Top-10 Forgotten Consoles
We’ve shined a light on what were in my view the best and worst consoles in history, now it’s time to shine a light on the consoles that never made it. Whether it came down to bad timing, a far more powerful competitor or just plain old bad luck, these are the consoles which by all right should have been successful but never became such…
By the mid-90s, the poor old Game Gear was at the end of its rope. Sega did have one more trial at making a handheld system before it bowed out of the market entirely. The Sega Nomad was an incredibly cool concept for a system, it was essentially a portable Mega Drive, it ran Mega Drive’s games and had far improved battery-life in comparison to the Game Gear.
Considering the Game Boy Advance, roughly the equivalent of a portable SNES, wouldn’t be released until eight years later, a portable 16-bit console would have seemed like a gift from god. So why didn’t the Nomad succeed?
Probably discouraged by the Game Gear’s lack of success, Sega only released the Nomad in North America and only about a million units were sold. There was not a big push for the system considering it came out the same year as the Saturn and Sega was already heading into trouble with the botched up release of that system. So the Nomad never even had a chance…
The unquestionable number-1 console of the early 80s was the Atari 2600. Competing against it on a scale of only one tenth of Atari’s success was the Intellivision. It therefore is no surprise why the Coleco toy-company’s own console didn’t fare so well.
Outwardly the system appeared to be a direct rip-off of the Intellivision, with a similar design and practically the same library of games. But the Colecovision had a charm all its own. Whereas the Intellivision tried to pass itself off as a computer system as well as video-game console, the ColecoVision was indeed a gamers’ system. It even came with Donkey Kong as a packaged game.
Unfortunately, the ultimate reason for the Colecovision’s failure was it’s incredibly unfortunate timing. The system came out in 1982, a year before the great video-game crash was about to hit full swing. Therefore the system was only out for two years before Coleco retired their video-games division entirely.
However, the system at least has its own cult following, so at least it’s still remembered by many enthusiasts, even if it wasn’t the most successful system out there.
The original Magnavox Odyssey was the first video-game system ever made and steaming pile of shit. However its follow-up, Odyssey 2, was in fact a very respectable gaming platform. Released a year after the Atari 2600, the Odyssey attempted to make a name for itself in the very, very early video-game market.
The Odyssey had hard-wired controls and came with a keyboard in order to double its functionality as a home computer. Odyssey was also available globally and you have to admire the tenacity of the Magnavox company, who refused to give up even after their first attempt at making a console was so utterly crushed by Atari’s Pong.
Unfortunately the Odyssey 2 met with a similar fate to the original Odyssey. Whereas Atari was good at marketing their system and easily gained massive support for it, the Odyssey 2 struggled through most of its existence, being pushed aside by bigger and flashier consoles.
But at least they gave it their all.
Alright, even though I put the N-Gage on the list of worst consoles ever made, I do have to give Nokia credit for having the guts to try and make it in a market dominated so utterly by Nintendo. Though the N-Gage only lasted a few years, it was at least respectable attempt making a hand-held system and not a complete train-wreck like so many others.
For one, even though the N-Gage was undoubtedly badly designed, Nokia did smooth over the worst of the design problems with the QD-model. Secondly, the system actually had some serious third-party support from the likes of Sega, Capcom, EA, THQ and many more.
Thirdly, the N-Gage’s underlying problem was an image problem. Nokia didn’t focus enough on the N-Gage’s gaming aspects and instead marketed it as a phone. Making a multi-purpose handheld device was not a bad idea in and of itself, but Nokia should have known to focus on gaming as the system’s main selling point, rather than the mobile services.
Sega is really the long-distance runner of under-appreciated consoles and nothing says it quite as clearly as the SG-1000 line of consoles. With the release of the system in 1982, Sega became the first Japanese console developer. There were several iterations of the SG-1000, each slightly more advanced than the last and all backwards compatible with the previous version’s games.
Unfortunately, Sega simply couldn’t compete with the name value of Japan’s most popular games company, Nintendo. When the FamiCom hit the shelves in Japan in 1983, it immediately outsold the SG-1000s. Later, when the FamiCom, released under the name of Nintendo Entertainment System, revitalised the video-game market in North America, Sega attempted to follow in its foot-steps. They upgraded the latest version of the SG-1000 line, Sega Mark III, and released it as the Master System in 1986.
Sadly, the Master System failed to ever become a serious contender against the NES. The system’s marketing in North Americawas botched up and elsewhere it only gained moderate success. However, Sega never gave up on the SG-1000 line, which was still going strong well into the 1990s, making it one of the longest lived consoles in history.
