New details of Infinium Labs' plans for the Phantom Game Service have emerged, with company president Kevin Bachus revealing that the Phantom console will effectively be free, and providing the first pictures of the hardware itself.
Describing the pricing decision as "something we had to do," Bachus said that the hardware would be provided free of charge to consumers who sign up for the Phantom Gaming Service, the broadband game and game-related content delivery system on which the console - which has no external disc drives - relies.
The console itself is a sleek, low-profile unit which sports only one port at the front - a controller connector - and although full specifications for the device have not yet been revealed (expect more later this week), it is planned that it will sport a 40Gb hard drive and a 128Mb graphics card.
The most unique feature of the console, however, is its controller. Phantom is designed to play PC games, and as such, the system uses a keyboard and mouse combination - with a unique unfolding design which places a mouse mat underneath the slanted keyboard, allowing players to balance both items on their lap easily. It looks unusual from the pictures released so far, and only actual hands-on experience with the device will tell whether it's actually comfortable to use - but it's certainly an interesting idea.
Bachus described Infinium's proposition to publishers in very simple terms - "give us a gold master and we'll send you cheques" - and said that the device was attracting major interest from the broadband provider industry and from the hospitality market (such as hotel chains).
Although the range of software which will be available on the device when it launches in the USA on November 18th is by no means finalised, several games will be showcased on Infinium's stand in the South Hall at E3 this week. We'll let you know how it is.
Interestingly, the system is also set to allow gamers to play multiplayer titles against opponents playing on normal PCs - which could make the system, with its living-room friendly aesthetics and sofa-friendly controller, into a popular platform for at least one major PC game genre, with Bachus pointing out that it will be "a fantastic platform for massively multiplayer on-line role playing games."
No word yet on a European launch for the device, although Bachus did tell us back in January that they would be looking into it as soon as possible.