Gizmondo to ship 19 March

British Nintendo-Sony basher comes to UK, at last

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Gizmondo will begin shipping its eponymous handheld games console in the UK on 19 March, eight days after Nintendo's DS goes on sale here.

The launch will coincide with the opening of the company's Regent Street, London retail store. Other retailers will get hardware on the same day.

The console will go on sale for £229 including VAT, bundling a "contract-free SIM card" - ie a pay-as-you-go SIM card, although the company did not say how much airtime will be included - and an SD card containing games demos, movie clips and music samples. Cards containing complete games will be priced at £10, £20 and £30, though Gizmondo did not say how many titles will be available at launch.

Nintendo's vastly more expensively marketed DS goes on sale in the UK on 11 March for £100 with some 15 titles available from launch. Sony's delayed PlayStation Portable is expected to ship in a month's time. Both are clearly going to make it hard for Gizmondo to make its mark, but like Nokia and Tapwave before it, the company hopes to carve out a profitable niche.

Like the N-Gage series, the Gizmondo console has a GSM/GPRS handset built in. Like the PSP, it's being pushed as much as a portable media player as a games console. Like the DS and others, it offers head-to-head gaming over a Bluetooth link. Its one unique feature is the integrated GPS antenna, enabling a range of location-based games and services.

How readily available the Gizmondo console will be at launch remains to be seen. The announcement talks of "ramping up the production as quickly as possible", suggesting limited supply in the early days, though that's not uncommon in the console market.

The device was to have shipped last Autumn, with US and European debuts following during the first three months of the year. With the UK release put back more than four and a half months, the US and European ship dates are now set somewhere in "Spring 2005", Gizmondo said. ®

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