Sometimes, despite having all the momentum on paper, a video game platform simply doesn’t receive the acclaim it deserves.
Whether it was due to its design, marketing, game library, or a lack of support from both the publisher and the general public, here are five game consoles that failed spectacularly yet did not deserve to.
1. The GameCube
The GameCube was Nintendo’s sixth console generation offering, competing with the PS2 and Xbox. It featured superb hardware and a good collection of first- and third-party games, but a few major flaws set it down.
One significant drawback of the GameCube was that it ran games on MiniDVDs rather of full-sized DVDs, the former having far less space than the latter. As a result, the GameCube couldn’t play DVD movies or audio CDs, a capability that the PS2 and Xbox excelled at.
Furthermore, the GameCube was released a year after the PS2, which did not assist. Sony’s second platform was a huge success, and although having some fantastic titles, the GameCube didn’t do enough to warrant people purchasing it at the time.
The Xbox released at the same time as the GameCube, but sold more units—24 million vs. 22 million—and established itself as a leading console rival. This might be attributed to the Xbox running full-sized DVDs, offering a plethora of games with online play, and starting with Halo: Combat Evolved, which launched one of gaming’s most successful series.
The GameCube wasn’t a poor system; it ran games really well for the time. It just did not do enough to attract the attention of its competition.
2. The Atari Lynx
The Atari Lynx, a direct rival to Nintendo’s Game Boy, was released in 1989. Atari’s platform had a lot going for it: it was the world’s first handheld device with a color LCD, the first handheld console that allowed players to play both left and right-handed, had a backlight, smaller, sleeker cartridges, and some great-looking games.
So, why did the Atari Lynx sell just 3 million units compared to the 118 million units sold by the Game Boy and Game Boy Color?
Despite its many advantages, the Atari Lynx had a few flaws. Its battery life was inferior to Nintendo’s portable, while needing two additional AA batteries, and it cost twice as much as the Game Boy.
The games, however, were the fundamental reason the Lynx failed while the Game Boy prospered. Nintendo’s portable debuted with games like Tetris and Super Mario Land, which were more appealing to players than the Lynx’s launch title of California games. Furthermore, Atari discontinued support for the Lynx in favor of the impending Atari Jaguar, but Nintendo released success after hit, building both a loyal fan base and a list of household properties such as Pokémon.
Despite being the superior system overall, the Lynx lacked the games to justify its high price or compete with the Game Boy, and Atari did not promote their portable in the same manner that Nintendo did.
The Atari Lynx was a good handheld that fell short of reaching its commercial and gaming potential.
Related: Atari VCS Review: A Nostalgia Hit That Offers Both Gaming and Productivity
3. The 3DO
The 3DO is a fascinating console. Instead of being tied to a single corporation (Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox), the 3DO was a set of specs that could be licensed, produced, and sold by third parties.
Before its debut, the 3DO generated industry hype as a strong US-designed machine with the greatest hardware on the market that could compete with Nintendo and Sega’s consoles (though this was very short-lived).It was even named Time Magazine’s “Product of the Year” in 1993.
So, what exactly went wrong? Despite having a rather well-designed system with an aggressive marketing push, the 3DO failed in almost every other way.
To address the elephant in the room, the 3DO debuted in 1993/4 at a startling $700. $700. In 2021, this will be close to $1300.
And how many games did you acquire for $700 at launch? One is Crash and Burn. Though manufacturers eventually reduced the 3DO’s price and expanded the game catalog, players were content to wait and see what consoles Sega and Sony would release in the following two years.
And it was the Sega Saturn and PlayStation, which were both more technologically sophisticated and had better games, that killed out the 3DO. Before being phased out in 1996, the 3DO sold 2 million units.
The 3DO wasn’t an awful system. It may have been more with the appropriate business approach. But instead, we received a pricey device with an uninspiring game selection that was quickly forgotten within a few years.
4. The PlayStation Vita
Following the success of its initial portable product, the PlayStation Portable, Sony debuted the PS Vita in 2011/12. (PSP).
On paper, the PS Vita boasted capabilities that were ahead of their time, including several that the most recent Nintendo Switch—the Nintendo Switch (OLED Model)—still lacks. Sony intended the PS Vita to provide users with a triple-A gaming experience that they could carry anywhere, building on the PSP’s positive critical and commercial reception.
However, the PS Vita entered a market that had been oversaturated by the Nintendo 3DS. A year earlier, Nintendo’s portable was released, and mobile gaming was on the rise. Despite the ability to play PS3 and PS4 titles on the PS Vita through Remote Play, Sony’s second handheld lacks a robust games catalog of its own, giving 3DS and smartphone players little incentive to acquire one.
Despite the excellent response from those who acquired the portable system, the PS Vita sold poorly (about 15-6 million copies). Sony’s support for the PS Vita dwindled in the years after its release, and the portable device was terminated in 2019.
While we wait to see whether Sony will introduce a handheld system anytime soon, it’s intriguing to consider what the portable gaming scene might look like if the PS Vita was a success, as it probably deserved to be.
Related: Was the PS Vita Better Than the New Switch (OLED)
5. The Dreamcast
Sega debuted the Dreamcast in 1998/99, a system with a fresh, sleek appearance and breathtaking, inventive games like Jet Set Radio, Crazy Taxi, and Power Stone. The Dreamcast was also the first console with an integrated modem for online gaming.
The Dreamcast was therefore canceled in March 2001, and Sega stopped producing systems entirely, with a net loss of nearly $400 million.
So, what went wrong?
Despite having a system that many believe to be ahead of its time, the Dreamcast failed due to a number of issues that were probably not its fault.
Sega gave gamers a system with a great list of games that, for the time, looked and played incredibly. But, the problem was that, while Sega kept on delivering arcade-like games, the gaming landscape was moving past that. The idea of time limits, bonuses, and high scores was slowly giving way to more narrative and gameplay-focused titles.
Gamers were now looking for more in-depth experiences, which consoles like the PlayStation were offering and consoles like the PS2 and Xbox would soon offer when they arrived. Certainly, when the PS2 launched a year later, it eclipsed the Dreamcast and the figures show that—last Sega’s console sold around 9 million units in its lifespan compared to the PS2s staggering 155 million.
On top of that, the Dreamcast’s built-in modem was a feature that didn’t quite get the praise it deserved at the time. Online gaming simply wasn’t what it is now, and many games didn’t promote online play, making the Dreamcast’s modem more of a gimmick than a revolutionary feature.
However, the main reason the Dreamcast failed was… well, Sega.
Though the Dreamcast was Sega’s last home console, it’s unfair to say that it was the console that finished Sega. Following the success of the Sega Genesis, Sega followed up with confusing two add-ons—the Sega CD and the Sega 32X—and the competent-but-mismanaged Sega Saturn. These offerings labeled Sega as “inconsistent”, with people unsure which console to be excited about, which console to buy, or what each console actually was.
All of this led to consumers viewing the Dreamcast from the start as yet another inconsistent Sega product, eventually cementing its destiny as a device doomed to fail while giving a gaming experience that was anything from a failure.
Catch Up With the Consoles You Missed
Some consoles just arrived at the wrong moment, despite their best attempts. Though they failed, we may conclude that they did not deserve to.
If any of these consoles pique your curiosity, it could be worth your time to explore what you’ve been missing out on. Just because they aren’t current-gen consoles doesn’t mean you won’t find value in them; in fact, it may help you appreciate these underappreciated treasures even more.
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