The 11 Dumbest Names for a Videogame System
Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Name
Last Summer's Electronic Entertainment Expo pulled back the collective curtains on Nintendo's upcoming new game console as well as Sony's Playstation Portable successor. Generally these two little nuggets of nerdy info would be enough to make a gamer's head spin; but after the conferences ended, most game fans were actually left scratching their heads instead of hotly anticipating new ways to blister their thumbs.
The confusion, mind you, stems not so much from the new systems themselves, but rather from one stunning realization: Videogame companies totally suck at naming things.
Now, I'm usually not one to gripe about abnormal naming conventions, and my decision to call the first two of my future sons "Hulk Hogan Brown" and "Sonic the Hedgehog Brown" has been met with a good deal of skepticism from people who actually have human children. But taking my personal need for therapy aside, naming your game systems the "Wii U" and the "Playstation Vita" clearly shows I'm not the only one in dire need of a mental health evaluation.
Facts are facts and it's pretty obvious to anyone with functional ears and a semblance of good taste that these names totally blow. There's really no other way around it.
That said, longtime gamers probably realize this is nothing new, as gaming companies have been bestowing awful names on their products for nearly as long as they've been making them. This is a list of the 11 worst offenders, conveniently collected and numbered for your viewing pleasure. Read it and weep for the days when we played on consoles with cool names like "Genesis" and "Neo Geo." Those days are long gone, my friends. Long gone.
#11 - Sega Master System
In 1986, SEGA wandered into what had suddenly become Mario's turf -- a fledgling games industry in recovery mode following the great gaming crash of 1983 and '84. The erstwhile "Service Games" had hoped to find a foothold in the market, but sadly it was not to be.
Outsold at least five to one in the states by Nintendo's grey VCR-looking behemoth, the so-called Master System proved to be the first of what would eventually become many failures in the hardware market for SEGA.
For the already somewhat strained purposes of this article, I'm going to go ahead and blame most of this on the console's name. Calling your gaming device the "Master System" when you have little to no third party support and even less shelf space at every major retailer on the planet is pretty bold and probably more than a little stupid.
Still, "Master System" wasn't even close to being as bad as SEGA's first console's Japanese moniker: The Mark III. Needless to say, the console also failed in it's homeland, but strangely found success in the European market.
Then again, the same could be said of David Hasselhoff's singing career, and few are speaking of that in a positive light 25 years later.
#10 - Intellivision
Short for "Intelligent Television," this odd little device was Mattel's attempt to combat the Atari juggernaut of the early '80s.
And the result was proof that the ever-popular toy manufacturer probably should have just stuck to what they did best: Making totally awesome He-Man action figures. Though the console easily bested the venerable Atari box in pretty much every notable tech spec, it's a safe guess that the world just wasn't quite ready for a toy with a name boasting it could make your 13" black and white Zenith into a Jeopardy! contestant.
And there was also that creepy voice synthesis thingy... that sounded like a shit-faced Stephen Hawking.
Scholarly (and a bit scary) or not, the Intellivision eventually faded away, forever showing that brains and gaming are not necessarily two happily co-existing things.
And every conversation ever held over an Xbox Live connection continues to prove it.
#9 - Gameboy
Prior to the introduction of Nintendo's monochromatic Game Boy in 1989, no one had dared question a gaming system's gender. The big "N" chose to proudly rock out with its, um, Y chromosomes out and subsequently set the bar pretty high for sexism in the portable gaming market.
The wild success of this blurry, green-screened monstrosity served to show that lifting up a proverbial silicon skirt wouldn't dissuade someone from purchasing the thing, no matter how he or she chose to pee. Perhaps it's only coincidental then that many an early '90s bathroom break was spent with a Game Boy clenched between two unwashed, possibly poo-stained hands... but that's not really the point here.
The point, if there is one, is that the Game Boy was about the least manly thing you could carry in your pocket in 1989 that wasn't a neon pink snap bracelet or a New Kids on the Block CD.
