5 Embarrassingly Disastrous Video Game Consoles
There are plenty of debates regarding gaming consoles. Is Xbox better than PlayStation? What about the Switch? Is PC better than any console? If you agree with the last question, I'm sure that you've already written a comment about how great your PC is. No matter what your platform of choice is, though, everyone can agree on one thing. The following consoles are absolute donkey poop ...
Gizmondo - The Mafia Machine
If you're in the market for a game console that was produced by the Swedish mafia, look no further than the Gizmondo. Made by Swedish company Tiger Telematics and released to the U.S., U.K., and Sweden in 2005, the Gizmondo was a handheld console that also had a camera, GPS, and music player. In an age where Nintendo dominated the handheld market, the Gizmondo aimed to provide a challenge by being both a handheld console and a personal digital assistant, or PDA. (It's been a while since PDAs were a thing ... do people still know what those are?)
But when the Gizmondo hit the market, it crashed hard. It sold less than 25,000 units in its first and only year, which makes it one of the lowest-selling consoles of all time. The first thing that held the console back was its price. The Gizmondo did have fairly impressive technology, but it cost $400. But don't worry, a cheaper model did exist …. that played ads. Yes, the budget version of the game console that no one wanted regularly interrupted play sessions for commercial breaks.
But those who could shell out for the better model or who could tolerate the ads were able to unlock the keys to a dazzling library of a whopping 14 games ... unless they were American, in which case they only got to play eight. Thankfully, American Gizmondo players -- all five of them -- got to play the all-time classic, Sticky Balls, which is unironically considered the best game on the consoles. Those unlikely few who did play the thing noted that it felt uncomfortable to play due to its small button size and overall layout.
While poor sales put any plans for Gizmondo's future on hold, things got much worse when it was revealed that several Gizmondo executives had connections to the Swedish mafia (we weren't kidding earlier). This negative publicity exploded when executive and mobster Stefan Eriksson crashed a Ferrari in California while driving at nearly 200 miles per hour. Maybe if he used the Gizmondo as a GPS, things would've gone better. This certainly got more people talking about Gizmondo, but it didn't sell consoles.
Virtual Boy - A Literal Headache To Own
Nintendo's highs outweigh their lows by miles. Their current console, the Switch, has sold more than 78 million units since it launched in 2017. When Nintendo has failed, though, their failures have been fascinatingly bad, and they have had no stranger failure than 1995's Virtual Boy. As the name implies, the Virtual Boy was meant to capitalize on the mid-'90s virtual reality craze. Instead of taking gamers into a virtual reality dream, it took them into a red, hellish nightmare. The console's goal was to create a 3D visual effect, which is "achieved" with an uncomfortable headset with mirrors for each eye. The visuals were created with LEDs, and because red was cheap, that was the one color that the Virtual Boy produced.
For some players, this system made the Virtual Boy sort of 3-D. For most, it just gave them headaches. And essentially, no one could play it for an extended period of time due to the eye strain that the 3-D gimmick produced. Because Nintendo themselves worried that the console would be a liability, it gave reminders to players to take breaks every 15 minutes. Even the Virtual Boy did not want you to play the Virtual Boy.
Nintendo sold about 770,000 Virtual Boys worldwide. That's a huge number compared to the Gizmondo, but a complete disappointment compared to anything Nintendo made before or after. A total of 22 games were made for the red machine, all of which were released in 1995. If players could get past the red visual torture of playing the Virtual Boy, there were a few quality titles released for the platform. Virtual Boy Wario Land is considered a great platformer that even has some neat visual effects for those who could actually experience Virtual Boy 3D. They also had a game called Red Alarm, which is about the most appropriate title ever conceived.
While it would be a complete lie to say that the Virtual Boy was an underappreciated console, it is worth mentioning that the console never really stood a chance. In 1995, Nintendo was focusing all of its effort on developing the Nintendo 64. They knew that the 64 wasn't ready to launch yet, so they released the Virtual Boy as a way to get some sort of attention in the meantime. The Virtual Boy's technology was not the virtual reality experience that was originally envisioned, but it hit store shelves regardless.
Ouya - The “Is Pepsi Okay?” Of Consoles
What do you get when your game console receives more than $8.5 million on Kickstarter? A small box that runs Android, apparently. Yes, the Ouya was the most exciting gaming project of 2013. In an era where mainstream games felt homogenous with endless Call of Duty clones and annual Assassin's Creed titles, the market for independent games was thriving, and the creators of Ouya wanted to capitalize on that. Prior to launch, the Ouya had a sort of punk edge to it. It was a gaming console that wasn't made by a giant company. It was going to cost 99 dollars, and Ouya players could demo every game on the virtual Ouya store. To enhance their punk image, they even did a few marketing stunts like setting up a tent outside of E3, gaming's biggest annual event. This was promptly shut down by the cops.
