Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft are the three kings of the console gaming industry. Games that aren’t for PC are for one of the consoles: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or the new Nintendo Switch and new consoles are made by one of these three. But it hasn’t always been this way.
The first gaming console stems back to the late 1960s, where nobody knew anything about gaming. German-born engineer Ralph Baer created the “brown box,” a clunky prototype of the first console. Many like to think Pong came after, but it was the Magnavox Odyssey that surfaced.
Ask your grandparents! The Magnavox Odyssey appeared like a wild Pidgey in Pokemon Yellow. In 1972, the “cutting-edge” technology hit retail stores. It played twelve different games featuring the very best lines and dots the industry had to offer. From there, things continued in a similar fashion until Atari built the 2600 and created what gramps thought was a masterpiece: Space Invaders, Missile Command, and Combat.
Fast-forward to 1985 where Nintendo saved an industry that suffered an economic breakdown. There were simply too many consoles and games, so companies went bankrupt.
Passed the history lesson, consoles have had their share of better and worse days. There were some, however, that were anticipated to rock, but didn’t. In this article, we’ll tell you about the 15 consoles that crashed and burned. Let us know if you own or owned any of these (bonus points for anyone who owned #1)!
15 Philips CD-i
Released in 1993, the Philips CD-i was developed by Phillips to “wow” the market with its ability to perform multiple tasks. You could play music, educational software, and games all on one system. With a massive amount of functions for a console, how could it have failed?
Would you want to pay $700? You can preorder a Nintendo Switch at anywhere between $299-$600 (if you can find a non-sold out console). The CD-i was a pocket buster and many were leaning toward less expensive choices.
Price wasn’t the only problem. Unlike the Xbox One, who plays the versatility card smoothly, the CD-i struggled to maintain gamers. The selection of game not only lacked, but it stunk atrociously. If anyone recalls The Legend of Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon and its whacky scenes and sequels, then you know it sucks.
You can still find the CD-I if you lurk on eBay for around $150, if it’s even worth it.
14 Neo Geo CD
Next up is the Neo Geo CD, the second of several “Neo Geo” console experiments. Developed by Japan’s SNK Corporation in 1994 (1995 in North America), the Neo Geo CD followed the original Neo Geo—a console that converted Neo Geo arcade titles into cartridges. The Neo Geo CD was their attempt to convert to the Compact Disc. For a decently priced tag of $399, what could go wrong?
Several things. First and foremost, most developers were pushing for 3D. Several months later, Sony released its sensational PlayStation, a console that would destroy almost everyone’s chances at the time. The conversion by the competition from 2D sprites to more flashy graphics ate the Neo Geo alive.
Not to mention that, although $399 isn’t uncommon, the PlayStation released with a $299 price tag, so gamers could catch a better system for a fraction of the price. Had the Neo Geo CD been a little quicker to improve graphics, maybe it could’ve stayed around.
It’s unfortunate, but this isn’t Sega’s only entry on the list. The Sega Dreamcast had initial success during its release in 1999, but it made this list due to the rapid decline it suffered. The Dreamcast didn’t have problems, but it had misfortunes.
The Dreamcast pioneered some terrific games, like Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2, and it seemed likely that the Dreamcast would have lasting success. Toss in the outrageously appealing Crazy Taxi and it was a deal breaker—for about a year.
The Dreamcast started the generation that later introduced Sony’s PlayStation 2, which swept the video game market. Follow that with the GameCube and the first Xbox and Dreamcast took a huge loss.
After only two years in circulation, Sega made a wise decision and withdrew from the console market, focusing strictly on software. Sonic games are mostly on Nintendo today. Oddly enough, developers are still releasing games for the Dreamcast despite its discontinuation 16 years ago.
12 Nintendo Virtual Boy
Believe it or not, Nintendo made this list. And like Sega, it’s not the only time we'll see them. Being the longest running of the Big Three, Nintendo was likely to come up with a few goofs now and again. The gaming giant is well-known for some of the weird products they’ve created, but The Virtual Boy rings bells for Nintendo connoisseurs.
The Virtual Boy was Nintendo’s trial with virtual reality. The system came out in 1996. This horrendous console gave the initial impression that it was portable, but it was far from it. It required sitting down and setting up the bulky goggles and using the controller. The graphics for the system were awful.
The Virtual Boy came with a plethora of side effects such as seizures, headaches, and migraines. Let's not forget to mention the cut-and-paste Super Mario World formula in Virtual Boy Wario Land.
The virtual reality venture had lasted a year before Nintendo snatched it from storefronts.