#8 - Sega Genesis Nomad
By 1995, gaming technology had evolved to the point where a 16-bit videogame console could be shrunken into something portable, an idea nearly unthinkable only a few years earlier -- unless you count the ill-fated TurboExpress.
And clearly, calling your on-the-go Genesis the "Portable Super Sega" (or something like that) was waaaay too banal a way of expressing the awesomeness of such technology, especially for anyone with a marketing degree employed by the Japanese gaming giant at the time.
That group of intelligent folks finally decided that "Nomad" was the perfect choice for what to name their impressive portable, though history has shown this decision was the wrong one.
You see, asking your parents to buy you something called a "Nomad" in 1995 would likely result in the same level of confusion as trying to explain who Skee-Lo was. Real nomads moved about from place-to-place, living off the land and never really settling down anywhere. This was an expensive piece of plastic that let you play Streets of Rage in the car.
If they'd wanted to stick with that whole untethered and totally free idea, that SEGA marketing team could have gone ahead and called their sweet new system "Smelly Homeless Guy in Filthy Sweatpants," and probably still would have gotten the same results at the cash register.
#7 - Atari Lynx
Toward the end of its reign as a console manufacturer, Atari went through an odd stage where it named everything it put its once-respected logo on after jungle cats.
The Lynx, Atari's technically superior answer to Nintendo's Game Boy, was the first victim of the Sunnyvale, Calif. company's unrequited love for all things pussy. The feline fetish continued as Atari prepared its next console, which it codenamed "Panther," before realizing both the name and the system it was working on were equally terrible. The "Panther" eventually became the "Jaguar," which was released in 1993 to all the fanfare a single chirping cricket could ever hope to muster.
Obviously, being big cat lovers didn't help any of Atari's hardware in the marketplace, and the Lynx was no exception. It was huge and clunky and kinda felt like you were playing games on a football -- awful games...on a deflated football. While Nintendo let you take Mario and Tetris wherever you wanted with the Game Boy and SEGA let you bring Sonic and Shinobi on the road with its Game Gear, Atari released the likes of "Gates of Zendocon" and "Dirty Larry: Renegade Cop" on children unfortunate enough to own one of these things.
In retrospect, the failure of this ridiculous naming system can only be looked on as a good thing. Thank the humble Lynx each time you sit down to game on a console that has nothing to do with last month's cover story in Cat Fancy.
The only downside to this is we missed out on what might have been gaming's greatest console box art of all-time, The Atari Pixie Bob:
#6 - Turbografx-16
Before bringing its successful Japanese “PC Engine” to the States in 1989, NEC decided upon a name change that was, as Bill and Ted might have put it, “most heinous.” Intentional spelling errors and egregious use of a descriptive term for the machine’s relatively underwhelming technical performance aside, the Turbografx-16 entered a market dominated by the Nintendo Entertainment System, then soon found itself locking horns with a more powerful (and much cooler named) foe, the SEGA Genesis.
And though a majority of American kids in the late ‘80s didn’t have the slightest clue what “16-bit” meant, entering a console market under false technical pretenses certainly didn’t do NEC any favors.
Neither did the system’s pack-in game, Keith Courage in Alpha Zones.
You see, taking home a brand new Nintendo and finding Super Mario Bros. in the box was pretty much the same thing as winning the Powerball on your birthday. Sort of by the same token, buying a Genesis and opening up Altered Beast was a little like purchasing a Lamborghini and discovering someone once peed in the driver’s seat. Coming home with a Turbografx-16 and popping in “Keith Courage” was a lot like finding out the woman you just married was a man six months ago.
At any rate, a terrible name and even worse free software doomed what could have been a great system to also-ran status almost from the outset. Not even a plug from Home Alone actor Macaulay Culkin in 1991 could jumpstart sales for NEC, who left the U.S. hardware business in 1994.
NEC’s intended follow-up machine, which never saw the light of day in North America, was called the “F/X,” proving once and for all that its marketing team had learned absolutely nothing after years of failure.
