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Handhelds Portables (Games) Entertainment Games Hardware

Hands-On With The Tapwave Zodiac 34

Thanks to IGN Pocket for their hands-on preview of Tapwave's Zodiac handheld gaming system. The author suggests: "Whether or not Tapwave has the marketing muscle to steal away important market share from Nintendo remains to be seen, but at the very least the company has made a huge first impression when it comes to handheld system design." This Palm-compatible handheld has custom 3D game titles, including Spy Hunter, which IGN found "...very reminiscent of the PC's early years with the 3DFX Voodoo card", but overall, concerns about lack of "hard partnerships" with big publishers and the fact that the "price [$299-$399] definitely needs to come down" have the previewer worrying that this "great handheld design with incredible technical potential" may ultimately go neglected.
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Hands-On With The Tapwave Zodiac

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  • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @06:48AM (#7268743) Homepage Journal
    superior but inferior(and there was already gp32 around). superior in hardware but expensive and jumping into a market that needs lots of $$$ up front for advertising if they want to make it happen in the long run(and they also need some games with long long long lasting appeal).

    also having two different models, what were they thinking? i bet the games do look and feel nice though.

    • Difference is, the Zodiac is a PDA with better specs than anything else in its price segment.
    • It is a different ball park. Zodiac is a Palm OS PDA, that you can use to manage your life, and has Bluetooth, enabling you to sincrinize with your cellphone and have access to e-mail everywhere. Is also works like a Gameboy, and you can have some "kewl" games. Even if the games are a complete flop, the hardware tag is very aggressive.
  • I am a huge Nintendo fan. I would probably be considered a fanboy by some.

    I really want a Zodiac, and I really want it to do well. This thing is what the N-Gage should have been. With a cellphone added in, in a well designed, non-taco way, and the ability to run Linux, this thing would be the ultimate convergence device with a reasonable amount of power to boot.

    Mind you, with all that said, I would quite like a GP32 [] too, if just for the ability to home brew hand held games out of the box.

  • See, Nintendo pretty much has a monopoly on handheld gaming now. And usually I'll tell you that monopolies are bad, you all know the reasons. But this one is good! Nintendo doesn't use it's handheld monopoly for evil. They don't gouge us on prices. They don't make crappy games. They don't shoot puppies, lobby congress, or eat dead babies. They have a monopoly because they have in the past and continue to provide the highest quality handheld gaming experience. If they stopped doing it, they could very
    • Re:I don't get it (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Enfors ( 519147 )
      I'd agree with you - if playing games was the only thing this device was good for. But a PalmOS PDA with a good processor, 32 MB RAM, 480x320 screen and Bluetooth like this for USD 299 may well be viable even without a single game. Now, add the ability to play good games, and you've got something very interesting.

      Granted, I don't think this device will cut into GBA's market segment. I think it will mostly be bought by people who would otherwise had bought some other PalmOS device. And remember, there alrea
    • Do you not agree that with competition in the market, Nintendo would have a greater need to produce more high quality titles to compete than they currently "need" to? Competition is good for the consumer, and in this way, every monopoly is bad. Think about it -- competition has brought the GameCube down to $99. The GBA, with no real competition, is now more expensive than the Cube.

      Competition good; monopoly bad -- irregardless of what a company does with that monopoly (and, fact is, Nintendo HAS done some
      • Think about it -- competition has brought the GameCube down to $99. The GBA, with no real competition, is now more expensive than the Cube.

        While I don't care to argue about the consequences of monopolies (or whether or not there is one), I do have to point this out. The GBA is about half the price of the Cube, and the GBA-SP is the same price, not more expensive (I bought a black GBA-SP not too long ago for $99, and that's the MSRP). The SP is also a significantly newer piece of hardware than the Cube, a
  • The Tapwave has more games [] that will be available than the article makes it sound. I would really like one, but the price needs to come down by about $100 for me to buy one. I would consider it an upgrade/replacement for my current Palm that can also play good games and act as an MP3 player (I don't currently have). It looks like something that I would actually use on a daily basis. Like the N-Gage was supposed to be, but is not.
  • This unit is going to fail. It costs too much plain and simple. It looks really great and I wouldn't mind owning a neat little gaming system like that, but not for that price! Price is going to sink this thing back into the depths of obscurity.
    • Gaming is only one aspect of it. There's a lot of people out there who would pay $300 for the PDA features alone, and gaming on it is quite an added bonus.

      -- Dr. Eldarion --
    • The Zodiac is not in competition with GBA. The Zodiac is not a game platform, although it does have some games optimized for its hardware. The target audience is not in middle school or high school.

      The Zodiac is a gaming-oriented version of common consumer electronics. The Zodiac's closest competitors are the Palm Tungsten series (PalmOS PDAs) and the Nokia N-Gage (disaster of a gaming phone). Based on what I've seen, it beats both, blowing the N-Gage out of the water.

      The target audience for the Zodia
  • The price needs to come down? Bah.

    If you were comparing this with a GBA SP- yeah, $300 is a lot. But, if you compare it to other PalmOS handhelds on the market, it's not bad. Where else can you get such a machine for $300? Two SDIO slots? 320x480 screen? Sony and PalmOne machines with a screen that size go for $400 and up.

