Sunday, March 05, 2006

Console Flops

If you ever thought the video games industry was a force for good, providing quality entertainment to the masses, you may want to think again. Sure, we all know about the NES, Super NES, Gameboy, Playstation, N64 and Playstation 2. But, did you know that there is perhaps a much longer line of crummy consoles that never quite made the grade? You may have never heard of them, so I present to you the biggest console flops ever:

Virtual Boy (Nintendo)

This was intended to fill the gap between the Super Nes and delayed N64. It was a rather unique console in that it came with a headset you put your eyes in, and presented games in 3d. However, the 3d environments were limited to red and black colours only. See below.

Nintendo tried with this one, bringing out a number of titles and market campaigns. However, the console never took off and held little appeal.

To make matters worse, the few who were foolish enough to buy it complained about eyestrain. Nintendo eventually gave up and focused on SNES games until the N64 was released.

Verdict: Nintendo at their worst.

Jaguar (Atari)

Ah, this was supposed to mark the comeback of Atari as a major force within the games industry. The console boasted that it was a 64 bit machine, however this was later open to question as most of the titles looked fairly cruddy graphically.

The console did manage a few good titles such as Tempest 2000 and Alien V Predator. But these were few and far between with the majority proving naff and un-playable. With the release of the Playstation and Saturn Atari eventually pulled the plug on it in 1996.

Verdict: Atari RIP.

Atari 5200 (Atari)

Another Atari console, released in 1981. This was the successor to the highly successful Atari 2600, but was to be the prelude to the games market crash.

It proved to be badly designed with a very poor joystick. The console also suffered from software incompatibility with the Atari 2600. The biggest problem however was competing with Colecovision's (main console rival) head start.

The crash in the industry in 1983 killed this one off, along with the Colecovision. It would take a mustached plumber to repair the damage.

Verdict: Beginning of the end for Atari.

Amstrad GX400 (Amstrad)

This console was released in 1990 and was Amstrad's short-lived attempt to enter the market. It proved to be a commercial flop and one of the least successful consoles ever made.

Why was this? Well, largely due to the fact that the console was based on 8-bit technology and was almost immediately superseded by the 16-bit Megadrive and later Super Nes. There was little available software with titles being released months late or cancelled entirely.

In all, 40 games were released for the console. It was only manufactured for a matter of months before it was discontinued.

Verdict: It was voted 'Worst system of the month' by readers of a popular UK magazine. Maybe it was even more than that...

Amiga CD32 (Commodore)

This was a 32bit CD Rom based console. It did have a few notable titles but unfortunately the console is widely regarded as unsuccessful ( a flop).

One reason for this is the lack of original software that was brought out on the console. Most games were simply re-runs of the old A1200 titles.

What became of Commodore after this ill-fated console? They filed for Chapter 11 (bankruptcy) just a year after its release.

Verdict: Commodore, where are you?

Apple Pippin (Apple)

Ever heard of this one? It was touted as a cheap computer, in reality it was commonly identified as an expensive games console. It was licensed to third-parties and the only third party one released, the Bandai Pippen, entered a market already dominated by N64, Playstation and Saturn.

Ultimately it was a late entry into the 3d generation of consoles and was underpowered both as a games console and personal computer. Bandai's version only had a relatively limited release in the US and Japan and died quickly. Below is an image of the Apple Pippen.

Verdict: Erm, ever heard of this console?

Well, have you read enough? Or do you need more convincing? There are other less notable flops than these such as the Dreamcast, Neo-geo, 3DO etc. However, I really haven't the time to write about them all. Just remember these consoles when playing your Playstation or whatever. They are the worst 'consoles' you are ever likely to see.


Matthew said...

Feel free to comment on this entry.

kim said...

All commonly known flops. There's a whole couple earlier generations as well. In the generation of the "home pong machines" some did it better than others; and then again in the early cartridge console days where there was a grey line between what a console was and what a computer was (e.g. Atari 400 and 800 let you write basic code, but were hooked up to the TV and also accepted game cartridges).

Anyhow. Interesting post, but hindsight is 20-20, right? Is there a lesson to be learned?

Matthew said...

Well Kim I suspect there are more flops but, as I say, haven't the time to list them all!

Is there a lesson to be learnt? Well, each console suffered for various reasons. Poor marketing, competition, lack of software and antiquated hardware. It is difficult to find a common theme for their failure.