11 Nokia N-Gage
One of the handhelds that made the list was this game-changing attempt, the Nokia N-Gage. Released in 2003, the type of gadget was unheard of at the time: a crossover between a cell phone and a handheld game system.
Back in 2003, it was unheard of to bring handheld quality games to cell phones. Touch-screens were unheard of and the gaming cell-phone crossover device came with a slightly hefty price tag of $299, $200 more than Nintendo’s Gameboy Advance.
By the time the Nokia N-Gage hit stores, the Gameboy Advance had a two-year track record of mind-blowing titles. They also released the Gameboy Advance SP that same year, and with titles like Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, there was no way the N-Gage was able to keep up. Stores dropped the price $100 to get it off shelves, but it still collected dust!
We know how huge PC gaming is. PC gaming goes toe to toe with the Big Three, but what about in the 80s? Computer consoles were sliding their way in slowly, but hadn’t quite hit the ground running. In December 1994, Japanese IT Company NEC released the PC-FX, a follow-up to their previous PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16 in the US) model.
Unlike its predecessor, this console was released exclusively in Japan; the PC Engine failed to succeed in the US. The PC Engine saw initial success in Japan until the SNES swallowed it. Nintendo's success caused NEC to rush out the Engine’s successor, the PC-FX.
NEC hurriedly made the PC-FX to beat the competition. However, by the time they released their sequel system, Sony had plans of its own. The PlayStation came out weeks beforehand and the Sega Saturn only a week, so this console lagged behind its more powerful competition. Combine that with the fact that it had 32-bit graphics meant it was lagging behind the others.
9 Nintendo 64 DD
The Nintendo 64 was wildly successful. It is currently Nintendo’s third-highest selling console (behind the NES and SNES) selling approximately 33 million units. Super Mario 64, Super Smash Bros. and many other titles propelled this system to triumph. However, its add-on, the Nintendo 64 DD was a failure.
The N64 DD gadget played magnetic disks and ran computer-like applications, such as a Mario Paint program and a TV image capture. The add-on was announced in 1995 before the 64 came out, slated to come out after or with the 64. However, numerous delays caused the DD to hold off until 1999, three years after the Nintendo 64.
The 64 DD had a world of problems upon release. The biggest issue was the size and relevancy of the “magnetic disc” cartridges. They were bulky and non-cutting edge, causing lack of appeal with retailers. Nobody wanted to clear space for the add-on, so Nintendo sold it via a mail-order subscription.
Recently a rare US version of the attachment was discovered by a game console collector, but it didn’t work due to its region lock.
The Gizmondo was a drop of potential mixed with what seemed like a hurricane-fueled mess. Swedish electronics company Tiger Electronics—an oxymoronic blend of small electronic distribution and carpet retail—created the Gizmondo which might have to do with its failure.
The Gizmondo has the craziest story on the list. It came out in 2005 in two versions with two different price tags; one a whopping $400 (in comparison to the then modern systems the Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP, which were $150 and $250) or the other which cost $225. The $225 model was laden with ads which didn’t help the system’s reputation.
Anticipated to be a commercial success, the Gizmondo was a failure. The company's manager, Stefan Eriksson, was a crook with ties to the Swedish mob. The company threw lavish parties and Eriksson spent extreme amounts of money to fuel his “playboy” lifestyle. After crashing a Ferrari Enzo in Malibu, CA, he got arrested, and the company was unable to pay off the Gizmondo, going bankrupt in 2006.
The Gizmondo is said to be the worst-selling handheld of all time, selling fewer than 25,000 units.
7 Mattel Hyperscan
The Hyperscan made its attempt in 2006, when the Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 were dominating the market. It didn’t stand a chance against the big three with obvious reasons why.
The Hyperscan was the only console to use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). It used it with traditional video game technology to target a kid-friendly audience not ready for consoles yet. The console was meant to scan special cards to the console on games, melding a card game and game console. When scanned, the cards would grant characters special effects and power ups.
The card technique proved to be unsuccessful, and although comparatively, it had a reasonable price tag ($60 in comparison to the Wii’s $250 initial price tag), the Hyperscan only released five out of seven games. The design was clunky, not user-friendly and loading times were sluggish. Eventually, it was discontinued in 2007, a little over a year after it came out.
6 Commodore 64 Games System
The Commodore 64 (C64) is a legend in the home computer industry. It bought computers to millions of homes and revolutionized the computing industry nearly single-handily. Commodore International’s Commodore 64 holds the Guinness World Record for the highest-selling single computer model of all time. The gaming console equivalent was meant to do the same but failed.
