7 Failed Video Game Consoles
If you didn’t squander the majority of your youth on video games, you didn’t do it right. Studies (I made up) show that adults who spent at least ten percent of their formative years wandering around Bowser’s Castle are cooler, awesomer, and, uh, sweeter than their peers who did not. Not all old school video games, though, are “the bomb” – the same thing goes for video game consoles. If you squandered your youth on these systems, you may as well have been reading books instead. Eew.
Apple Bandai Pippin
Remember that time in the mid-90’s when Steve Jobs was booted from Apple and the company damn near went bankrupt? The Pippin was (obviously) a product of that time. A collaboration between Apple and Bandai (who made and marketed the console), the Pippin was allegedly a combination gaming system and network computer. At $599, it would have been a cheap combo of the two formats – if it actually did what it claimed. In reality, it was just a super expensive gaming system that had virtually no software. 100,000 were made – only 42,000, however, were sold. In fact, production was so limited that they ultimately made more keyboards and modems than actual units. Whoops.
Nintendo Virtual Boy
If the Virtual Boy was a realistic depiction of virtual reality, the future would suck. Luckily for us (but unluckily for Nintendo), it’s just a monochromatic, pseudo-3-D head-mounted mess with terrible, headache-inducing graphics. Heavily hyped at launch, Nintendo spent $25 million promoting it only to discontinue it less than a year later. A whopping 14 games were released for the console in America – it had built-in ports to link systems for competitive play, but no games were ever released that would actually allow you to do that. Which is why no one ever came to my Virtual Boy parties (well, that and my terrible personality).
In the 90’s, if you wanted to watch a movie on something other than a VHS tape, you had to watch a LaserDisc. The heavy, cumbersome discs cost a ton and had to be flipped over mid-movie. In short, they pretty much sucked. Which is why the Pioneer LaserActive, a 1993 LaserDisc-based gaming console, also sucked. The $970 device came with the option to add on a Sega Genesis (for an additional $600), TurboGrafx 16 (for an additional $600), and karaoke laserdiscs (for an additional $350). If you didn’t feel like dropping an extra $1200 to play actual video games, you could always play one of the 40 games made for it, each of which cost $120 and had terrible names like Pyramid Patrol, Melon Brains and Quiz Econosaurus (a bizarre choice, considering that if you dropped $1K on a the LaserActive, chances are you knew nothing about economics).
Dude – the Atari Jaguar’s controller literally had a phone keypad on it. Infinitely more expensive (and difficult to use) than the competition, Atari’s 1993 abomination was doomed to fail right out the gate (and, in fact, was the last thing marketed under the Atari name until 2004). By 1995, the company had 100,000 unsold units on hand – as a final act of desperation, they resorted to selling them via early-morning infomericals. Spoiler alert: They didn’t sell.
3DO Interactive Multiplayer
Released by Panasonic in 1993, and by three additional companies in 1994, the 3DO was hyped to the max, up to and including being named Time’s “1994 Product of the Year.” The super high-concept device was marketed as both a video game console and an entertainment system – its developers defended its high ($599) price tag by insisting that it was a high-end audio-visual system, not a mere child’s toy. In the end, it was neither – damn near no games were made for it, it lacked third-party support, and it crashed and burned.
1991’s Phillips CD-i was designed as a combination CD player, karaoke machine and game console – a killer mixture in theory, but a terrible one in practice. The $700 machine, which has the distinction of being the platform for some of the worst games of all time, initially concentrated on educational and board games (an adaptation of Connect Four, for example, was available for people who hated both money and fun). A few Nintendo titles (Hotel Mario, Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon) were produced for the console, but weren’t actually developed by Nintendo (Phillips owned the licensing rights to Nintendo’s characters, but had nothing to do with the company itself). They sucked. Like the Jaguar, the CD-i was also sold via infomercials. Because it sucked.
This disc drive add-on to the Nintendo 64 was announced before the N64 even came out, but took so long to develop that it wasn't released until the N64 was already old news. The device, which sold a mere 15,000 units, was so unpopular in Japan that they didn’t even bother to release it in the US. Nintendo intended for it to be their answer to the PlayStation, but…it, uh, wasn’t. It was, however, the answer to the question, “What do you think Princess Peach’s cup size is?”
What other video game consoles totally screwed the pooch? Let me know in the comments, or tell me @Bornferal!