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Zeebo (included games)

The rise and fall of a concept.

The Good
Let me start by saying that this won't be a regular review because this isn't a regular entry. This entry is a compilation one, and the review should be about the compilation, not about the games in it. This compilation happens also to be a console, and MobyGames doesn't support hardware reviews (yet), but in this case, I guess we'll end up bending the rules. So this will be a review of the console, made by the review of the games included. I should also point out that the version reviewed here is the first release, from May 25, 2009, which includes as embedded games FIFA 09, Need for Speed: Carbon - Domine a Cidade (NFS: C - DAC from now on) and Treino Cerebral. I'll try to show how these three games (and the other three free downloadable ones) represent the rise and fall of Zeebo (in its first release) as a concept.

Before we start talking about the games, let me talk a little about the Zeebo itself. Zeebo is a video game console which main characteristic is its gaming media distribution: all games are downloaded "over-the-air" via a 3G network called ZeeboNet3G directly to Zeebo's internal memory. Its hardware is based on mobile devices (cellphones to be more precise). It also has a motion sensitive controller, the Boomerang. It is aimed toward "emergent markets" such as Brazil, Mexico and China. When it was first released, Zeebo Inc.'s website said that "Zeebo is considered by many publishers as the world's 4th gaming console", besides the Wii, the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. With graphics said to be (by Zeebo Inc. itself) somewhere between the PlayStation and the PlayStation 2, with serious limitations on game size (50 MB top) and storage capacity (1 GB), one could only conclude that "many publishers" were probably delusional. But having EA putting two titles embedded on the console, one should at least give Zeebo the benefit of doubt.

It is important to mention that besides the three embedded games, Zeebo also offered as free downloads Quake, Quake II and Prey Evil. There were promises of having SEGA titles on it, such as Sonic Adventure and Crazy Taxi. So you can imagine what one could think about it: "hey, this thing has Need For Speed, FIFA Soccer, Quake and Prey, it sounds promising"! And yeah, it really sounded promising, even for hardcore gamers. But did it live up to the promise? Let's take a look at its games.

I'm only allowed to speak about FIFA 09, NFS: C - DAC and Treino Cerebral, so I'll talk about their good and bad aspects here in the proper sections, then to conclude talking once again about Zeebo as a whole in the bottom line section.

Overall this seems a good selection to start with, with two somewhat "hardcore" titles and a casual one.

The Bad
So much for the rise part. Now, let's talk about Zeebo's embedded games fall.

With that said about the games, we should once again look on what they represent as a whole. Like I said before, when the Zeebo was first announced (and even when it was released), it was said that it was to compete with major platforms such as the PlayStation 2 (actually, it was to be considered part of the current generation, but let's take the PS2 as a competitor against which the Zeebo could have more chances). In this regard, the Zeebo was a complete failure. Games like FIFA 09 and NFS: C - DAC made it clear that Zeebo couldn't compete with current generation consoles. It couldn't even compete with current generation handhelds, even if it had a similar hardware. Interview after interview Zeebo developers said that they were not aiming on hardcore gamers, but two of the titles brought embedded on Zeebo were there to deny it. Maybe they thought that inexperienced players would praise those games as great due to lack of comparison models, but that would be really naïve of theirs. Actually, Reinaldo Normand said in an interview that probable Zeebo players have never had access to mainstream games such as Quake, so they would welcome it as something really new, as if they were doing a service for those people. He couldn't be more wrong. Making an image that low of their target public, Zeebo Inc. missed the fact that they should have polished more their product to please any kind of audience, not the less demanding one.

The Bottom Line
And that's how Zeebo died. At least, its first incarnation. In its hopes of becoming the 4th gaming console in the current market, Zeebo completely missed the point with ill ported games aimed toward an audience which wasn't the one buying the console. The first buyers were old school gamers relying on Tectoy's past, waiting for a product that, even not being much powerful, could provide fun and polished games. Zeebo Inc. seems to have aimed the console toward new gamers, who never had any contact with video games, thus delivering games below the market expectations. This mismatch led Zeebo Inc. to rethink its product. When it was released on Mexico, six months after the first Brazilian release, the focus was changed from gaming to "edutainment", with the slogan "Play, Learn, Connect". The console was released with a keyboard and a more ergonomic controller, with access to the internet and free of "violent games". The main set of embedded games was almost completely different, with only Treino Cerebral remaining from the first set. It was just a question of time for these changes to also take place in Brazil. Almost one year and a half after its first release, the Zeebo was already a new product, with a new target public and a new portfolio, marking the final fall of a concept and the rise of a new one. But that's a story for another review.

by chirinea (46950) on June 15th, 2011

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