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Whither the Phantom?
After a big splash in 2004, Infinium Labs' on-demand game service is nowhere to be found at E3.
May 19, 2005: 10:50 AM EDT
By Chris Morris, CNN/Money

LOS ANGELES (CNN/Money) - Last year's E3 was the Phantom's coming out party.

Infinium Labs, the company behind the on-demand video game service, spent millions of dollars for an elaborate booth meant to quiet growing speculation at the time that the service -- and the system that powered it -- were non-existent.

To an extent, the gamble worked. While gamers still had doubts about the company after the show, seeing a working prototype and a smartly designed keyboard and mouse unit bought the company some breathing room.

But this year, the Phantom is nowhere to be found at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the gaming industry's top deal-making and media event.

In a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Infinium Labs said there's a good chance it won't raise enough money to launch its key product in time, putting its existence at risk.

"The company believes, based on past performance, that there is a high likelihood that sufficient capital will not be available ... and many or all of these milestones will be missed and the launch date will again shift and/or the company will go out of business," it said in the April 20 filing with the SEC.

The company, which has also suffered legal setbacks and high-level staff departures in recent months, said it needs to secure at least another $11.5 million for the launch.

The Phantom system is designed to offer games over a broadband Internet connection for a monthly fee, currently planned at $19.95, based on a two-year commitment.

But while it hopes to offer at least 10,000 of the Phantom machines by year-end, Infinium acknowledged in the filing that "no firm launch date has been set" for the system. Previously announced launch dates have been missed.

The company did, however, say product development and testing was "near complete" and over 20 publishers, including Atari (Research), Vivendi Universal Games (Research) and Eidos (Research), had agreed to supply content.

Infinium Labs (Research) has instituted a virtual media blackout. Calls to the company to inquire about the reasons it was not attending E3 this year were answered by a receptionist who refused to forward calls, saying she'd been instructed to refer all inquiries to the company's Web page.

Should it fail to obtain the necessary funding, Infinium Labs said in the filing it has "contingency plans to carry the business going forward". One possible scenario mentioned involves shifting distribution of Phantom hardware to other game makers, with Infinium focusing instead on content acquisition and channel programming.

The Phantom burst onto the scene at the 2004 Consumer Electronics Show and was met with instant skepticism especially when a Phantom representative said he would be happy if the console sold 2 million units in the first two years.

The Xbox, backed by Microsoft's marketing budget of several hundred million dollars, sold about 3.9 million units in its first year.

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