Today, the console business is hardly lucrative, with a few notable exceptions. This has always been the case, with a few companies dominating the competition, such as Atari, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. Most people have heard about the success of the NES (for older readers), PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, and the more recent PlayStation 4. Unlike these success stories, we’re going to jump into the consoles many may have not heard about. These are the ones that simply couldn’t keep up with competition.
10. Sega Dreamcast
The Sega Dreamcast started with an interesting marketing campaign. The Dreamcast was released on September 9, 1999 (9/9/99). It started as a highly successful console, with the most powerful hardware under its hood to date. It even had a built-in modem years before other consoles for online play. But, with this power, came a hefty price tag for Sega. Sega lost money on the development of the consoles and made most of their profit from games.
When the PlayStation 2 rolled in on October 26, 2000, it sold like wildfire. Sony made a profit on every PS2 by using cheaper parts developed by Sony-owned companies, and included a DVD drive, which was huge (and gaining popularity) at the time. The ahead-of-its time console was overshadowed by the monstrous PS2. In the end, the PlayStation 2 became the world’s best-selling console of all-time. Sega discontinued the Dreamcast on March 31, 2001, thus ending Sega’s console business.
9. Nintendo Virtual Boy
This console was Nintendo’s bold attempt at the first (semi) virtual reality experience. Almost 20 years before the likes of the Oculus Rift, the Virtual Boy was released in 1995. This console’s failure started with the weak marketing campaign and rushed development. A plethora of problems plagued the console, such as red-tinted, 32-bit graphics that weren’t real 3D, lack of multiplayer features, and others. There were numerous reports of headaches being caused by the Virtual Boy, most likely because of the red LCD screen.
Also, for a virtual reality console, portability (something the Virtual Boy lacked) would be a necessity. Many people criticized the Virtual Boy heavily for its many problems. For an asking price of $180, it was just too much. The console was discontinued within a year of release, only released 22 games (with only 14 making it to North America), and sold under a million units.
8. Apple/Bandai Pippin
A lot of people today would love Apple to create a video game console, but not many of them know about the failure of the Pippin. Apple created the Pippin in 1995 as, basically, a console-sized Mac. Marketed as a living room computer able to use the internet on your TV, it was essentially an early multimedia machine, much like today’s Apple TV, but it could play games.
Apple had a plan to sell licenses to companies to manufacture the Pippin, and Bandai was the only company to comply. It finally released in 1995 in Japan. A year later, it was released in the US. Its hardware was weak compared to competitors, despite being a Mac. Only 18 games were released for the Pippin (most of which were not good), and it costed $600. Needless to say, the Pippin was a failure. The Pippin was discontinued a year later and ended with less than 100,000 sales.
This ambitious little box was hyped massively after a successful kickstarter campaign in 2012. In fact, the Ouya was Kickstarter.com’s 5th most funded project. Everyone in the gaming market heard about it, and the development team behind Ouya aimed to disrupt the console market with their little Android-based device. Using its own version of Android, the Ouya could play simple Android games (with a controller), stream video, and do some other internet-related activities.
Released on June 25, 2013, the console proved to be an underpowered and lackluster console. Even with the cheap price of $100, it just couldn’t compete with the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Wii U. When compared to the Apple TV, Fire TV, and PlayStation TV as well, the Ouya had little to offer. Despite many games being sold and plenty of developers creating games for the Ouya, the console failed. The company that created the Ouya is now seeking a buyout by a Chinese company, a place where it may find success in the future.
An early attempt at a multimedia machine (similar to the Apple Pippin), the 3DO was much like today’s planned Steam Machine. It would be manufactured by any company who signed a license agreement with the 3DO company, and the hardware specifications were not strict, so any two 3DOs could be different. The console could play CDs and games on the CD platform. The console had potential with strong hardware (it was the first 32-bit console released in the US) and many manufacturers hopped on board.
Plenty of great games were released for the 3DO, mostly PC and arcade ports. Developer support was also good for the 3DO. Many companies had their hand at creating a 3DO. Panasonic’s version was the most popular. The hyped-up Panasonic 3DO was released for $700 in 1993. The release was a bust because of the high price and lack of good exclusive games. If it weren’t for the hefty price tag, the 3DO would likely have sold well. The console lasted for two years and sold a measly two million units.