The Atari company went bankrupt in 1984 and caused the video-game industry to die as a result. When Nintendo revived the market a year later – Atari, now owned by Time Warner, attempted to make a comeback to the world of video-games with the 7800. Sadly, the system didn’t stand a chance against the market giant Nintendo or even against its humble opponent Sega.
It’s really a shame since the 7800 was in fact a decent 8-bit system in its own right. It had easily the same level of performance as the NES or Master System and like all Atari systems before it, was backwards compatible with prior Atari games.
Unfortunately the 7800 lacked a serious marketing edge, not to mention it was released in 1987, a mere year before Sega would bring out its Mega Drive system and start the 16-bit console war. The 7800 simply didn’t have a chance, not to mention practically no third-party support to speak of. The system was abandoned after a few years.
One thing is for certain, it was definitely Ataris final solid console before their horrendous attempts with the Lynx and the Jaguar.
The Saturn is the console that unfortunately started Sega’s down-hill trend to the eventual dissolution of their console manufacturing. The Saturn’s failed release in North America, way too soon with no games to speak of, meant that the system became quickly irrelevant with the arrival of the Sony PlayStation and the Nintendo 64.
However, to say that the Saturn didn’t have anything to offer would be a serious mistake. First of all, it was technically on par with the PlayStation performance wise. It had more or less the same major game releases during its first few years of activity, plus an impressive catalogue of unique releases. Particularly, Sega was still extremely popular in the arcades and the ports of its arcade-releases were one thing that you couldn’t get on the other 32/64-bit consoles of the day.
The unfortunate side to Sega’s game releasing was that once it finally got off to a start it was Sega themselves who ruined their chances of catching up to the PlayStation. Several major releases remained exclusive to Japan due to the company’s overtly selective game releasing, which reflected less on the proverbial “Western tastes” than it did on the company’s own extremely poor judgement of their prime audience.
The Advanced Entertainment System or as it is more commonly referred to, Neo-Geo, was the definite peak of 16-bit gaming in the early 1990s. The SNK company was the King of the Arcades and let everyone know it by releasing the AES console, the only console that would play accurate ports of their arcade titles.
It’s fair to say that the Neo-Geo AES was never destined to sales greatness. The system was simply too expensive for the average consumer, but unlike practically every other console developer, it was never SNK’s intention to turn the AES into a major money-maker. The system was dedicated solely to the most hardcore arcade lovers out there.
Unfortunately SNK’s later console ventures would eventually lead the company to some major financial difficulties but at least their very first console was gem. Unfortunately it was limited in very few parts in the world and its high price range made it more of a collectible than a genuine video-game system, but definitely it has deserved its reputation as one of the greats.
As mentioned before, the Dreamcast is a console that everyone loves. Sadly, it was also a console that not too many people bought. With an active production from 1999 till 2001, it enjoyed the shortest shelf-life of any Sega console and was almost immediately killed off by the appearance of the Sony PlayStation 2.
More tragically, not many people even remember the Dreamcast, whereas at one point it was the talk of the town. A high-performance system with excellent games and even full online support at a time when such a thing was very rare and luxurious.
There are many who wish that Sega could have held out long enough for the Dreamcast to turn to profit so that we could see several console manufacturers competing for dominance. With such titles as Sonic Adventure, Shen Mue, Soul Calibur, Dance Dance Revolution, Space Channel 5, Resident Evil and many more, it’s quite a shame and surprise the Dreamcast bit the dust so soon.
The NEC electronics company tried to make a serious entry into the console industry in the late 1980s. The NEC PC Engine actually became a very popular system upon its release in 1988, matching the sales of both the FamiCom and the brand new Sega Mega Drive system. NEC seemed ready to take on the world next. Sadly, in the west the TurboGrafx-16 didn’t manage to make much of an impact, largely due to the aggressiveness of Sega and due to NEC lacking experience when it came to hawking their merchandise to the West.
However, the TurboGrafx was a respectable system with some serious titles to its name. Performance wise it may have been slightly overpowered by the Mega Drive and SNES, but still put out high-quality games. It may have also had one of the only CD add-ons that was worth a damn since NEC actually released some top-notch games for it. The sad truth was that the TurboGrafx was practically unknown in the US and it was never even fully released in Europe.
The TurboGrafx was however a solid game system and therefore its a shame that NEC was reduced to being the third system. Then again, the heated console war between Nintendo and Sega really meant that NEC was caught in the cross-fire. With a little luck, NEC could have still been around for the 32-bit era, but only finding solid success in Japan meant that they couldn’t go on competing with the big boys.