Tapwave's Zodiac Enters Handheld Gaming Market

Tapwave has begun shipping the Zodiac, the new kid on the block in mobile gaming. The console is offered in two models - the Zodiac1 for $299 (32MB RAM) and the Zodiac2 for $399 (128MB RAM). Both models are available exclusively at www.tapwave.com. Zodiac represents the first in a new category of handheld products designed from the ground up to address the mobile entertainment and on-the-go lifestyle needs of technology enthusiasts. Zodiac delivers both fun and function in a sleek and ergonomic 6.3 ounce, anodized-aluminum design.

On the fun side, the Zodiac console not only provides an unparalleled mobile gaming device with analog control, 3D graphics, stereo sound, vibration effects, and wireless multiplayer gaming, but also everything required for a rich multimedia experience including music, pictures and video. From the 'function' perspective Zodiac also offers the added benefit of running a Tapwave enhanced version of the Palm Operating System (5.2T) and provides immediate access to the more than 19,000 existing applications, including the world's leading personal information management tools.

Since officially announcing the company six months ago, over 1200 game developers have signed up for the Tapwave developer program and requested the software development kit (SDK). The majority of these developers are coming from established computing and entertainment platforms (e.g., Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Game Boy) and over 40% are from international markets. Already these developers have specifically optimized several titles to take advantage of the Zodiac's analog controller, high resolution display (480 x 320), landscape and portrait modes, interactive touch screen, and graphics acceleration. A few examples of these games include: Crimson Fire's Galactic Realms and Phantom Strike, Handmark's Warfare Incorporated, MegaSoft 2000's MegaBowling and Billiards. We expect this community of developers to produce many more exciting and innovative titles in the months ahead.

Tapwave ZodiacTapwave is also partnering with leading game publishers to bring well-known premiere titles to Zodiac console users. A few of these premiere titles include: Activision's Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4, Midway's SpyHunter, id Software DOOM II, Atari's Neverwinter Nights and Apogee's Duke Nukem Mobile.

In addition to the new premiere titles, the Zodiac entertainment console provides a perfect platform to bring classic games back to life. With its ATI Imageon graphics accelerator and Motorola i.MX ARM 9 processors, the Zodiac is the first handheld device to have enough power to run full versions of "retro" game engines. This year Zodiac users will be able to run Sega Genesis, Atari 2600, and Commodore 64 titles on-the-go. Sega of America, Inc. is the first company to have completed this type of partnership with Tapwave. Zodiac users will be able to play such Sega Genesis classics like Golden Axe 3 and Altered Beast. Since Zodiac also runs the Palm OS, customers can also choose among the 1000+ games already available on the operating system.

"With the incredible enthusiasm the Zodiac has had from the developer community, we are looking forward to a robust and diverse selection of game titles optimized especially for our platform," said Byron Connell, Co-founder and Senior VP of Tapwave. "By the end of the year, we hope Zodiac users will find something to satisfy any game craving, whether it be a role-playing, real-time strategy, action, adventure, or anything in-between.

Video games and other applications can be purchased and downloaded directly from the Tapwave website (www.Tapwave.com). Premiere video games will also be available for purchase on game cards and can be inserted directly into either one of Zodiac's dual expansions slots for a simple plug and play experience.

To support the game developer community and help accelerate the creation of high-quality titles for the Zodiac console, Tapwave offers a fully customized version of the X-Forge 3D game engine (www.x-forge.com), an ideal tool for rapid prototype and development. Tapwave also worked closely with PalmSource and Metrowerks to develop the Tapwave Native Application (TNA) model which provides many new development tools and gives all developers the ability to build native ARM applications for the Zodiac.

In conjunction with the Tapwave hardware offerings, the company will both publish games and continue to aggressively support independent game development specifically for the Tapwave platform. By keeping the platform open, building a strong developer support program, and providing a distribution channel, Tapwave will leverage the thousands of developers focused on mobile gaming and build a strong win-win business opportunity.

Bundled with the Tapwave Zodiac is a full suite of entertainment software.

