Bachus to experiment at Infinium Labs

Exec plans on making changes in tech, biz plan

Video games, meet DirecTV.

That’s the message from Kevin Bachus, one of the creators of Microsoft’s Xbox, who is joining interactive gaming company Infinium Labs as president and chief operating officer to help develop and launch the company’s new Phantom gaming console.

If successful, Phantom will mark a radical shift for the vidgame industry into the networked world, with all of its games available via download only.

“Our model is more similar to DirecTV than it is to existing consoles like Playstation,” Bachus told Daily Variety. “I was ultimately disappointed with what we did at Xbox because we set out to drive innovation, but the games we got were fairly conventional. The vision with Phantom is that at three in the morning you can decide you want a game and several minutes later, you’ll be playing it.”

Plans for Phantom have been largely kept under wraps until now and Bachus stressed that he will be making changes in both the technology and business plan. Basic approach, however, is for Infinium to take games developed for the PC and encrypt them to be downloaded and played on the Phantom. Users will pay a monthly subscription fee for access to a certain number of games and additional fees to download premium titles, much like the business model of cable or satellite services and pay-per-view movies.

The Phantom will also eventually allow users to download digital video and audio content from the Internet, although Bachus said he is unsure whether the system will launch with that capability.

Infinium is planning to launch the Phantom by the holiday season in order to get a jump on the Xbox 2 and Playstation 3, which Microsoft and Sony are expected to release in 2005.

Landing Bachus is a major coup for Infinium, which recently went public via a merger and raised $15 million in institutional financing. As a top gaming exec at Microsoft, he helped lead the successful launch of Xbox. Since leaving the software giant, he co-founded Capital Entertainment Group, a vidgame production company that failed due to an inability to raise additional financing.

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