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Phantom Console to Bypass Rentailers With 'Pay-Per-View Network for Games'

30 Aug, 2003 By: John Gaudiosi

There's a new video game system heading to U.S. homes in February 2004, but you won't see it in traditional retail channels and it won't be available to rent. Sarasota, Fla.-based Infinium Labs will launch two versions of its Phantom video game console via Phantom.net and some unannounced channel partners.

“Phantom was built from the ground up with performance, affordability, variety and exceptional power,” said David Frederick, chief marketing officer at Infinium Labs. “Microsoft and Sony have added some new technology and features to their systems, but their static products are no different from the Atari 2600. Phantom is built to be dynamic, allowing you to upgrade the hardware and download new games daily to rent or buy, and it ships with over 50 games on the hard drive. It's a whole different paradigm.”

Infinium Labs will ship Phantom with the Windows XP kernel, making ports (i.e., versions) of PC and Xbox games a snap for game makers. A Pentium 4 processor and a high-performance Nvidia 3-D graphics card will also come under the hood, along with a 2 GHz processor with 256 DDR RAM, a 100+ gigabyte hard drive, Dolby 5.1 surround sound and a high-speed broadband modem (10/100 BaseT Ethernet). There will be four controller ports, two USB ports and onboard RF wireless modules. The machine will plug into a TV via S-Video or analog outputs. (An Xbox ships with a Pentium 3 processor, an Ethernet card and a 10 GB hard drive.)

A “baseline” model will ship for between $299 and $399, and an “ultimate” model will be available in the $599 price range. While both machines will ship with Logitech controllers, mouse and keyboard, the souped-up model will include a bigger hard drive, more RAM, wireless peripherals, Dolby 7.1 surround sound and Wi-Fi connectivity.

“The heart of the Phantom is the Virtual Private Gaming Network (VPGN), which is basically a pay-per-view network for games,” said analyst Bill Sawyer, founder of video game research firm Digital Mill. “The PC market has been ignored by the rental chains, and this machine, which is basically a PC with exact specifications, allows developers and publishers to port PC and Xbox games easily, as well as modified versions of games specifically for the VPGN.”

Frederick said the monthly service will cost $9.95, allowing gamers to download a variety of games for free, and buy and rent others. The games are sent directly to the hard drive, as the machine will have no CD or DVD drive. Down the line, Frederick said additional content could be downloaded to the machine, including movies.

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