site Gamasutra reported earlier this year that Tectoy owns 57 percent of Zeebo, and Qualcomm, which recently provided $5.5 million in funding, holds the other 43 percent.

Zeebo has created a system to play 3D games on television sets using a console equipped with a Qualcomm chip developed for local wireless 3G networks. The gaming system was based on the idea of using off-the-shelf chips and technology from Qualcomm, which has been seeking to expand the use of Qualcomm-designed semiconductors beyond the market for mobile phones.

Zeebo says its game console will sell for $199, and will come with three games pre-loaded in Brazil: FIFA 09, Action Hero 3D and Brain Training. The classic Quake, Prey and Need for Speed Carbon can be downloaded for free. The modest package is not exactly state-of-the-art, but Zeebo also is a lot cheaper than, for example, than the Nintendo Wii.

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