    I think this device has a lot of promise, and unlike some ugly, mangled foetuses like the N-Gage, it may make it in the world- although, probably as a pretty niche player. But to me,
    • Personally, as someone that has been looking at PDAs for a while, I may buy one of these eventually (though not right away, as I won't have the cash in the near future). That being said, I will purchase it as a good PDA, not as a handheld console. Whether or not it can succeed on those types of purchases remains to be seen. I may pick up some games if they have some good ones available, but it's not going to be the primary purpose of the device for me.

      The only reason I see a problem here is that I haven't
      • That being said, I will purchase it as a good PDA, not as a handheld console.

        I'm the same way. I own a GBA, and do some gaming, but not that much. However, if I was looking at two different models with similar features, there is a good chance I'd still end up with the Zodiac. Just as a PDA the Zodiac is a pretty nice device for the price. It is pretty expensive, but if you want a $100 or $200 PDA with fewer features, they are available.

        I may do minimal gaming, I think I'd consider a Zodiac, the gami
    • To compete with GBA, someone needs to:

      - Have the same price point (or within about $30 of the GBA)
      - Have a significant technological lead
      - Cement a lot of software partnerships before launch
      - Probably cut a better licensing deal for the software developers than Nintendo offers

      I love the GBA (when I can get it out of the hands of my son :-) ), but a little *viable* competition for Nintendo would really help in that end of the market.

      • Yeah I think that's where the Sony PSP will come into play.

        The Zodiac is all good, but it's really 80% PDA 20% game. Which makes it perfect for those of us who need a PDA and would like to have the option to play some good games.

        What's going to kill the Zodiac as a game device is that they're already talking about the next Zodiac with totally different hardware sometime late next year!!!

        That totally kills the developers and fractures your market. Consoles get upgraded once every great while for a reason.
        • You're right - the PSP shows a lot of promise (See here for technical details [] - link doesn't seem to display correctly in Mozilla). Sony also has the market clout to get the software developers lined up.

          Zodiac will die if they don't maintain compatibility. One of the (many) things Nintendo got right with the GBA is that it maintains backwards compatibility, while being a big step forward.

          • Zodiac will die if they don't maintain compatibility.

            How true that statement is depends on how compatible you mean.

            It's going to be pretty easy for the Zodiac to maintain backwards compatibility, especially compared to cart consoles like the GBA. The Zodiac has a relatively stable API for a lot of the programming that goes into a game, and if Tapwave was smart, the rest of the APIs, the OpenGL/DirectX analog APIs will be stable as well.

            The CPU should remain stable as well, faster ARM-based chips, but a
        • Do you have any info about this new hardware? How different could it be? Someone replied mentioning backwards compatibility, and frankly, I don't see this being a big problem. If backwards compatibility was lost, yes that would be a problem, but I don't think that's all too likely.

          There is a lot less potential for a loss of backwards compatibility with the Zodiac than there is with traditional consoles, handheld or otherwise. Why? The Zodiac is a regular PalmOS device, with an added layer (and some ext
          • Well what I was thinking about is that a year isn't a lot of time to get a good base of game developers. Heck it's not a lot of time to make a game.

            So in a year, you come out with better hardware, what was the point of working on a game for the old hardware? Unless you can make it run well on both, but I would think the new hardware could be a lot better. Think dedicated 3d GPU vs the 2d ATI they have now.

            Then a year from then you make another revision with even better hardware. Game consoles aren't made
  • I don't think that the Tapwave is necessarily trying to go mass-market like the N-Gage has obviously attempted to. I think their target is 20-40 year old business people and the PC enthusiast/LAN gaming market. In terms of aesthetic design, it's obviously much better design than the N-Gage, and dare I say the standard GBA, rivaling in at least design and layout to the GBA-SP.

    I think the best way to categorize the Tapwave is that it's the American wonderswan; quiet, not terribly grandeous aspirations (i.
  • The big question for me is will games be limited to 32MBs or will some games allow the user to use the full 128MB? They have two versions, this is confusing to interested buyers, do I go cheap or do I go big features. The only difference that I'm aware of is the larger memory, which should only at 10-15 dollars to the price. If they wanted lots of memory for holding movies MP3s etc... they should have given all units 128MB and only made one unit. If the games will be limited to 32MB the 128 is only for
  • I'll going to reiterate what I wrote in an earlier post to a related article. This product may have a chance, even if it's much more expensive than a GBA. As others have said, you need to think of it as a PDA plus gaming, not the other way around.

    Consider PC's either before soundblasters. (Or you could make a similar arguement pre-3DFX). Before soundblasters came out PC's seemed like a silly place to play games. Consoles were much cheaper and had better games. Never-the-less PC's became a popular platfor
    • It will also help a lot if the system is open enough to let anyone write games for it. Remember the best computer games in the early soundblaster era were shareware games from small companies like Epic, Apogee, and of course ID. Also, being able to run somewhat questionable software such as emulators, etc, would be a big win, (for me at least).

      Well, the link above that references it as a Palm-compatible PDA was blocked by the filters here (as a site with content of type 'sex' no less), but as far as I kno
  • The guy who made the Liberty Gameboy Emulator for the PalmOS is connected to a product [] that allows you to develop for Windows Pocket PC, Palm, Windows Smartphone and Symbian Series 60 all at once. They've recently released a licenced Atari emulation product [] that comes on one MMC and is compatible with all the platforms above. Products like these are potentially more of a challenge to the GBA than any one single product. Why buy a GBA when whatever powerful pocket device you've already got will run a game

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." -- Will Rogers