The Failed: Not every console was a hit

The Failed: Not every console was a hit
"There were too few games": Hardly any explanation should be as plausible as to why a console ultimately flopped. After all, no matter how advanced the technology and no matter how promising a concept - if there aren't enough games for a platform in the end, nobody benefits. Even the experienced industry giant Nintendo was overwhelmed with this golden rule when it entered the market in 1996 with the Nintendo 64. The console was by no means a flop, but the Japanese lost their supremacy that they believed to be certain to the then newcomer Sony and its first Playstation. The main reason: The outdated module technology of the N64 unnecessarily restricted game developers, which is why especially experienced role-playing game manufacturers such as Squaresoft (Final Fantasy) or Enix (Dragon Quest) switched camps and preferred to produce for Sony's CD console.

Fortunately, Nintendo always had enough stamina, was able to easily stay afloat thanks to exemplary sales in the handheld sector and almost completely recovered at the latest with Wii and Switch. But our next case already shows that such a competition can also turn out very differently ...

Table of contents

Page 1 The failed ones: Not every console was a hit - Page 1 1.1 Out of breath 1.2 Never had a real chance 1.3 Atari's desperate attempts to return to market leadership 1.4 The one doomed to failure Rebellion Page 2 The Failed: Not Every Console Was a Hit - Page 2 2.1 Nothing Half And Nothing Whole 2.2 Death Through Innovation 2.3 The Biggest Air Bubble Of All Time 2.4 Well-Meant Is Still Lost 2.5 From Mass Market Grave To Collector's Hit Page 3 Picture Gallery Closed "The failed ones: Not every console was a hit" Aufklappen

No more breath

Sega was once one of the most popular console manufacturers, even if the Japanese constantly had to accept new failures. The Mega Drive, which is coveted both in Europe and the USA, was not a big hit in the Far East, for example, while the other way around, the Saturn stayed like lead on the shelves in this country. The 3DO already shone in 1993 with fully textured polygon games like Total Eclipse and thus came the PlayStation a year earlier. (1) Source: media agency plassma

Nevertheless, Sega did not want to give up so quickly and drew his last trump card with the Dreamcast. The console appeared in Japan at the end of 1998 and, in terms of technology, beat all competitors available to date by far. Unfortunately, it wasn't released for the western market until a year later, and the time advantage was gone. In the meantime, Sony had officially announced the Playstation 2 and enticed with a revolutionary feature at the time that turned out to be a real game changer: The black box was able to play DVD films - in contrast to the Dreamcast, on which an exotic GD-ROM Drive was used.

Because Sega did not understand how to bring the Dreamcast to men and women with striking slogans, the manufacturer lost again to the concentrated marketing power of Sony and a little later to Microsoft and the first Xbox . Even the numerous hits from Power Stone to Crazy Taxi to Shenmue, which could originally only be played on the Dreamcast, did not prevent Sega from saying goodbye as a hardware manufacturer and concentrating on developing games in the future.

Never had a real chance

Our next candidate has gone through a similar career to Sega, only that he accomplished the feat with one and not three consoles. We're talking about NEC and the PC Engine: The device appeared in 1987 in the midst of the change from the 8-bit to the 16-bit generation and was able to keep up with the Mega Drive that followed a year later, both graphically and musically. Thanks to capable developers like Hudson, Namco and Irem, the console benefited from extremely impressive arcade adaptations, including R-Type, Galaga 88 and Mr. Heli.

The PC engine achieved cult status among video game freaks, especially in Germany. This was mainly due to the extensive coverage of the games magazines Aktueller Markt (ASM for short) and Power Play, which tested all the important PC engine highlights and honored strong games such as Gunhed or Final Match Tennis with exceptionally high ratings. In addition, a CD-ROM drive for the console followed in 1988. And even if the first CD titles such as Fighting Street were anything but perfect, fantastic game fun pearls such as Ys Book 1 & 2, Dracula X: Rondo of Blood or Seirei Senshi Spriggan inspired over the years.

Die Games for the 3DO were sold in both small jewel cases and nice-sized boxes. Source: media agency plassma

Now there was a really stupid catch to the whole thing: the PC Engine never appeared in Germany! First of all, NEC put the US release in the sand: There the console debuted under the name TurboGrafx only in mid-1989 and thus only a few weeks before the Mega Drive, with which NEC had completely gambled away the lead from Japan. On the other hand, the company invested far too much money in preproduction, which an article published by Gamasutra in 2014 explained in great detail. As a result, the NEC boardroom boomed at 750,000 units at the time of publication, so that there was hardly any money left for solid marketing. For these reasons, TurboGrafx flopped in the USA, and a subsequent publication in Europe was no longer possible. The console was officially only sold in individual countries such as England, France or Spain, but in the form of a carelessly marketed import. The summit of humiliation: Although many German game fans still have a big heart for the PC Engine due to the reporting in ASM and Power Play at the time, they were passed over again at the beginning of 2020. At this point in time, the successful mini version PC Engine CoreGrafx appeared, which combines almost all the important game highlights and is one of the most loving console replicas. The menu of the PC Engine Mini is literally bursting with brilliant games. Nevertheless, just like the original console, the device was never officially marketed in Germany. Source: media agency plassma

Atari's desperate attempts to return to market leadership

So far we have focused on consoles that enjoy a good reputation despite disappointing sales. However, this does not necessarily apply to the many attempts by the former industry pioneer Atari, who sawed himself to pieces within a decade. The first big blow came in 1982 when the management team made one nonsensical decision after another. Due to an overproduction of Atari 2600 modules as well as the rather tolerably improved successor Atari 5200, the US group made heavy losses. Marked by the related big video game crash, the Atari department for home computers and video game consoles was bought by the former Commodore boss Jack Tramiel.

