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 effectively 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 and Zeebo's plans for world domination are already advanced. "You'll see Zeebo marketed as more than just a games machine as we roll out too. 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. "Localised content means more to us than just language.""
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