Monday, November 20, 2006

Top ten video game hardware failures


For the sake of scope, a commercial failure for a video game hardware platform is generally defined as a system that either fails to become adopted by a significant portion of the gaming market place, or fails to win significant mindshare of the target audience. This definition should be applied internationally, and not based strictly on the success or failure of a platform in any one given market.

3DO Interactive Multiplayer
Co-designed by RJ Mical and the team behind the Amiga, and marketed by Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins, this "multimedia machine" was marketed as a family entertainment device and not just a video game console. Few titles utilized the console's full potential, which, along with its high price ($699.95 USD at release) and the inability of the console market to sustain multiple platforms, put it in an early grave. The final nail in the coffin was the scuttling of the project after the expensive development of the successor console, the M2.

Amiga CD32
Released in 1993, the decline of the Amiga product line and Commodore's poor marketing and lack of product support could be blamed for the failure of this product. While it was initially billed as all the power of an Amiga computer in a console, it was not priced competitively to the Amiga 500/1200 lines. Additionally, the lack of original titles meant that few gamers wanted it when they could buy the more feature-intensive A1200. [citation needed] These were certainly factors, but Commodore was already treading water after its loss of the XOR patent infringement lawsuit. It was forbidden from shipping product into the US until it paid, which it was unable or unwilling to do. Eventually most of the consoles manufactured were seized to cover a portion of Commodore's debt to the Philippine manufacturer.

Amstrad GX4000 and Amstrad CPC+ range
In 1990 Amstrad attempted to enter the console gaming market with hardware based on its successful Amstrad CPC range but also capable of playing cartridge-based games with improved graphics and sound. This comprised the Amstrad CPC+ computers, including the same features as the existing CPCs, and the dedicated GX4000 console. However, only a few months later the Sega Mega Drive, a much-anticipated 16-bit console, was released in Europe, and the GX4000's ageing 8-bit technology proved unable to compete. Many of the games were also direct ports of existing CPC games (available more cheaply on tape or disc) with few if any graphical improvements. Originally retailing at £99, GX4000s were reported as being sold for fractions of this price a short while later (the CPC magazine Amstrad Action holding an unofficial competition to find the cheapest), and the console was universally panned. Less than thirty games were released on cartridge, and the GX4000's failure ended Amstrad's involvement in the gaming industry. The CPC+ range fared little better, as 8-bit computers had been all but superceded by similarly-priced 16-bit machines such as the Amiga, though fans of the computer discovered software hacks that made the advanced console graphics and sound accessible to users.

Apple Pippin
A game console designed by Apple Computer in the mid-1990s based around a PowerPC 603e processor and the Mac OS. It featured a 4x CD-ROM drive and a video output that could connect to a standard television monitor. Apple intended to license the technology to third parties. However the only Pippin licensee to release a product to market was Bandai. By the time the Bandai Pippin was released, (1995 for Japan, 1996 for the United States) the market was already dominated by the Nintendo 64, Sony PlayStation, and Sega Saturn. The Bandai Pippin cost US$599 on launch, more expensive than the competition.

Atari Jaguar console
Released in 1993, this 64-bit system was (in theory) much more powerful than its contemporaries, the Sega Genesis and the SNES. However, a number of crippling business practices on the part of Atari senior management, a hard to hold/manipulate controller design and lack of quality software hurt sales. The system never attained critical mass in the market before the release of the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn and without strong leadership to drive it, it failed alongside the company.

Commodore 64 Games System console
Released only in Europe and being Commodore International's first venture in the video game market, the C64GS was basically a Commodore 64 redesigned as a cartridge-based console. Aside from some hardware issues, the console did not get much attention from the public, who preferred to buy the cheaper original computer which had far more possibilities. Also, the console appeared during the apogee of the 16-bit era, which left no chance for it to succeed.

digiBlast handheld games console
The digiBlast portable console was launched by Nikko at the end of 2005 and promised to be a cheap alternative (selling at approximately €80 to the Gameboy Advance and PSP. The handheld could be used for games on cartridges. Cartoon (WinX Club, Spongebob Squarepants) episodes and were released on cartridge as well as cartridges containing music videos. Also a cartridge for MP3 playback and a cartrige with a 1.3 Megapixel camera were planned. Due to a shortage of chips around the release date and thereafter resulted in a failed launch and loss of consumer interest.

A handheld gaming device including GPS and a digital camera was released by Tiger Telematics in the United Kingdom on 19 March 2005. The console sold poorly, due to a lack of games, and being unable to compete with the cheaper Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable. On 23 January 2006 the UK arm of Tiger Telematics went into administration. Several high-ranking Tiger executives were subsequently arrested for fraud and other illegal activities related to the Gizmondo.

Virtual Boy
Mario's Tennis as displayed on a Virtual Boy emulator. The red/blue format simulates the Virtual Boy's 3D display.

The red monochromatic 3-D "virtual reality" system failed due to issues related to players getting eye strain and headaches when trying to play it along with the problem that the system required the player to be isolated during play thus killing any social interaction while playing. It was the first (and, thus far, only) Nintendo console to flop. Gunpei Yokoi, who is largely credited for the success of Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, Game Boy, the Metroid series and many others, resigned from the company shortly thereafter to start his own company, though many connected his departure to the Virtual Boy failure.

Nokia N-Gage
Made by the mobile phone manufacturer Nokia, the N-Gage was a small handheld console, designed to combine a feature-packed mobile/cellular phone with a handheld games console. Sales were poor and many video gamers mocked the system for its design. Common complaints included the difficulty of swapping games and the fact that its cellphone feature required users to hold the device "sideways" (i.e. the long edge of the system) against their cheek.[13] A redesigned version, the N-Gage QD, has since been released to eliminate these complaints. However, the N-Gage brand still suffered from a poor reputation and the QD did not address the popular complaint that the control layout was "too cluttered". The N-Gage failed to reach the popularity of the Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS or the Sony PSP, although the N-Gage's pioneering of mobile online gaming likely influenced the DS and PSP to include that feature. In November 2005, Nokia announced the failure of its product, in light of poor sales (less than 3 million units sold during the platform's 3 year run, against projections of 6 million), and while gaming software is still being produced for its Series 60 phones, Nokia has ceased to consider gaming a corporate priority until 2007, when it expects improved screen sizes and quality will increase demand.

Built upon the PlayStation 2, the PSX enhanced multimedia derivative was touted to bring convergence to the living room. The device failed in Japan, however, due to its high price and lack of consumer interest and that cancelled plans to release it in North America and the rest of the world. Not only was it an unsuccessful attempt by Sony Computer Entertainment head Ken Kutaragi to revive the ailing consumer electronics division, it also hurt Sony's media convergence plans.



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