5. Atari Lynx
Anyone who knows anything about game consoles has heard about the Nintendo Game Boy, which was first released back in 1989. Not many have heard about the Atari Lynx, which entered the handheld market in the same year as the Game Boy. Created by the legendary video game pioneer, Atari, the Lynx was the first handheld device with a colored LCD screen and a 16-bit processor with graphics that rivaled some home consoles. It could be used by both lefties and righties easily.
The major complaint about the Lynx, besides the price, was the fact that it was about as large as an actual lynx. Unfortunately for Atari, the Game Boy proved to be a huge success. The huge handheld would lose to the enormously successful Game Boy, largely due to the price of $200 to the Game Boy’s $110 and Nintendo’s marketing campaign. The Lynx faded away by the mid 90s and sold about 1 million units.
Haven’t heard of this console? Neither have most other people (for a reason we’ll address later). The Gizmondo was an interesting handheld console, with advanced features such as SMS messaging, MP3 and video playback, a camera, and GPS. It would be years before smartphones became popular and the Nintendo DS implemented these features. There was little to no marketing for the Gizmondo, and it was sold exclusively in mall kiosks. Yes, mall kiosks. Shocking to think it didn’t become a smash success.
It was released in 2005 for $400 with only eight titles. An alternative $230 version was available, but it would be supported by ads. When it released, there were no ads anywhere to be found. Surprisingly, one of the leaders of the company behind the Gizmondo were criminals in Sweden. Sadly, this nifty handheld was a massive failure, having pathetically sold less than 30,000 units. Gizmondo’s creator company went bankrupt less than a year later.
3. Atari Jaguar
The once powerful and dominant Atari self-destructed with the Jaguar. This is #3 because it was the end of an era. The Jaguar promised to be a powerful, modern 64-bit console with great games, developer support, and an affordable price of $200. This console sounded too good to be true, and this was proven when the Jaguar released in 1993. The price was bumped up to $250, and some of the parts of the Jaguar were 32-bit. The processor wasn’t full 64-bit – it was actually two 32-bit processors working together.
The lies, price bump, lack of games at release (and ironically, poor developer support), and clunky controller lead to poor sales for the Jaguar. Two years later, with the releases of the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn, gamers quickly forgot about the Atari Jaguar. The Jaguar was the last nail in the coffin for Atari, which struggled since the Video Game Crash of 1983. Atari went bankrupt soon after, signifying the end of the legendary video game giant and pioneer.
2. Red Ring of Death (Xbox 360)
This isn’t exactly a fail on behalf of a console’s sales, or market share, or anything like that. The Microsoft Xbox 360 actually did quite well, outselling the Sony PlayStation 3 for the majority of its lifespan, and still outsells the PS3 in the US. There was one thing that heavily plagued the console, though, especially in its early years: the dreaded Red Ring of Death (RRoD).
Named after the red ring that was displayed when this ailment struck the console, the RRoD cost Microsoft millions upon millions in repairs and still affects X360s today. It was a hardware failure, specifically an overheating problem. The original versions of the X360 were affected the most, with newer ones rarely getting the Red Ring of Death. Microsoft learned their lesson though, designing the Xbox One to be large and bulky to allow room for fans and air flow, to keep the console from overheating.
1. Xbox One Reveal at E3 2013
Again, the Xbox One was not a failure of a console. While it may be losing to the PlayStation 4 in terms of overall sales, it’s still a success. What wasn’t a success was the reveal of the Xbox One at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2013. Microsoft displayed their Xbox One before Sony displayed their PlayStation 4, which made all of this worse. What happened, you may ask? Well, the Xbox One had horrible marketing and restrictive features at first. DRM (Digital Rights Management) was a big one, where the console had to be online at all times and used games would be eliminated completely. The name Xbox One also confused people, coming after the Xbox and Xbox 360.
A spying scare was caused by the Kinect as it would always be on, even when the console was off for voice commands. Lastly, it was announced that the Xbox One would cost $500, $100 more than the PS4. Consumer backlash was massive, and polls weighed heavily in the favor of Sony. Microsoft did a “360,” reversing most of the restrictive features and cutting the price of the console to compete with Sony. The Xbox One managed to get back on its feet and is now selling well, albeit not as well as the PlayStation 4 (which is now one the fastest selling consoles of all time).