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First Look: the redesigned, $199 Phantom console

Infinium Labs announces the PC game console's specs and launch date and its plan to give them away--to people who sign up for the service.


Could the Phantom PC game console be for real? This morning its maker, Infinium Labs, a company that has come in from harsh criticism from many game industry corners, put its cards on the table. In a fact-filled statement, the company said the service for its self-styled "game receiver" would launch November 18, 2004.

Infinium also revealed what's inside the receiver: an AMD Athlon XP 2500+ central processing unit, an Nvidia GeForce FX 5700 Ultra graphics processing unit, and an Nvidia nForce2 Ultra 400 platform processor. The receiver will be manufactured at Taiwan-based Biostar’s production facility in Guangdong Province, China. Other key specs of the Phantom receiver are DirectX 9-compliant graphics and audio, Dolby Digital 5.1 channel audio, 256MB of RAM, and a 40GB hard drive.

To entice gamers to sign on to the Phantom service, Infinium is borrowing a page from the cell phone industry's book. The company plans to give away a receiver, a keyboard, and a controller--to anyone willing to sign up for a two-year commitment to the service. The basic subscription package will cost $29.95 per month, with game prices to be set by publishers but in line with retail, says Infinium. The service will offer game rentals as well, most often priced at $5 for three days. Gamers will also be able to purchase the hardware without any commitment for $199.

The game delivery model for the service sees games streamed on demand to a Phantom receiver over a broadband Internet connection. Subscribers will start off with a library of free games to be supplemented with new titles each month. The service is to be available through a number of leading retail chains, though partners have yet to be announced.

When asked how the launch of the Phantom service compared to other launches he’d been associated with, president and COO Kevin Bachus admitted that this one was “certainly the most memorable.” That's saying something, given that he was part of the core Xbox launch team.

Bachus added that “obviously, this launch hasn't been without its own unique challenges, but it's easy to forget the skepticism and criticism that surrounded the early days of Xbox and the tremendous pressures of getting ready for that launch.” On the eve of the Phantom’s coming-out party--the device will be on display this week at E3--Bachus said he believes the chances for the gaming service's success are high. “Although it may sound like an overstatement,” Bachus said, “I truly believe that the opportunity to do something here that has an unbelievably positive impact on our industry and on the lives of our customers is greater than in any other venture I've been associated with or am likely to be associated with in the future.”

The Phantom will be on display at the Infinium Labs booth at E3, which opens this Wednesday in Los Angeles.

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