Top 10 Failed Consoles

By Mike on 4:15 pm

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For every game console made, there's probably a dozen out there that have failed. Today, we're looking at the top ten console failures.

10. Sony PSX
Somewhere along the line, Sony got the bright idea that it would put a DVR and multi-media server into a game console. This idea eventually evolved into the Playstation 3. However, the prototype model didn't fare so well. The PSX was essentially a DVR grafted onto a PS2. It featured dual analogue TV tuners in the back, could store media, transfer it to a PSP, and sported an internal hard drive with storage up to 250gb. Heck, that was a lot by 2003 standards. The high storage capacity was matched by an equally high price. The 160gb model went for $800 while the 250gb model went for a whopping $1000.

Sony went a little SKU happy with it, releasing six new models with minor revisions. The system also had a few minor design flaw. It was massive, about 2.5x the size of the original fat PS2. The controller ports for it were also mounted on the rear for some strange reason. This prompted Sony to eventually release a USB DualShock 2 to connect controllers to the front. As expected, the system wasn't particularly popular. It was never released outside of Japan. It is notable though for being the first system to use the XMB interface. Sony plodded on with the multimedia concept, which was finally perfected with the much smaller and cheaper PS3 Slim.

9. Panasonic 3DO
Take a console, cram it with the most powerful hardware ever put into a system, shove in a new disc based media format, and charge a fortune for it. No, this isn't the PS3. Sony had legions of PS2 fans to back them up, Panasonic had no install base. The 3DO was one of the earlier CD based consoles and one of the first to support 3D graphics. However, the console's high price of $699 USD (over $1000 today) kept gamers away in droves. The system rode high on arcade and PC ports, such as Myst and Alone in the Dark. However, it never developed a large game library. Panasonic also incorporated primitive media functionality into it such as Video CD.

The high price made the 3DO too prohibitive. Especially since cheaper systems, like the Playstation and Saturn, were coming down the pipeline. Both of which offered similar features.

8. The Phantom
This is probably the most appropriately named failed console in history. The Phantom was never seen.

Phamtom made big promises for their console. You'd be able to play thousands of existing PC games on a small, TV top system. There were further plans for dedicated games and a direct-download subscription service. Since it worked with x86 instructions, they hoped it would be easy to program for.

Under the hood, it contained an AMD Athlon XP 2500+, 256mb RAM, a Geforce FX 5700, and a 40gb HDD. Aside from a lack of RAM, these were fairly respectable specs for the time.

With such a strong library and relatively powerful hardware, you'd expect this to be a clincher out of the gate. Instead, the Phantom became lost in development hell.

The Phantom was first announced in 2002, and again it was demonstrated at E3 in 2004. The system received a lot of hype, sending tech boards buzzing. Then the company ran into legal troubles in 2006. They were accused by the US Securities & Exchange Commission of running a "pump and dump" scam. The Phantom was cancelled later that same year. The company still exists, producing a keyboard for HTPCs.

7. Apple Pippin
Macintosh has never been an ideal gaming platform. It makes you wonder how they could shoehorn the same under-powered hardware into a console.

The Pippin came into a flooded market complete with a high price tag of $599, or about $788 today. It was touted as being a low cost computer, but most people saw it as just a game console. Which is what it was. The system only had 18 titles made for it. People found that Mac OS System 7 could run most of these.

It did have a 14.4kbps modem in it, making it one of the earlier consoles to feature web browsing and network connectivity. However, it was painfully slow at it. In 1996, 28k modems were common and 56k were gaining in popularity. The Pippin's sluggish internet was antiquated out of the gate.

Only 42,000 units were sold over its lifetime, out of less than 100,000 made. Compare this to today's systems, where 42,000 units sold equals a slow month.

6. Nintendo Virtual Boy
Is it a console? Is it a portable? The debate still rages, but it's certainly not something you could take on the bus. The VB was Nintendo's first and only foray into stereoscopic 3D. It featured two monochrome LCD screens, one per eye. Games were rendered in glorious blood red. It was difficult to use and only had a handful of games made for it, about 20 in total. I can count on one hand how many were good. "The goggles do nothing!"

