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Panasonic Begins Testing of Portable Video-Game Player in U.S.

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Nov. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Panasonic Corp. began testing of a handheld video-game player in the U.S., as the Japanese electronics maker aims to return to the market after more than a decade to challenge Sony Corp. and Nintendo Co.

The company’s U.S.-based unit invited users in the country to test the player, code-named “Jungle,” Panasonic Cloud Entertainment Company said in an e-mail to registered customers today. Panasonic’s Tokyo-based spokesman Akira Kadota confirmed the e-mail, without providing details about when the device will be unveiled and its price.

The Osaka, Japan-based company, which together with Sega Sammy Holdings Inc. and Atari SA, ceded the console market to Sony and Nintendo, is looking to return to the video game industry estimated to reach $20 billion in sales in the U.S. this year. Besides its traditional rivals, Panasonic also faces competition from games played using smartphones and tablet computers, such as Apple Inc.’s iPhone and iPad.

“We know other companies out there have traditional hand-held gaming covered,” Panasonic said in the e-mail. “We’re doing something very different.”

Panasonic’s clamshell device will feature a touchpad and keyboard, TechCrunch reported on Oct. 4. The player will specialize in online gaming, the blog reported.

Panasonic entered the video-game market in October 1993 with a $700 3DO video game console, a month before Atari Corp.’s $249 Jaguar player. The last 3DO model went on sale in the autumn of 1994, after which the business was discontinued, Naoto Kishihara, a Panasonic spokesman, said last month.

To contact the reporters on this story: Pavel Alpeyev in Tokyo at palpeyev@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at ycho2@bloomberg.net.

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