Alas, all the money and publicity in the world could not mask the truth of the matter; there was nothing impressive about the Ouya. When it launched in late June 2013, gamers worldwide gave a collective shrug. What was there to say? It was an Android device. If you liked playing mobile phone games and wanted to do it on the TV, then maybe Ouya was for youya. For everyone else, there was really nothing worth playing. Outside of the thing being a flawed idea from the start, there were concerns with the product's quality as well. Ouya's controllers just didn't feel quite right and served as constant reminders that this was a budget console after all.
This is when Ouya went from being an indie darling to a meme. This single interview with Ouya's founder Julie Uhrman is a goldmine of quotes regarding the console. Regarding the hardware, Uhrman said, "There is nothing special about this board." Yep, that was what everyone thought. Despite the Kickstarter hype, the public lost interest in Ouya after it launched, and the console was discontinued in 2015 with just 200,000 units sold. Poor Ouya. We barely knewya.
Nokia N-Gage - The Worst Of Both Worlds
Nokia is acclaimed for its history of nearly unbreakable phones, like 2000's famous Nokia 3310. They are not known for their gaming hardware, but in 2003, they attempted to change that with the N-Gage. This device sought to tap into the handheld gaming market, which at the time was dominated by Nintendo's Game Boy Advance. Rather than just making a handheld console, though, Nokia's Game Boy competitor was a handheld console-cell phone hybrid.
And the result was the Taco Phone. While time has mostly left the N-Gage behind, the device was a bit of a meme back in its day. The N-Gage's horizontal design was inspired by other handheld gaming devices, like the original Game Boy Advance model. It had a screen in the middle, a d-pad on the left, and buttons on the right. While it almost looked like a normal gaming device, when a user held it up to their ear for a phone call, it looked like they were talking on a taco. It became a trend for users to jokingly take pictures of themselves with the Taco Phone. Is the joke all that funny? Nah, not really, but honestly, the people who bought the N-Gage had nothing better to do with it.
As a gaming console, the N-Gage was at best uninteresting and at worst unintuitive. For starters, this was just as much a phone as it was a console. This was especially true for the button layout. While it did feature a directional pad for movement, the rest of the buttons were on a keypad similar to any mobile phone in the day. While games like Snake were commonly played with keypads like this, full games like Sonic the Hedgehog just felt awkward with the mobile phone buttons. The cell phone design was also seen in the N-Gage's screen, laid out vertically like a phone instead of horizontally like a game console. These mobile phone features just made the console never quite feel comfortable to play.
Unlike the other consoles on this list, the N-Gage sold over a million units, but it failed to make a dent in the handheld console market. While the idea of a phone-console hybrid was cool, the final result was impractical compared to real consoles and far more expensive than other phones on the market.
Philips CD-I - Everything About It
If you were into memes around 2008, you probably have seen at least one game from the CD-i's abysmal library. Released in 1990, the CD-i was created to be a multimedia console. The technology for the CD-i was co-developed by Philips and Sony, but Philips became almost synonymous with the console itself. One of those companies would go on to stake a major claim on the gaming market, and the other is Philips. Because the CD-i was created to not only be a gaming platform, the console itself looks much more like a big DVD player or cable box, and some of the models had controllers that looked much more like TV remotes than gamepads. As a platform for movies or videos, the CD-i flopped. This was no doubt in part to its absurd price of $1,000 at launch.
Where the CD-i gained its true infamy, though, was through its games. At one point, Philips and Sony were in talks with Nintendo to create a CD add-on for the popular Super Nintendo Entertainment System. These talks fell through, but as a weird result of these plans, Philips had the rights to create games with Nintendo properties for the CD-i. This proved to be a big mistake.
There were three Legend of Zelda games and one Mario game produced for the CD-i. Each of them was terrible, unplayable even. Hotel Mario, the CD-i's lone outing with the world's most famous plumber, consisted of running around and closing doors. What took these terrible titles to the next level was their hilarious cutscenes.
CD-i Mario and Zelda both featured some of the worst animation and voice acting in gaming, and these cutscenes have been the subject of jokes ever since. These games are the perfect mascots for the console. They feel like they were made by people who had never played or even seen a video game before but had a vague idea of what games were supposed to look like. To the surprise of no one, Philips did not strike gold with the console, and the CD-i is now preserved mostly through memes (and the landfills they were probably thrown into, Atari ET-style).
Top Image: Nokia, Nintendo