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Top Ten Failed Videogame Consoles

Updated on February 17, 2013
The RDI Halcyon was the most expensive videogame system ever made.
The RDI Halcyon was the most expensive videogame system ever made. | Source

Videogame consoles have a relatively brief but fascinating history. For every successful console, there are several that were abysmal failures. Many of these systems were created by electronics companies hoping to establish a niche in the videogame market. Others were made by established industry forces who, for one reason or another, made a major misstep. Common flaws that torpedoed these consoles’ chances of success were a high price, poor marketing, a lack of third party support, and poor design. Here is a top ten countdown of failed videogame systems.

Phillips CD-i
Phillips CD-i | Source

10. Phillips CD-i

Release Date: 1991

Why it failed: In the mid-90’s, Nintendo entered into a partnership with Phillips to produce a CD add-on to the Super Nintendo. The console never came to fruition, but Phillips gained the rights to make atrocious Super Mario and Legend of Zelda games for their own console. Phillips could never quite establish an identity for the CD-i. Was it a videogame system? A computer? A multimedia device? Consumers were confused, third party software developers were disinterested, and sales were abysmal. Phillips officially discontinued support for the CD-i in 1998.

Atari Jaguar
Atari Jaguar | Source

9. Atari Jaguar

Release Date: 1994

Why it failed: The Atari Jaguar was supposed to usher in Atari’s return as a market leader. Instead, it became a huge fiasco. The console was marketed as having sixty-four bits of processing power, four times that of the successful Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis systems. However, its claims were misleading. The Jaguar was really just a glorified sixteen bit system with a ridiculous seventeen button controller. Software developers found the console difficult to work with, and the Jaguar’s lack of sales made it even more unappealing. Atari discontinued the Jaguar in early 1996 with less than 250,000 units sold worldwide.

Virtual Boy
Virtual Boy | Source

8. Virtual Boy

Release Date: 1995

Why it failed: Nintendo has had many commercially successful consoles, but the Virtual Boy was one of their greatest failures. Virtual Boy was the first 3-D console and Nintendo hoped it would be revolutionary. Instead, it received a firestorm of criticism for its red and black graphics, small game library, and high price tag. Users sometimes experienced severe head and stomach aches after playing the console. Nintendo discontinued the Virtual Boy in 1996 after selling less than 800,000 units.

Panasonic 3D0
Panasonic 3D0 | Source

7. Panasonic 3D0

Release Date: 1993

Why it failed: Like the Jaguar, the 3D0 was marketed as a high end competitor to the SNES and Sega Genesis. It suffered many of the same problems, including a ridiculous price ($600) and a lack of third party support. The console had many poorly received games, including the infamous “Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties.” The 3D0 was marketed as a multimedia system, hoping that consumers would be fooled into thinking it was worth its price. The strategy failed, and the 3D0 faded away.

Apple Bandai Pippin
Apple Bandai Pippin | Source

6. Apple Bandai Pippin

Why it failed: The Pippin was yet another ‘90s attempt to market a videogame system as a multimedia player/computer/whatever. At $600, virtually no one was interested in purchasing the console. Consumers considered it an expensive videogame player, as opposed to a cheap computer. Third party support was nonexistent. The Pippin sold about 42,000 units in total. Most of the Pippins that had been produced were never sold. The console was discontinued in 1997.

Tiger Gizmondo
Tiger Gizmondo | Source

5. Tiger Telematics Gizmondo

Release Date: 2005

Why it failed: Despite its ridiculous name, the Gizmondo received a great deal of attention and hype when it was first released. The portable console was ahead of its time in some ways, with features like Bluetooth and a camera. Despite this, the Gizmondo was a colossal failure, selling only about 25,000 copies. In a bizarre marketing ploy, the Gizmondo was released with two different prices. Consumers could pay $400 for an ad free version, or $230 dollars for the privilege of seeing advertisements pop up on the device’s screen. Consumers quickly decided that the console was not worth either price. A whopping eight games were released in North America. Even fewer reached the European market. The Gizmondo was discontinued in 1997 and Tiger Telematic’s CEO was arrested for ties to the Swedish mob. After his downfall, the company filed for bankruptcy.

Sega Genesis with a 32X attached
Sega Genesis with a 32X attached | Source

4. Sega 32X

Release Date: 1994

Why it failed: The 32X was a colossal marketing blunder by Sega. It was conceived as an add-on for their successful Genesis console. Sega hoped that the 32X would revitalize the Genesis until the release of the Sega Saturn. But, with the release of Saturn just a year away, the 32X seemed pointless. Only five games were released as developers quickly turned their focus to the Saturn (itself a failure compared to the Sony Playstation and Nintendo 64). Between the Sega CD, 32X, and Saturn, Sega flooded the market with too many incremental updates.