The Commodore 64 Games System was a console based version of the computer. It came out in 1990 to a market governed by Nintendo and Sega. Not only that, but it was only released in Europe and had billions of issues. It promised to release 100 titles, but never lived up to that and most of the games couldn’t work with the system.
Group those factors together with the fact that the C64 technology had already been eight years old. It was lagging far behind the competition and barely saw the light of day. The Commodore 64 Games System was nothing more than a clone of the original C64.
5 Atari Jaguar
Atari only saw success with its 2600 in 1977. They dominated the video game industry at the time, destroying the competition with ease. It would be the only time it would do so and, afterward, the video game giant released an abundance of failures. The Jaguar would be the one responsible for destroying the company.
In 1993, Atari released two versions consoles, the Panther (32-bit) and the Jaguar (64-bit). Atari marketed the hardware as the only 64-bit console at the time. Its competition, the SNES and the Sega Genesis, were only 16-bit. Some questioned this since it came with a 32-bit instructional guide.
The Jaguar didn’t make it far, and from 1993 through the end of 1995, the console only sold an upsetting 125,000 units. The company ran early morning infomercials in an attempt to save the dying console, but it was of no use. The decline in sales and massive layoffs led Atari to file bankruptcy in 1996; the Jaguar killed Atari.
4 Apple Pippin
Apple also took a stab at the video game industry. In 1996, Apple released the Pippin (“PiPP!N”) for other companies to manufacture. The system was meant to be an appliance and was snagged by Bandai for introduction to the United States.
The Pippin was a scaled down clone of the Mac, intended to serve as an “Apple TV” of the 90s to perform multiple functions. The muli-function was perhaps Apple's biggest mistake as the Pippin underperformed against its competitors, the PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and N64. The library of games was meage, and the $600 price tag made it less attractive.
These weren't the only problems; the Pippin was designed to perform a multitude of functions as a web-browsing computer, multimedia player, and game console, but it was severely underpowered. The processor wasn’t powerful enough and resulted in slow operation. The console had sold only 42,000 units before Bandai pulled the plug.
3 3DO Interactive Multiplayer
The 3DO Interactive Multiplayer was another stink bomb. Launched in 1993 by the 3DO Company, created by EA founder Trip Hawkins, the 3DO interactive multiplayer was a console meant to be the next big thing in CD gaming. It was supposed to be licensed by various companies to collect more royalties and save funds that Trip Hawkins didn’t have.
The 3DO was pitched to Sony but denied due to the company working on the PlayStation. Panasonic created the first models in 1993, while electronic companies Sanyo and GoldStar created later editions.
The 3DO was heavily promoted at its launch, but never achieved commercial success. Nintendo and Sega controlled the market, and the oversaturated consoles caused consumers to overlook it. Not only that, but many titles slated for the console either suffered substantial delay or no release at all. It also followed other consoles on this list with a terrible $700 price.
2 Sega Saturn
Sega’s second entry on the list is the Sega Saturn. The Sega Saturn came out in 1994, alongside the PlayStation, at a price of $400. Although it saw initial success in Japan, the Sega Saturn failed to perform in the US.
The Sega Saturn rushed the console to market and it seemed like this tactic would be set to stop Sony’s PlayStation, but Sega was actually eyeballing the previously discussed Jaguar. The console released some great titles like Nights into Dreams and Virtua Fighter 1 and 2. But the canceled Sonic X-Treme was likely part of the problem; no console wanted to be without its top performer.
Sony released the PlayStation in Japan a month later and around a year later in the US. Sales caught up to the Sega Saturn and eventually wiped it from the market. Sega would continue to make another market failure in the Dreamcast before folding its console division.
1 RDI Halcyon
Perhaps one of the biggest oddities in the gaming industry is the RDI Halcyon. With a planned release in 1985, the console never saw retail shelves. With not even a dozen units made, it was never commercially released in the first place.
The console came equipped with a laser disc player and computer which were both the size of an old VCR. Partnered with the clunky design was the crappy games planned for release. Of six titles, only two were completed, Thayer’s Quest and NFL Football LA Raiders vs SD Chargers. Thayer’s Quest went to arcades instead, while the NFL title never went anywhere.
Perhaps the most baffling fact about the console is the price they set for its release. The burn-a-hole-in-your-thigh price tag was a whopping $2,500. One could buy almost ten PlayStation 4s for the price. Convert that into 2009 dollars and it’d be a deranged $4954. So it’d be nearly 20 PlayStation 4s.
These consoles were commercial failures. Each one of them had their problems, but it mostly came down to price and time of release. It goes to show that not everybody is meant to make it far because these consoles never made it mainstream.