Some gaming consoles deserve their consignment to the dustbins of history. Did you own any of these monumental flops?
There are two groups of unsuccessful games consoles. One group contains some decent devices, which sadly didn’t catch on with the public. The second group comprises consoles that are downright awful. We’re going to be looking at the latter.
From their design, intent, and games (or lack thereof), here are seven of the worst consoles of all time.
1. Sega CD and Sega 32X
As the Sega CD and Sega 32X are add-ons for Sega’s successful console, the Sega Genesis, you might not count them as full consoles. However, together, these two products mark a key moment in Sega’s console career—its decline.
The Sega CD and 32X are evidence of a long list of mistakes Sega made in the 90s, the key one being that Sega rushed out products without a clear end goal.
Sega launched both add-ons in a short space of time: in North America, Sega launched the Sega Genesis in 1989, the Sega CD in 1992, and the Sega 32X in 1994. Oh, and the Sega Saturn, Sega’s actual next-gen console, arrived in 1995.
These consecutive launches caused a lot of confusion: which console were gamers supposed to get? How was each console different? Did they work by themselves or with the Genesis?
The Sega CD and Sega 32X also arrived with poor launch libraries and didn’t provide a wealth of improvements over the Sega Genesis, leaving little reason for the mass market to get either, let alone both.
And, seeing that its products weren’t selling well, Sega dropped support for its two add-ons in 1996, which was a big kick in the teeth to the gamers that bought them with the promise that more was coming.
The Sega CD and 32X gave Sega a reputation it couldn’t shake: that its products weren’t worth investing in. Both add-ons, as well as Sega’s last two home consoles, the Sega Saturn and Dreamcast, were all commercial failures.
One of Kickstarter’s most successful campaigns, the Ouya raised $8.5 million, well over its $950,000 goal. Its developers sold backers a console that was affordable, compact, manually upgradeable, and could play hundreds of games, all free to try.
So, did the Ouya become the next big thing? Absolutely not.
The Ouya failed to deliver, Literally. It arrived late for many of its Kickstarter backers and once it was in gamers’ hands, things only got worse. The materials were cheap and buttons were sticky. The architecture was outdated, and the UI was a mess.
But, worst of all, the games were appalling. A lot of the games severely lacked substance, with no Ouya exclusive that justified its purchase. Some ‘games’ were literally Android apps. There was nothing of the caliber you’d expect from an actual video game console.
With reality setting in, what the Ouya offered made little sense—why would you pay $99 and more to play mostly smartphone games on a TV?
The Ouya only lasted from 2013-5, which honestly feels too long, and sold around 200,000 units.
3. Virtual Boy
Nintendo is best known for its successes, and rightly so. The tech giant has rarely stepped out of line when it comes to delivering fantastic games consoles, with the Wii U being its most notable failure. However, there is a lesser-known flop that came out before the Wii U, and it was bad. Really bad.
The Virtual Boy launched in 1995 and was Nintendo’s attempt at creating something unique whilst responding to the growing buzz surrounding virtual reality. After a focused development became rushed, Nintendo launched an unfinished Virtual Boy to a very lukewarm reception.
There were glaring problems from the get-go: the Virtual Boy featured a red monochrome display that gave many users headaches and eyestrain within minutes of playing. The “portable” console was anything but, and the headset was clunky.
Alongside these practical problems were a distinct lack of games—there were only 22 games for the system across Japan and North America, none of which balanced out the downsides to using the console. The ‘virtual reality’ aspect was also lacking—it was more like if Nintendo strapped a 3D TV that only displays red and black to your head.
Word of mouth about the Virtual Boy’s problems spread, and, with dismal sales figures following a poor marketing campaign, Nintendo discontinued the Virtual Boy less than a year into its release. In its short lifespan, the console only sold 770,000 units, making it Nintendo’s lowest-selling console to date.
In 2003, Nokia decided it would challenge Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance with its phone-slash-handheld games console, the N-Gage.
Now, before things get too much, let’s acknowledge that mobile gaming is huge now. You could call Nokia ahead of its time for wanting to create a device that was both a phone and a games console. But, you’d be giving Nokia too much credit.
Look at the N-Gage. Look at it. The N-Gage has one of the worst designs of any console or phone ever made. As a games console, its clunky, cluttered design made playing games uncomfortable. And as a phone… well, there’s a reason phones didn’t look like that.
Despite its awful design, the N-Gage featured some surprisingly recognizable titles like Call of Duty, Spider-Man 2, and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. However, you’d want to play these games on an actual games console for an acceptable experience.
The N-Gage tried to bridge the gap between mobiles and games consoles. It ended up failing in both areas. Nokia discontinued the N-Gage in 2006, with 3 million units sold.