Business

Startup targets new, cheaper game consoleat developing nations

SAN FRANCISCO — A startup called Zeebo Inc. is betting that people in emerging markets want to play good video games just as much as people in the United States, Western Europe and Japan.

Zeebo plans to launch its "video game console for the next billion" in Brazil next month for $199 and other countries later in the year for $179. It was developed using the cell phone technology of Qualcomm Inc., the San Diego company best known for its mobile phone chips.

The Zeebo unit is light, and a little larger than the Nintendo Wii. But instead of playing video games on disks, the Zeebo will use digitally downloaded games — distributed through cell phone networks that players don't even have to subscribe to.

The console is not meant to compete directly with the latest, powerful devices such as Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3, Microsoft's Xbox 360, or the Wii.

Rather, said Zeebo CEO John F. Rizzo, it is targeted at consumers in emerging markets such as India, China, Brazil and Eastern Europe who generally can't afford the latest high-end consoles, or the games published for them. In many of these countries, cell phone service is more readily available and cheaper than wired broadband.

Zeebo, unveiled Monday at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, attaches to any TV and uses a fraction of the electricity that high-end gaming consoles need. Its batteries can be juiced with what looks like a typical cell phone charger.

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