  • Navigation: Zodiac features a powerful radial navigation system that enables users to launch up to 64 titles or applications with two simple movements of the analog controller. Users can also use the touch-screen to drag and drop applications and customize their view.
  • Games: Zodiac comes bundled with two games, Stuntcar Extreme by Vasara Games and AcidSolitaire by Red Mercury to give users a small sample of Zodiac's gaming capabilities.
  • Music: Zodiac has a full-featured MP3 player with a rich graphical user interface that is powerful and easy to use. Creating custom play lists is as easy as dragging and dropping songs to your list. Use the music alarm clock to wake up to your favorite song.
  • Videos: The Kinoma Producer allows you to easily convert and load videos to your Zodiac (MPEG1, MPEG4, QuickTime, AVI and DIVX videos). With the Kinoma Player you can watch full motion videos on your Zodiac with incredible clarity.
  • Photos: You can share photos, create slide shows. JPEG images can be easily transferred from your PC (using the Palm Desktop Software). Images can also be loaded via SD cards or even beamed wirelessly to other Zodiac users.
  • Books: Use the PalmReader e-book application to read your choice of thousands of books including best sellers, periodicals and more. Zodiac comes bundled with two ebooks, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Last of the Mohicans.
  • Information Management: Zodiac features the industry-leading Palm OS productivity suite, including Date Book, Address Book, To Do List and Memo Pad, plus the powerOne() Graph, graphing calculator software , Wordsmith word processor, and more. Use InkStorm to host a local chat room or share a whiteboard with other Zodiac users within a 30 foot range.
Quality Testing Program To help ensure Tapwave Zodiac users have a great gaming experience, each Zodiac game goes through Tapwave's quality testing program. Games that are labeled "tuned" or "certified" for Zodiac are specifically optimized for the console and have passed third-party quality testing. These games must take advantage of specific features found on the Tapwave Zodiac hardware, such as the analog controller, the 480 x 320 display, Bluetooth and more, in order to be awarded with these qualifications.

To further build a Zodiac community and to fuel multiplayer play, the Tapwave web site will be a resource for the Zodiac game community to post high-scores, participate in tournaments, win prizes, share information and download game demos.

Some of the games Zodiac users will be able to purchase in the coming months are:
  • Activision's Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4: Take the role of legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk and 13 other athletes as they skate through enormous free roaming levels, choose from 190 progressively harder goals and build your character's skills to perform 14 of the greatest skateboarding stunts of all time.
  • Atari's Neverwinter Nights: A hideous evil has awoken in the Forgotten Realms. Now, in order to save the inhabitants of the town of Neverwinter you must uncover a sinister conspiracy, unmask your mysterious betrayer and complete an epic struggle to defeat the powerful forces that look to halt your quest and unleash an evil your people would surely never survive.
  • id Software DOOM II: This classic first-person shooter delivers fast-paced action, timeless characters and awesome firepower in one of the most widely played and critically acclaimed games ever released. Play alone or against up to 3 friends using Tapwave Zodiac's Bluetooth wireless capability.
  • Midway's SpyHunter: Get behind the wheel of the G-6155 Interceptor for high-speed, mission-based racing in exotic locales, all the while being relentlessly pursued by hordes of air, ground and water enemies.
  • Crimson Fire
    • Galactic Realms: With the recent expansion into space, several factions have continued their struggle for dominance in the dark void. The United Nations has set up a council to govern and monitor the new colonies, but there are those who prefer only chaos. With the new rebel threat, the UN council has no choice but to declare war and start building their own battleships to eliminate the rebel menace. You have been selected to command the UN fleet, but the rebels will prove to be a formidable opponent, and a new unknown threat has yet to be unveiled…
    • Phantom Strike: After stumbling upon an ancient artifact, archeologists inadvertently open a portal to another dimension, causing them to transform into horrible beasts with incredible powers. Using a variety of martial arts, you must master the techniques of fighting these creatures to protect all of humanity, and ensure that the remaining artifacts remain safe.
  • Handmark's Warfare Incorporated: A breakthrough action strategy game with state-of-the-art graphics, animation, and sound effects. Control the planet Icarus, with its mineral riches and mysterious alien technologies, before your competitors.
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