Panasonic invites gamers to test new Jungle handheld

Panasonic is moving forward into the the handheld video game market. We learned in October that the Japanese electronics maker is developing a dedicated gaming handheld called “Jungle” to compete with the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP Go. Progress is moving fast, it seems. Yesterday, Panasonic sent out invitation emails to U.S. consumers inviting them to test the handheld device, reports Bloomberg.

“We know other companies out there have traditional handheld gaming covered,” Panasonic said in the email. “We’re doing something very different.” The email goes on to discuss cloud and web-based content, free-to-play games, and social/community gaming.

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As we noted previously, the Jungle is being aimed specifically at the MMO and online gaming crowd. The specs haven’t been released yet, but from what we do know, it will feature a QWERTY keyboard, touch pad, dual D-pads, and a mini-HDMI port. Beyond that there are unconfirmed rumors that it will be Linux based and it could have 3G. It’s being developed by Panasonic Cloud Entertainment, a small Silicon Valley-based startup carrying the Panasonic name.

Panasonic has a checkered past in the video game industry.  In Oct. 1993, the company released its own video game console, the 3DO, but discontinued the expensive $700 device after only a year due to low sales. And in 2001, it partnered with Nintendo to create the Panasonic Q, a Japan-only version of Nintendo’s GameCube console that had DVD playback. The device was not very popular.

Aside from an online Battlestar Galactica game and a collaboration with Machinima.com, we don’t yet know much about the content Panasonic has planned for the device.

Are you excited for a social gaming platform? Would you play an MMO on a handheld? If so, what does Panasonic need to do to break into the historically impenetrable handheld gaming market?