Over the history of video games, there have been more consoles than most people think. People think about the dominance of Sega and Nintendo in the prime of video games, and of course the Atari VCS (aka Atari 2600) before that. In the modern era, gamers think about Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo as the big three. Of course, this is true today, but back in the day, all kinds of odd systems hit the market, some of which were from the big companies, and for one reason or another, they just never seemed to catch on with gamers at the time.
It’s a shame really, because some of the consoles that launched and failed miserably were actually good ideas. Some failed because of poor execution, while others were executed well and just did not gain any steam with the gaming community as a whole. For one reason or another, each of these consoles had something going for it, even if it was not successful. In some cases, I feel bad for the companies as the console was well-made, in other cases, the companies need to be scorned for squandering a great idea.
Either way, the consoles that follow were all great ideas that just did not succeed in the competitive video game market.
Let me get this out of the way right now – the Virtual Boy is a flaming pile of garbage. However, it was an awesome idea. Nintendo’s initial announcement of a system where you place your face in the system and enter a virtual world was one of the most intriguing in video game history. Then we realized the system could only render the color red, and it caused more pain than fun while playing.
It’s too bad really; the Virtual Boy could have been awesome, but it was too far ahead of its time and the technology was not there to make a system like this. Nintendo discontinued it shortly after its release, and with good reason.
The Neo Geo was way ahead of its time. It was literally a whole console generation ahead of its competition in terms of hardware. It offered quality of graphics and gameplay that was on par with the arcades of the time, which was more than any other console could say. It also came with a price tag that was a little too close to that of an arcade machine as well.
It hit the US market at $649.99. To put that in perspective, the PS3 hit the market at $600 15 years later, and people complained that it was overpriced. The system was great, but it never had a chance at that price.
The Dreamcast is, in my opinion, one of the best video game consoles ever released. It had graphics that were ahead of the competition, an amazing controller with cool visual memory cards, a sleek design, and some great games. However, it failed so badly that it prompted Sega to leave the console market and move to being strictly a software company.
Perhaps consumers were burned by Sega’s odd strategy of releasing the 32X, Sega CD, and Saturn so close together. Either way, the Dreamcast is a system that did not deserve its fate, and it will always hold a special place in the hearts of gamers everywhere.
I am going really old school on this one, but the Vectrex deserves to be mentioned. The Vectrex featured beautiful vector-based graphics that looked a lot better than the other video game consoles of the early 80s. It also featured an amazing arcade-like controller that allowed developers to create games that closely rivaled those of the arcades.
The sad thing is, the Vectrex didn’t mess anything up; it was simply a victim of timing. It launched right around the time of the great video game crash of 1983, and at that point, no new video game console could have succeeded. It lost Milton Bradley, the eventual owners of the device, tens of millions of dollars.
Game Boy Micro
The Game Boy Micro was not as much of a failure as some of the other consoles on the list, but it certainly was not a success. It’s unfortunate, because this was an awesome handheld console. It was built on the GameBoy Advanced platform, and Nintendo essentially led it to slaughter with the release of the DS. This thing is the epitome of handheld gaming.
It’s absolutely tiny, and is perfect for carrying around in your pocket. It also came with a better backlit screen than its predecessor, the GameBoy Advanced SP. It might be one of the best Nintendo handhelds in terms of portability, but it didn’t stand a chance going up against Nintendo’s own DS.
There are plenty of other failed video game consoles out there such as the CD-i, the 3DO, the Atari Jaguar, the Atari Linx, and the Sega 32X, but those consoles were most certainly not good ideas. The ones on this list were actually good consoles (except the Virtual Boy) they just had bad timing or poor execution that prevented them from succeeding. It’s too bad, but these failures have helped lead video games to where they are today, and that’s a good place.