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Businesses Entertainment Games

Taking Gaming To the Next Billion Players 116

Hugh Pickens writes "June marks the launch across Brazil of Zeebo, a console that aims to tap an enormous new market for videogaming for the billion-strong, emerging middle classes of such countries as Brazil, India, Mexico, Russia and China. Zeebo uses the same Qualcomm chipsets contained in high-end smartphones, together with 1GB of flash memory, three USB slots and a proprietary dual analogue gamepad. It plugs into a TV and outputs at a 640 x 480 pixel resolution. 'The key thing is we're using off-the-shelf components,' says Mike Yuen, director of the gaming group at Qualcomm. This approach means that, while Zeebo can be priced appropriately for its markets — it will launch at US $199 in Brazil compared to around US $250 (plus another US $50 for a mod chip to play pirated games) for a PlayStation 2 in the region — and next year the company plans to drop the price of the console to $149. But the most important part of the Zeebo ecosystem is its wireless digital distribution that gets around the low penetration of wired broadband in many of these countries, negates the cost of dealing with packaged retail goods, and removes the risk of piracy, with the games priced at about $10 locked to the consoles they're downloaded to. Zeebo is not meant to directly compete with powerful devices like Sony's PlayStation 3, Microsoft's Xbox 360, or the Wii. '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,' says Yuen. One Indian gaming blog predicts Zeebo will struggle, in part due to the cultural reluctance toward digital distribution and also the lack of piratable games."
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Taking Gaming To the Next Billion Players

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  • by Jurily ( 900488 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [yliruj]> on Sunday April 26, 2009 @12:32PM (#27722043)

    Maybe the "pirating" is just a symptom of a failing business model, don't you think?

  • Why do PS2 games cost up to $100 there? Zeebo doesn't need to have this kind of margin to operate in if PS2s cost $125 and the games were $30-60.

  • by Cabriel ( 803429 ) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @12:45PM (#27722149)

    One Indian gaming blog predicts Zeebo will struggle, in part due to the cultural reluctance toward digital distribution and also the lack of piratable games."

    I've heard it speculated before that piracy in some circumstances encourages overall profit, is this a concrete example of said theory?

    given that it's speculation, I'd say it's not a concrete example of anything.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @12:46PM (#27722155)

    If you look at the console market, you can see a distinct connection between console sales and the appearance of modchips (or softmods, where possible). It may sound odd, but the ability to copy a game actually increases your chances to sell a game.

    How do you decide which console to get? Well, ok, not you. Take Jonny Averageplayer. He is in school and he wants a console. Which one will he want? Most likely the one his friends have. Why? Well, first of all of course to be part of the crowd and not the odd guy out with the "wrong" hardware, but also to be able to swap games with them. So being able to trade games around and to copy them is a key feature for this demographic. Now, which console will his friends have? More often than not, the one where copying is possible or at least easy.

    Then there's the hardcore gamer crowd that want that latest sequel for their favorite game series. But usually, they come out in Japan and you're not, and with vendor lock in and distribution protection, you have to wait for months or sometimes even years. Will you wait? Nope. You will want a console where you can crowbar that location protection lock out.

    This all leads to one ultimate problem of selling game copies: To make someone buy a copy of your game, he first of all has to have the matching console. You can have the best console in the world and the games can look a hundred times better on your hardware, and you can have the best copy protection (which is, as detailed above, actually keeping people from buying the console in the first place), if nobody has the hardware you should've made games for the inferior console instead if you wanted to sell.

    So, in conclusion, the project won't take off. Nobody will want the console. 200 bucks can easily buy a used PS2 with mod chip and a load of other crap. And the ability to play copies.

  • Re:$200? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MoonBuggy ( 611105 ) on Sunday April 26, 2009 @12:54PM (#27722213) Journal

    I have to agree with you - too much money and not enough capability.

    I'd be surprised to hear that a PS2 actually costs $250 in Brazil. You can pick them up used here in the UK for the equivalent of $100 or so, and the GamingIndians article linked in the summary places them at $125 (presumably new); the Zeebo isn't undercutting them at all, it's half the price again!

    Add to that the fact that Zeebo's DRM prevents illegal copying (thus cutting off a prime source of cheap games in those markets) and places restrictions on the use of legally purchased content (no lending, for example) and I can see no reason that anyone would buy one if it actually were cheaper, let alone pay the premium for one.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 26, 2009 @05:14PM (#27724183)

    Or maybe pirating = "Why should I pay when I can get it for free and not get caught". If shoplifting were easy and virtually impossible to catch, I would bet you lots of people would do it. That doesn't mean "selling stuff at stores" is a failing business model. It might mean that piracy and shoplifting are making businesses fail, however.

  • by Jurily ( 900488 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [yliruj]> on Sunday April 26, 2009 @05:48PM (#27724485)

    If shoplifting were easy and virtually impossible to catch, I would bet you lots of people would do it.

    Ah, the good old fallacy. Tell me, if I "steal" a game I would never, ever buy, how much money did they lose? How much does it cost them to make another copy? I just did it for free.

    Does it hurt you to know I'm playing an otherwise expensive game while eating the cheapest can of beans I could find while looking for work and avoiding my landlord? Maybe some people have priorities more important than "only have government approved software on my laptop".

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