Like any medium, the world of video game consoles has had its ups and downs. Some consoles were huge groundbreaking successes like the original NES, Playstation and Xbox. Others, however, were failures (The Atari 2600, in a strange way, may have been both). Some of the worst consoles ever made are infamous in their failure, while others might not be as well known. Most of these failures have things in common: Bad technology (often from being the first to use it) and a lack of games available (usually from not enough third-party titles being developed and/or licensed).
If there is any good reason why the Virtual Boy should not top this list, it’s only the argument that it shouldn’t be on the list at all for not being a real console. But this 3D virtual reality machine was completely separate from Nintendo’s other consoles with its own game library, so it counts. The monochrome screen was worse than the first Game Boy. It supposedly damaged players’ eyes if they played it too long (Nintendo had to include a warning in the instructions). Only 14 games were released outside Japan, with only two by third parties. There was a Waterworld game, based on one of the biggest box-office flops of all time. The N64 is widely regarded as a failure in comparison to its competitors, but at least it produced some memorable games like Ocarina of Time and Super Smash Bros. The Virtual Boy is widely regarded as one of the biggest jokes and main reasons Nintendo fell from grace in the late 1990s.
Perhaps the only thing good about laserdiscs was that they set the foundation for manufacturers finally getting it right with DVDs. Still, it should come as no surprise that Pioneer’s console that used those discs the size of vinyl records was as successful as the movie players of the same technology. The console itself was priced at $970 U.S. in 1993 – four time the cost of the Sega Genesis. The system did include modules for playing Genesis and TurboGrafix 16 games – sold separately at $600 each and still needed in order to play the console’s own games. And only 13 of those games were ever released. To make matters worse, the console was showcased behind closed doors at the 1993 Consumer Electronics Show, meaning few people found out about. It may be the worst game console no one knows of.
Apple Bandai Pippin
The Playstation 3 received a lot of flack since its release. But amazingly, there is precedent for a console with the same problems that the PS3 endured. Apple’s only dive into the game console market came in 1996 with a console that had a $599 price tag. Like the PS3, advertisers tried defending the price by claiming the Pippin was a small computer that also played console games; the public didn’t buy it. Its lack of public interest led to no third-party games except from Bandai. It even had the same crescent moon-shaped controller as the PS3! Apple has rebounded since with its plethora of amazing computers and devices. Too bad Sony picked up on one of the few that bombed.
As pointed out earlier, Nintendo fell behind the competition with the fifth generation of game consoles. But its fall was nothing compared to Atari at the same time, as its release of the first 64-bit console proved to be its last console. The console sold at a fair price of $249.99 at its 1993 release. But unfortunately, consumers still didn’t trust Atari anymore, a decade after the 2600 caused the Video Game Crash of 1993. Sales plummeted after the 1993 holiday season, and that, combined with the 64-bit technology still having several bugs, led to few third-party games. The Jaguar never made it past a niche audience, and the manufacturer of the first-ever successful console dropped out of the market for good. However, like its 2600 predecessor, the console remains popular among those making homebrew games.
Would you want to interrupt your game play to take a phone call on the console? A lot of gamers didn’t, and that’s one of the big reasons the N-Gage bombed. Nokia stepped into the handheld console market in 2003 with their own version of the Game Boy Advance that also doubled as a cellphone. The console buttons were designed with the phone in mind, and that proved inconvenient for the games. Players had to take out the device’s battery compartment to load games. The “White Screen of Death” memory overload made the phone not work. Nokia finally transferred the N-Gage game platform to its smartphones in 2005 and stopped making games four years later, making the N-Gage one of the latest consoles to fail – but likely not the last.