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Linksys Provides Game Console Adapter

While not exactly a big secret -- a preview Web page for one of these products has been available for as long as two weeks -- today, Cisco System's Linksys home product division formally announced availability of two new products targeting owners of game console systems: the Wireless-B Game Adapter (WGA11B) and Wireless-G Game Adapter (WGA54G),

This units, which sit in an up-right position with a fixed, non-removable antenna on top, connect via Ethernet cable to the integrated port on any Microsoft Xbox or Sony Playstation 2, or even a Nintendo GameCube's outfitted with a broadband adapter. Online play for Xbox requires a subscription to the Xbox Live service, while individual games on PS2 and GameCube with online components might require separate fees as well.

From the console, the adapter -- an Ethernet-to-wireless bridge -- communicates with your home network's wireless router or access point using 2.4GHz 802.11b or the faster 802.11g, depending on the product.

A major selling point versus the other wireless game adapters -- such as the products recently announced by CenDyne -- is that no PC is needed for initial setup, assuming your run a very basic wireless network.

According to Mike Wagner, director of marketing at Linksys, the adapters default to Infrastructure mode out of the box with DHCP turned on to obtain an IP address , and thus should work with most 802.11g/b-based WLANs immediately when plugged in. The channel the adapter is using is displayed on the unit, and can be changed to match the access point with the built in selector, from channels 1 to 11 in the United States, and channels 1 to 13 worldwide. A switch on each unit will let users go directly to ad hoc mode for direct console-to-console gaming.

"You only need a PC [for setup] if you need a static IP address or WEP security," says Wagner. Each adapter does come with setup Wizard software for configuration through Microsoft Windows.

The WGA11B Game Adapter product is similar to Linksys's $115 Wireless-B Ethernet Bridge (WET11), which connects any product with an Ethernet port to the wireless network. Wagner says the WET11 is more oriented for business applications, and features a removable antenna, unlike the game adapters. When it was first released, the popularity of connecting it to console systems prompted Linksys to offer specialized instructions for using it with the Xbox and PlayStation 2.

Linksys says prices for the new WGA11B will start at $79 in stores, but the product is already selling for $69.99 on Amazon.com. The WGA54G will go for $129.

The two game adapters join Linksys's new line targeting the living room instead of the computer room. Last month they company announced the $200 Wireless-B Media Adapter (WMA11b), which plays digital audio and still pictures on the TV or stereo even when the media is stored on the computers of a home network.

Also this week, Linksys announced a summer/back-to-school mail-in rebate program on its 802.11b, 11g, and wired Ethernet home networking products. The company says a complete two user wireless network can be had for $169 after the rebate. The rebate will only be good on products purchased until September 13, 2003. Linksys usually runs rebates this time of year and again around the holidays.