Big picture: Infinium Labs caused quite a stir in the early 2000s with the introduction of Phantom, a PC-like home game console that promised to ditch cartridges and discs in favor of a direct download content delivery service. It never became a consumer product, but now you have the chance to own a rare prototype.
The system suffered many setbacks and ultimately never made it to market, but what many will probably remember the most about the Phantom is that litigation between Infinium Labs and the HardOCP tech site.
As the story goes, HardOCP published investigation report about Infinium Labs and its founder at the end of 2003. Several months later, Infinium Labs sent Hard a termination and abstinence letter, demanding that this article be removed. A legal battle ensued, in which HardOCP won. In the end, Infinium Labs paid $ 50,000 to close the case.
Only a few prototype Phantom consoles were known. At QuakeCon 2004, HardOCP’s Kyle Bennett smashed one to pieces in front of a live audience. Most recently in 2015 a prototype surfaced at a computer repair shop in Florida. And now one is up for auction by courtesy Heritage Auctions…
Game memorabilia has become a popular commodity lately. Back in August, someone paid $ 2 million for a sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. A month earlier, a copy of Super Mario 64 sold for $ 1.56 million, breaking the record set a few days earlier for a rare copy of The Legend of Zelda.
The ceiling for the prototype Phantom console is as much of a mystery as the console itself was back then. We also don’t know yet if this is the same unit that appeared in the repair shop in 2015, or the third prototype. A quick comparison of the scratches on the 2015 model and the one up for auction suggests that it is not the same or that it may have been repaired. Heritage listed it as the only surviving example of the industry’s most infamous flawed software, so maybe it’s the same as a few years ago?
A digital console based on the delivery of content over the Internet is underwhelming today. Damn it, this is quickly becoming the norm. But in the early 2000s, it was a revolutionary idea, well ahead of its time. But for some reason, Infinium was unable to complete the delivery.
Keep in mind that the first console with this functionality – Ouya – will not hit the market until mid-2013, about ten years later.
Heritage confirmed that the system, which is really just a PC in a fancy case, does turn on and play a short demo promoting the console. It could be a nice addition to a comprehensive video game collection, but for now, that’s all it is for.
The current bid is $ 340.
Images courtesy of Heritage Auctions.