Market Overview

SLIDESHOW: A History Of Video Game Console And Handheld Flops

Consumers have not always been kind to console and handheld manufacturers.

While Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) may have earned a degree of loyalty for producing iPhones and iPads, gamers are less likely to stand by their favorite hardware maker.

This became evident the moment that Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) announced a list of requirements and restrictions for its new console, Xbox One.

The consumer response was so negative, that Microsoft ultimately abandoned its controversial policies.

Even with those policies in place, will Xbox One have enough fans to sell out at retail this November? Before the policies could have hurt the system's long-term potential, Microsoft got rid of them.

That said, bad policies can only do so much damage. Over the last 20+ years, consumers have typically avoided new hardware that failed to deliver a great gaming experience. The MSRP can also be a turnoff, but Sony's (NYSE: SNE) PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Xbox 360 proved that high prices are not a death sentence.

Louis Bedigian is the Senior Tech Analyst and Features Writer of Benzinga. You can reach him at 248-636-1322 or louis(at)benzingapro(dot)com. Follow him @LouisBedigianBZ

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    Atari's Jaguar

    Atari's Jaguar

    Atari was once the largest game console manufacturer in the world.

    That changed after Nintendo (OTC: NTDOY) and Sega invaded the company's territory.

    Atari made things worse by releasing a console, Jaguar, that few consumers wanted.

    While Jaguar was more powerful than the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, it lacked the one thing that mattered most: great games.

    Atari retired the system after selling a mere 250,000 units in 12 months.

    Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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    Panasonic's 3DO

    Panasonic's 3DO

    Consumers were universally turned off by Jaguar, but they were intrigued by Panasonic's (OTC: PCRFY) 3DO.

    As one of the most expensive and most advanced consoles of the early '90s, gamers were eager to see what Panasonic had created.

    At the time, Panasonic was one of the most respected electronics manufacturer in the world, second only to the likes of Sony (NYSE: SNE).

    After taking the console for a spin at various department stores, gamers quickly learned that there was nothing to get excited about.

    Panasonic's first and only game console was retired after selling just two million units.

    That's more than the Jaguar, but it was not nearly enough to keep the 3DO alive.

    Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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    Sega CD

    Sega CD

    Sega CD is sort of a flop and a weird success story rolled into one.

    On one hand, the console only sold six million units at a time when the Super NES sold 49 million units.

    On the other hand, Sega CD was an add-on that could not be used without the Genesis, Sega's other console.

    The Genesis sold 29.5 million units, which was considered to be a very large number (in the early 1990s, at least).

    Thus, it could be assumed that roughly one in five (29.5 / 6 = 4.9) of those Genesis owners purchased the upgrade.

    That wasn't enough to prevent the system from dying off prematurely, but it's still more impressive than Sega's second add-on, the 32X.

    Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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    Sega 32X

    Sega 32X

    For better or worse, Sega had a lot of flops.

    It's not for a lack of trying -- and it wasn't always for a lack of good games.

    Consumers only have so much money to spend, and they would rather put their hard-earned cash in consoles that aren't tethered to other gaming devices.

    When the Sega 32X arrived at retail, consumers were too disappointed by the Sega CD to care.

    Instead of supporting one (and only one) add-on, Sega released two of them.

    Consequently, only 200,000 units of the 32X were sold.

    Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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    Sega Saturn

    Sega Saturn

    Few realize that Sega Saturn was a little ahead of the competition.

    It shipped before Sony's (NYSE: SNE) PlayStation and the Nintendo 64 (OTC: NTDOY).

    It also received a controller with an analog stick before Sony decided to build one, and before the Nintendo 64 (the first console to ship with a thumbstick) arrived at retail.

    Most importantly, Saturn was the first console to offer a true, three-dimensional gaming experience. It didn't feature 3D images that popped out of the screen (a la Nintendo 3DS), but it offered 3D worlds that were unlike any other.

    These features weren't enough to persuade the masses. While the Saturn arrived ahead of its competitors and featured a solid launch lineup of games, the price ($400) was exorbitant.

    Sony's console was $100 cheaper and featured a much stronger lineup of games. It also had more games on the horizon -- especially from third-party developers.

    This seriously hurt the Saturn, which sold only 8.8 million units.

    The original PlayStation went on to sell 104 million units.

    Note: Dreamcast is being excluded from this list because it is not technically a flop. By selling 8.2 million units, the console retained nearly every Saturn customer. That is not the definition of a flop -- it is actually a success story.

    Unfortunately, eight million customers are not enough to keep a hardware manufacturer afloat. The industry had become too harsh and too competitive to keep going, which is why Sega became a third-party developer.

    Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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    Nokia's N-Gage

    Nokia's N-Gage

    Up until recently, Nokia (NYSE: NOK) enjoyed years of high profits and massive success.

    Those profits -- and the strong brand name -- have helped the company survive during hard times.

    One of the hardest times involved a multi-million dollar gaming project: N-Gage.

    While Nokia deserves some credit for producing the first cell phone that took games seriously, the end result did not live up to expectations.

    With only three million units sold in three years, Nokia got the message and exited the game industry.

    Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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    Sega Nomad

    Sega Nomad

    In the early '90s, Sega had a great concept.

    The company wanted to allow gamers to take their high-end Genesis games wherever they go.

    The solution was a bulky handheld device called the Sega Nomad. At $180 bucks, only one million consumers were willing to acquire the new device.

    This wasn't technically a console, but it could be hooked to a TV and featured a controller port for two players, essentially eliminating the need for the original Genesis.

    Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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    Nintendo's Wii U

    Nintendo's Wii U

    Last fall, Wii U sold so well that it was impossible to call Nintendo's (OTC: NTDOY) latest console a "flop."

    During the March quarter, Nintendo sold 390,000 units worldwide.

    That was more than a million units less than the company anticipated.

    During the June quarter, Wii U sales were even worse. Only 160,000 units were sold.

    This sales decline came after Nintendo announced several new games and held demo events at Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) stores across the United States.

    According to IGN, European consumers only bought up 10,000 of the 160,000 units sold.

    "That's almost unbelievable," IGN's Keza MacDonald wrote. "The older-gen consoles sell far more than that weekly."

    Even if sales magically pick up in 2014, Wii U would still be considered a flop during its first eight months at retail. Thus far, it has been the biggest video game hardware flop of 2013.

    Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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    Nintendo's Virtual Boy

    Nintendo's Virtual Boy

    Before Wii U became the flop that people can't stop talking about, Nintendo (OTC: NTDOY) released the Virtual Boy.

    "Virtual" as in "virtually no one bought it."

    It was a nice concept, but the dizzying display, cumbersome setup and lousy game lineup prevented it from taking off.

    Only 770,000 units were sold.

    Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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    Philips' CD-i

    Philips' CD-i

    Can game consoles be sold with a late-night infomercial?

    Philips (NYSE: PHG) was determined to find out.

    Kids may remember staying up to watch the promo for CD-i, the company's only game console. It seemed like a nice idea, but the infomercial left a lot to be desired.

    Philips managed to release two Zelda games for the platform, thanks entirely to a convoluted contract with Nintendo (OTC: NTDOY). But they both looked terrible.

    Thus, when the CD-i went on sale in 1991 for the absurdly high price of $700, consumers stayed away.

    By the time CD-i was retired, Philips had only sold 570,000 units.

    Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • Close Next 11/11 Previous

    Wii U's Struggles Continue

 

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