Gamer Fatal1ty leads to high-end hardware

Johnathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel wants to be like Michael Jordan.

Wendel, 23, is a professional computer gamer who has been named world champion of the year for the last three years by the Cyberathlete Professional League. During the E3 exhibition in Los Angeles last month, Wendel faced off against 100 challengers playing Unreal Tournament 2004, a multiplayer first-person shooter game. The result wasn't pretty, turning into a virtual massacre with only one challenger scoring a kill, or "frag," against him.

Wendel does well financially from competing in tournaments, having made more than US$100,000 in a single year from competitions. But he's looking to turn his gaming success into a line of Fatal1ty-branded hardware and PCs that are designed to meet the demanding computing requirements of hardcore gamers. His move to turn his gaming success into commercial success is modeled on Jordan, who used his success on the basketball court to launch a successful line of sports shoes.

"As a gamer, I always want the best parts possible so when I lose I know that it was me who lost and not my computer," Wendel said, speaking to IDG News Service on the sidelines of the Computex 2004 exhibition in Taipei.

Wendel was quick to point out that he's not just lending his name to a line of motherboards. He plans to actually use the products being developed in his name, and hopes to benefit the gaming community by pushing the development of high-end components aimed at meeting a hardcore gamer's need for performance.

"I'm all about winning and having the best system possible so I can get to the highest level," he said.

To this end, Wendel is working with Taiwanese motherboard maker Abit Computer and U.S. design company MDDM Labs. Abit is developing a line of Fatal1ty motherboards and graphics cards, which will be used in a gaming system, called FatBox, being developed by MDDM, Wendel said.

The first Fatal1ty motherboards will be available in the U.S. during the third quarter, according to Abit. The first motherboard will be based on Intel's upcoming 925X chipset, formerly known by the codename Alderwood, and will support Intel's Pentium 4 processor. Versions that support Advanced Micro Devices' Athlon 64 chips will follow. Pricing has yet to be finalized, Abit said.

The motherboards will be available as retail components and will also be used in the FatBox, which will be sold in quantities of around 100 per month at Fatal1ty.com (http://www.fatal1ty.com) starting in the third quarter, said David Erickson, director of MDDM Labs.

"I wanted a really small form factor, as small as we could possibly do it," Wendel said, explaining that he wanted a computer that is based on an ATX motherboard but could be easily carried when travelling on an airplane.

An early prototype of the FatBox was on display at Computex. The FatBox is clearly designed for functionality and is not meant to be pretty. The rugged looking case is red with black trim and is covered in a proprietary coating called ARMR-X which is resistant to scratching, Erickson said.

"I travel all the time around with aluminum cases ... and they just get dinged up and torn up. This way it will still look good," Wendel said. "It will look like a weapon."

Computex runs through Saturday.

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Sumner Lemon

IDG News Service
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