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The Phantom Vanishing

21 Jun, 2005 By: John Gaudiosi

Infinium Labs' Phantom Game Service

While next-generation consoles were front and center at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles last month, one new gaming system sat out the world's biggest game show.

Infinium Labs' Phantom Game Service, a broadband subscription game service that would bring PC games to the living room, was nowhere to be found. The last time the console was shown was in January at the 2005 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), where it was displayed in partner booths at the Microsoft Windows Embedded Device Showcase exhibit and Nvidia's Next-Generation 3-D Entertainment exhibit.

Infinium Labs president Kevin Bachus, who helped launch Microsoft's Xbox console, said from the E3 show floor that the company did have a hotel suite in Los Angeles. The console was shown to visitors, but publicity was scarce.

This was in stark contrast to E3 2004, where Infinium Labs made a big splash with a lavish booth and working prototype of Phantom. The CES presence was much smaller in January, but still generated positive buzz for the system.

Infinium pushed back its Nov. 18, 2004 launch to an unspecified date in 2005.

The company spoke to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) April 20, and the filing painted a grim future for the Phantom. The company needs to secure at least $11.5 million to launch the service. While an executive boasted at CES 2004 that the company would sell 2 million consoles in its first two years, the actual launch projection from Infinium now is only 10,000 units. The SEC filing warns that the company may go out of business.

Things had been looking up for Infinium, which managed to take a wave of negative publicity and turn skeptical game critics around during the three-day E3 show in May 2004. Another plus was the change in business model from a PC-style sales model of multiple models of the hardware for $400 and up, to a free hardware distribution model with a two-year subscription commitment of $30 per month. The hardware was priced at $200 without the two-year commitment.

Infinium Labs had the support of more than a dozen game publishers to bring their PC games and edutainment titles to the living room. Consumers would be able to play a free demo of games and then download the full game to the Phantom's hard disc drive. Infinium Labs also was in talks with numerous retailers to sell the hardware and subscription packagers to consumers.

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