Summary:

You couldn’t pick a more inopportune time to launch a new gaming console: video game sales remain strong, but the global financial slump has…

imageYou couldn’t pick a more inopportune time to launch a new gaming console: video game sales remain strong, but the global financial slump has tanked overall electronics sales. But stealthy startup Zeebo isn’t worried about that. The S.F.-based company unveiled its namesake device at the Game Developers Conference today, a video game console aimed not at the saturated U.S. gaming market, but middle-class gamers in emerging markets like Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC).

CEO John Rizzo told GDC attendees that a console had to be affordable to succeed in the BRIC countries; its launch price is $199, but that’s expected to come down to $150 later this year. That’s a stark contrast from the roughly $1,000 that a new PS3 or Wii can cost in countries like Brazil where they haven’t officially launched, and the only option is illegal trading (per Gamasutra). It also doesn’t compete with the PS3, Xbox 360 or Wii, because it runs solely on downloadable games.

MarketWatch reports that tech giant Qualcomm (NSDQ: QCOM) invested an undisclosed amount in the startup last year based on interest in its wireless technology. And Qualcomm is bullish on Zeebo’s sales potential: Mike Yuen, Qualcomm’s senior director of games and services predicted success akin to Amazon’s Kindle. More after the jump.

The Zeebo can can hold about 50 games at a given time; currently the roster is made up of mostly older games like Quake and the Need for Speed franchise, but publishers like EA, Capcom and Namco have already signed on to either license or develop games for the service. It’s designed for cost-effectiveness, since publishers can save on packaging and distribution costs (and pass those savings to gamers), but also to combat the piracy that comes with selling disc-based games.

Photo Credit: gamestooges

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