Virtual reality seemed to be the big thing in the mid 90s. Everyone thought that's how all games would look in ten years time. In the end, it just proved to be an expensive gimmick. Few of the Virtual Boy's games actually took advantage of the new depth of field. To top it off, the console was known to cause headaches and seizures.

5. Atari 5200
If the Atari 5200 had one problem only, nobody could play it. The 5200 was a slight improvement of the 2600, which was released in 1977. It featured updated graphics, added a pause button, music, and better sound effects. In 1982, that was a big deal.

Despite these groundbreaking improvements, the system didn't work. Namely it's controllers had a notorious failure rate. The system also had a bizarre power connector which used a switcher box to combine power and video output into one cable. The box was prone to sparking. They eventually replaced it with a conventional two wire system in the 5200 Jr. Only about 1 million 5200s were sold, marking a major failure for Atari. However, the worst was still to come.

4. Phillips CD-I
Back in the early 90s, Nintendo was hoping to release a CD add-on for the SNES. They wanted to compete with the Sega CD by offering bigger games. Big N contracted out the job to two companies: Sony and Phillips. Sony eventually walked away and turned their idea for a CD based console into the Playstation. The deal with Phillips also fell through.

Unfortunately, Nintendo made a big mistake. They allowed Phillips the rights to use certain Nintendo franchises. What came out of this are four infamous games: Hotel Mario, and a trio of Zelda titles known by fans as the Unholy Triforce. These games are widely regarded as the worst titles to ever have the Mario and Zelda name attached to them. The rest of the CD-I's library was rounded out with educational titles. These were similar to the ones found on classroom PCs at the time. Not exactly the kind of fare kids wanted to play at home.

3. Sega 32X
I actually wanted one of these. I was a dumb kid. Sticking out of the top of the Genesis like a deformed mushroom, the 32X was meant to extend the life of the system. Despite being an add-on, it required it's own massive power adapter and a separate AV cable.

The 32X was developed independently by Sega of America, without the knowledge of Sega's Japanese HQ. They were busy working on their own stand-alone, 32-bit system.

Vary few games were produced for the 32X. Most of them were mediocre. Bad launch software seems to be the final nail that few systems recover from. The jump to 32-bit on the Genesis offered dubious improvements at best. Graphics looked more or less the same and the sound quality was still as bad as ever. To top it off, Sega of Japan was preparing to launch CD-based Saturn. Everyone knew it was only a year away so nobody bought the 32X.

2. Sega Dreamcast
Why put the Dremcast so low on our list?! I can hear the fanboys screaming now. The Dreamcast was arguably the finest console produced during its time. The games were fantastic and it had online connectivity from the get go. However, Sega just couldn't compete with the Sony juggernaut. When the Playstation 2 came out, the proverbial feces hit the fan. It was the final nail in the coffin for what had once been a legendary gaming empire. The Dreamcast's excellence is what ultimately makes it a bigger failure. Most of the above systems were poorly executed. This is a rare example of Sega doing everything right and still getting the shaft.

Sega crashed hard after this. The company switched its business plan to a third party software developer. They've continued to struggle. Oddly, rumours have been swirling in the shadows that there may be a successor to the Dreamcast. The rumour mill cites patent applications for controllers and memory interfaces.

1. Atari Jaguar
Like the Dreamcast, this marked the end of one of gaming's biggest empires. Unlike the Dreamcast, this was the fault of poor hardware and software. Atari dominated gaming in the 70s and early 80s, then the market crashed in 1983 largely due to their mismanagement. Nintendo rushed in and claimed what was left over. The Jaguar was Atari's last stab at a console. It was the culmination of a lot of bad ideas, which finally killed Atari as a hardware manufacturer.

The system was marketed as the first to use 64-bit. The Jag was supposed to have graphics that would blow people away. When gamers finally got their hands on it, they found little improvement between it and existing 16-bit systems. It certainly couldn't compare with the Nintendo 64. To make things worse, Atari actually released a CD add-on for it. You think they would have learned from Sega. At least the Sega CD worked as advertised. The Jaguar CD malfunctioned a lot.

The system only managed to sell 250,000 units over its three years on the market. Atari never managed to recover from the Jaguar's failure. It exists today as a software publisher but has never come close to mirroring it's success of the late 70s and early 80s.

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