In the nicely designed Atari Jaguar packs slumbered next to the module and the manual often small cardboard cards. This one clamped over the small keyboard of the joypad and could see from the symbols at first glance which key triggered which function. Source: media agency plassma At least a decent computer followed in 1985 with the Atari ST, whereas the Atari 7800 could in no way keep up with the technically powerful Nintendo entertainment system. At the same time, game developer Epyx had a groundbreaking idea and designed a portable video game device, the cell phone. Unfortunately, the Californians were in financial difficulties and therefore needed a partner. While the top Japanese companies all canceled, in the end only one remained: Atari.

Despite the deal, Epyx was bankrupt that same year. Suddenly Atari had a technically extremely advanced child prodigy in the truest sense of the word. It had a color display and a very powerful graphics chip that could continuously enlarge or reduce objects - mind you a year before the Super Nintendo! The resolution of 160x102 pixels turned out to be quite low, but shrewd game developers were able to compensate for this deficiency thanks to the rich color palette had a bad reputation. Source: media agency plassma The cell phone was finally renamed the Atari Lynx and could actually have been a huge success. Unfortunately, the great technology came at a high price, so that Atari estimated just under 180 US dollars for the bulky handheld for the US release at the end of 1989 and a proud 399 D-Marks in Germany the following year. On top of that, there were problems with power consumption; Depending on the batteries used, the lights went out on the Lynx within one to four hours.

All of this would have been half as wild if Nintendo hadn't shaken up the market with the Game Boy at the same time. The small gray box could only display a handful of shades of green, but the batteries lasted up to 15 hours at a time, the acquisition costs were half as expensive and numerous top titles such as Tetris or Super Mario Land appealed to an unusually large number of non-players. In addition, in contrast to the Lynx, the Game Boy was nice and small and compact, which is why it was much easier to take it anywhere.

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30 years of the Sega Mega Drive in Europe: 16 bits for a Hallelujah

In retrospect, we explore the history of the Sega Mega Drive and explain how Sega tripped the market leader Nintendo at the time. var lstExcludedArticleTicker = '1364123,1363618'; Atari was hit even worse with the infamous Jaguar, with which they seriously wanted to compete with the next generation of consoles in the form of Playstation, Sega Saturn and Nintendo 64. This time the Americans relied on the time advantage over the Japanese and put the console on the market as early as 1993. An aggressive advertising campaign wanted to refer potential buyers to the alleged 64-bit capability, as Sony, Sega and Co. still rely on disdainful 32-bit. But in the end the technical aspect didn't matter, because the layman didn't understand the difference anyway and - much worse - the games definitely didn't look better.

Last but not least, the Atari Jaguar failed because of its far too complicated hardware design. In short: It was a horror to develop a game for the device or to implement it from another system. With Tempest 2000 or Alien vs Predator some technically very competent titles appeared. But the bottom line was that the offer was far too poor to hold its own against the concentrated power from the Far East.

The dogfight simulation Warbirds (1991) was one of the technically most impressive games for the Atari Lynx. The developers made excellent use of the handheld's advanced graphics chip. Source: media agency plassma

The doomed rebellion

Almost at the same time as the Jaguar debacle, another wanted to get into the lucrative video game business: Trip Hawkins, the former boss of Electronic Arts. The man had a dream and founded the company 3DO in 1991 to revolutionize the market with a state-of-the-art console. Hawkins primarily relied on the still young CD-ROM medium, which on the one hand provided significantly more storage space than a normal module and, on the other hand, required dramatically lower production costs per unit.

Hawkins also knew all too well how fierce the console market was. So he lured the game developers with a fabulous offer and asked a mere three dollars for every CD sold, while Nintendo or Sega earned a multiple for their modules. Unfortunately, the calculation was made without the brutal reality, after all, the competition was asking for so much money for a reason. This was the only way to bring the most advanced console possible to the market at the lowest possible price. Hawkins, on the other hand, had to make up for the deficit through profit in hardware sales.

The games for the 3DO were sold in small jewel cases as well as in nice large boxes. Source: media agency plassma There was also the rather daring idea that 3DO should not produce any devices at all. Instead, the license was sold to established electronics manufacturers such as Panasonic, Goldstar and Samsung. So it was no wonder that the price was adventurously high in the end - a 3DO console was available for just under $ 700 for the US release. For comparison: The Super Nintendo cost 200 dollars two years earlier, while two years later even Sega's Saturn was significantly cheaper at 400 dollars.

The 3DO was supplied with decent games for about two years, mainly from Electronic Arts originated. The developer cleverly used the technical advantages of the hardware, which among other things resulted in the best FIFA version of the time. In addition, completely new franchises such as the racing game series The Need for Speed ​​celebrated their debut at the 3DO. When Sony's PlayStation appeared in Europe and the USA in 1995 and passed 3DO from a standstill, EA left its former boss out in the rain without mercy.

You can only find the infamous link on CD-i: Die Gratzen play of evil from 1993. In addition, the device could play video CDs, although depending on the series module, the additional purchase of a digital video cartridge was necessary. Source: media agency plassma

As a result, the idea failed because of their far too high ambitions and the resulting purchase price, which forced many video game enthusiasts to sell their old consoles and games. A decision that he must have bitterly regretted a good 20 years later when he first saw the current Ebay prices for well-preserved Super Nintendo modules ...

On the side, the debacle surrounding Philips CD- I mentioned that it also wanted to impress with CD technology and also want to lure customers with hip multimedia capabilities. Philips even managed a one-time deal with Nintendo and received the licenses from Mario and Zelda. But the games developed exclusively for the CD-i were boring at best (Hotel Mario) - and at worst they were unplayable junk (Link: The Grimaces of Evil). The CD-i quickly sank into oblivion.

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