Wed, Dec 01, 2010 - Page 10 News List

Panasonic begins testing of portable video-game player


Panasonic Corp began testing of a handheld video-game player in the US, as the Japanese electronics maker aims to return to the market after more than a decade to challenge Sony Corp and Nintendo Co.

The company’s US-based unit invited users in the country to test the player, code-named “Jungle,” Panasonic Cloud Entertainment Company said in an e-mail to registered customers yesterday. Panasonic’s Tokyo-based spokesman Akira Kadota confirmed the e-mail, without providing details about when the device will be unveiled or its price.

The Osaka, Japan-based company, which together with Sega Sammy Holdings Inc and Atari SA, ceded the console market to Sony and Nintendo, is looking to return to the video game industry estimated to reach US$20 billion in sales in the US this year. Aside from its traditional rivals, Panasonic also faces competition from games played on smartphones and tablet computers, such as Apple Inc’s iPhone and iPad.


“We know other companies out there have traditional hand-held gaming covered,” Panasonic said in the e-mail. “We’re doing something very different.”

Panasonic’s clamshell device will feature a touchpad and keyboard, TechCrunch reported on Oct. 4. The player will specialize in online gaming, the blog reported.

Panasonic entered the video-game market in October 1993 with a US$700 3DO video game console, a month before Atari Corp’s US$249 Jaguar player. The last 3DO model went on sale in the autumn of 1994, after which the business was discontinued, Naoto Kishihara, a Panasonic spokesman, said last month.


Meanwhile, Electronic Arts Inc chief executive officer John Riccitiello said the second-largest US video-game publisher has considered a wide range of acquisitions and found most too expensive so far.

“There are probably 25 companies on our radar that would make sense for us at somewhere between 5 and 10 percent of the asking price,” Riccitiello said on Monday in an interview at Bloomberg’s New York headquarters.

He said he’s interested in deals that add technology, capability and intellectual property without identifying potential targets.

Electronic Arts, publisher of franchises such as FIFA Soccer and Medal of Honor, has lost ground in the industry with the rise of games played on mobile phones and social networks such as Facebook.

The company’s stock is down 74 percent over the last three years on the NASDAQ Stock Market, giving it a US$4.98 billion valuation.

Based in Redwood City, California, Electronic Arts is focused on boosting digital revenue, including online and mobile-phone sales, to US$750 million this year. To get there, the company is developing a new Star Wars game and integrating the social-game maker Playfish Inc that it acquired last year.

“I need to finish engineering and building to make that happen,” Riccitiello said. “I don’t need a billion-dollar acquisition.”

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