Tiger Game.com
Tiger Game.com | Source

3. Tiger Game.com

Release Date: 1997

Why it failed: Known for their handheld games, Tiger released the portable Game.com console in the hopes of competing with Nintendo’s Game Boy. Game.com could access the internet, but only by connecting to a modem. Playing with other users online was impossible. Tiger didn’t help matters by creating an infamous television ad campaign in which an actor playing a company spokesman insulted and mocked gamers, saying that the console had more games than most gamers had brain cells. Ironically, only about twenty games were released. Game.com was discontinued in 2000 after selling less than 300,000 consoles.

Nokie N-Gage
Nokie N-Gage | Source

2. Nokia N-Gage Classic

Release Date: 2003

Why it failed: The N –Gage was an ugly portable console that could also be used as a cell phone. It had an awkward control setup that inhibited gameplay. Using it as a cellphone wasn’t easy, either. Unlike Game.com, the N-Gage allowed multiplayer gaming over the internet. However, this was not enough to save the console from failure. Its sloppy design soon made it infamous. The console was discontinued until 2004, although an N-Gage mobile gaming service was available until 2010.

RDI Halcyon
RDI Halcyon | Source

1. RDI Halcyon

Release Date: 1985

Why it failed: This extremely obscure system was very ambitious for its time. The Halcyon was released with an outrageous price tag of $2,500. It was marketed as a multimedia system and featured a laserdisc player and a keyboard. Only two games were released, one of which came with the console. The Halcyon featured an early form of voice recognition. Users could speak commands instead of using the keyboard. Its games featured full motion video capabilities. The console might have been a success if it had been cheaper and better marketed. The Halcyon received a very limited release and sales were virtually nonexistent. RDI failed for bankruptcy a short time later.

Promotional Video for the RDI Halcyon

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    • CYong74 profile image

      Cedric Yong 17 months ago from Singapore

      I always wonder whether N-Gage would have fared better, say, if it was made ten years later. Although the design did suck, big time, maybe it was to do with the limitations back then.

    • ilikegames profile image

      Sarah Forester 3 years ago from Australia

      This takes me back, so many consoles that never really happened. Great hub idea.

    • nanderson500 profile image
      Author

      nanderson500 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      There should be a museum like that, tattuwurn! I would visit it. Thanks! I wonder who was desperate enough to steal an N-Gage.

    • profile image

      tattuwurn 4 years ago

      My brother in law had a Nokia N-Gage and I had the chance to play and generally navigate with it. Man, it was awfully hard to use. It was eventually stolen, so looking back he said good thing that happened. Lol. Ah, those days when Nokia was lording over the cellphone market.

      I hope there's a museum devoted to these failure gadgets and consoles (is there such one?). Really fascinating. Voted up and interesting. :)

    • nanderson500 profile image
      Author

      nanderson500 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Hawaiianodysseus - Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it!

      Thefilmguy24 - Yeah the Neo Geo would have been a good choice too. I guess it did have a little bit of a cult following though.

    • Thefilmguy24 profile image

      Thefilmguy24 4 years ago

      Great article. I only remember about 5 of them and I remember them failing miserably. I would have thought that you would put the SNK Neo Geo on the list but wasn't sure if you would call it a failure since it did have some success with a small nitch of buyers considering the high price tag of over $600. Voted up and very interesting.

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      This was handy information for me because: 1) I know very little about this topic; and 2) It helps me be aware of what to avoid picking up at yard sales and thrift stores when I search for new eBay inventory. Thanks for sharing this list, Nick!

      Aloha from the SE corner!

      Joe

    • nanderson500 profile image
      Author

      nanderson500 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Thanks Geekdom, yeah I remember those and the 3D0. I played Virtual Boy at Toys R Us but never owned it or any of the others.

    • Geekdom profile image

      Geekdom 4 years ago

      I remember the Atari Jaguar and Virtual Boy. I never knew anybody who ever owned them, but I remember them in the store catalogs. Nice Hub.

    • nanderson500 profile image
      Author

      nanderson500 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Yeah. I'm not sure what Sega was thinking with the Sega CD/32X/Saturn triumvirate.

    • Miller2232 profile image

      Sinclair Miller III 4 years ago from Florida

      Talk about colossal failures. I still play the Sega Genesis, but not with the 32X attached. Whoever came up with these video game consoles does not play video games themselves.