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10 Years Ago, Tech Giant Panasonic Almost Took On The Nintendo 3DS

Panasonic Jungle© Panasonic

Nintendo’s stranglehold on the handheld gaming arena has remained in place since the early ’90s, when it released the world-beating Game Boy console. Since then, the company has been at the forefront of the portable market, but it hasn’t gone totally challenging in that time; while Sega, NEC, Bandai and SNK all tried to unseat the Kyoto-based company during the ’90s and ’00s, Sony would come closest to dethroning Nintendo with its incredibly popular PSP – but even with sales of over 80 million units worldwide, it couldn’t catch the DS, which sold almost twice that number with over 150 million consoles sold.

Nevertheless, the success of the PSP – and the arrival of the “smart device” era – emboldened tech giant Panasonic to throw its hat into the ring. In 2010, it announced the Jungle, a clamshell-style handheld system which looked like a small laptop but was intended as a portable platform for MMO titles; indeed, Battlestar Galactica Online was one of the first games confirmed for the device (Stellar Dawn and RuneScape are the only other known confirmed titles).

The firm even established a new U.S. subsidiary, Panasonic Cloud Entertainment, to support the Jungle, which would retail for $249.99 for the WiFi model and $349.99 for the 3G edition.

While solid technical details are hard to come by, the Linux-based Jungle offered a full gaming interface and a QWERTY keyboard, as well as a 720p display. It even had a secondary monochrome display which looks similar to the one on the Dreamcast VMU memory cards. Given the projected release window of 2011, it would have been going up against the Nintendo 3DS and Sony PS Vita – but Panasonic dropped the console in March of that year, stating that it had “decided to suspend further development due to changes in the market and in our own strategic direction.”

Despite the swift death of the console, it has become clear that development units were in the field and Digital Eclipse and Other Ocean boss Mike Mika has recently stated that he almost ported World of Warcraft to the machine:

Had it been released, the Jungle would have marked Panasonic’s second venture in the video game market, having been one of the key players in the development of the 3DO and its unreleased successor, the M2. The 3DO was a commercial bomb, and in all honesty, it’s hard to imagine the Jungle would have been any different.

Nonetheless, interest in this obscure handheld has resulted in development units and prototypes changing hands for thousands of dollars; an eBay listing from last year was up for $9,499.99, although it doesn’t seem like that asking price was met.

Do you remember the Jungle? Were you looking forward to playing it? Let us know with a comment.

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