#5 - Sega Game Gear
A SEGA marketing meeting in 1991.
Sales Guy: Okay, so we've got this awesome new portable videogame system, right? It's got a color screen, very '90s design and runs on the exact same operating system as the Master System. You know, the Master System. I think we sold about 10 of those. It's a household name! Anyway, our competition is a pea soup green glorified calculator that may or may not cause glaucoma. We can't lose! All we need is a snazzy name. I've been told by the "higher-ups" that it has to have the word "game" in the title, but other than that there are no limits! Ideas?
Naming Guy: How about "Game Equipment?"
Sales Guy: How about something else?
Naming Guy: Game Tackle?
Sales Guy: No.
Naming Guy: Game Accouterment.
Sales Guy: You're going to sell something to kids that has the word "cooter" in the name? Good one. Next!
Naming Guy: Game Kit and Kaboodle.
Sales Guy: And I hired you why?
Naming Guy: Game Appurtenance?
Sales Guy: Your Mom's an appurtenance.
Naming Guy: Game Gear!!!!!!
Sales Guy: You're fired.
#4 - 3DO
More like “3D Oh my God, I just spent $700 on this thing. And the only game i have is ‘Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties,’ an interactive skin flick that doesn’t even show one boob.” Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.
Okay, so does this picture:
#3 - Apple-Bandai Pippin
Similar to Atari’s misguided cat fixation discussed earlier, Apple’s overuse of anything relating to its namesake had gotten a bit tiresome by 1995.
When the computer giant decided to try its hand in the already-flooded console market of the mid-90s, it naturally chose to go avec les pommes dans le titre. But which one?
Clearly feeling that “Granny Smith” or “Pink Lady” would be completely ignored by a market dominated by adolescent males who strongly preferred bananas, Apple opted for something a bit more obscure and, ironically, sour: The Pippin.
For those who may not know (pretty much everyone), Pippins are hard-to-find apples grown in suitable climates that are made available in select areas of good ol’ America for approximately four months out the year -- which is about as long as the Pippin managed to stay on store shelves.
Wikipedia states Apple and Bandai, a Japanese toy giant unfortunate enough to find itself partners in this gaming sales disaster, sold about 42,000 Pippins before cutting their losses and quietly exiting the business; Apple going back to breaking new ground in the burgeoning home computer market, Bandai creating properties based on Godzilla and other characters that just really, really hate Japan.
It was for the best. After all, there was really only one “Pippen” that mattered in 1995:
#2 - FM Towns Marty
Marty is a great name for a President:
An iconic film character:
NHL goaltending royalty:
Just not a videogame system. “Marty” is what you called your third son in 1947 if you’d already used George and Walter.
Marty was the name of your school bus driver who always smelled like bourbon and sadness and sometimes forgot to stop at red traffic lights.
But this sort of naming catastrophe should probably be expected of a company that called itself “FM Towns,” which really just sounds like the worst possible pen name for a terrible children’s horror author.
#1 - Nintendo Virtual Boy
Let it be known that going into an electronics retailer and requesting to purchase a “Virtual Boy” will likely only result in a sit-down chat with Chris Hansen and a meet and greet with your local director of Child Protective Services.
For reasons unfathomable to everyone never charged with a sex crime, Nintendo brought to market this semi-portable, cornea-searing gaming monstrosity and decided there was nothing better to call it than “Virtual Boy.”
The underlying strategy behind this, um, unique choice may never be known, though marketing your system toward the extremely select demographics of NAMBLA members and elderly Italian marionette makers was a bold sales move indeed…that didn’t pay off.
Truth be known, about 12 Virtual Boys were sold in the United States before pedophiles became wise to the act and just went back to leasing ice cream trucks and guest starring on Dateline NBC.
In the 16 years since its release and subsequent failure, the Virtual Boy has garnered a small but loyal fan base, and is even regarded as a collector’s item by those with far too much money and absolutely no taste.
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