The Wii U was a particularly disappointing flop for Nintendo, especially considering the success of its predecessor. Nintendo introduced the first home console with a touchscreen tablet as a controller in 2012, but the new hardware wasn’t enough to duplicate the success of the Wii U’s predecessor.
Few games actually took full advantage of the touchscreen controller in a meaningful way unless the game was compatible with Nintendo’s amiibo figures. Nintendo expected to sell more than 100 million units but as of Dec. 2016, only 13.56 million units were sold.
A mobile gaming console and a cell phone all in one? What could possibly go wrong? Apparently, everything can. It was back in 2003 that Nokia hoped to shake up the gaming industry with a handheld console that doubled as a phone. The problem with that, however, is that mobile phone buttons don’t lend themselves well to also serving as a gaming controller.
To make matters worse, a high price tag and a limited library of quality games sent the N-Gage to an early grave. R.I.P to the infamous “taco phone” and the hybrid handheld that gamers never really wanted in the first place.
The Dreamcast is perhaps one of the most interesting console flops of all time.The Dreamcast only sold 10.6 million units, including units sold after the Dreamcast was discontinued, and forced Sega to struggle through significant financial losses. The Dreamcast actually had many of the features that successful consoles often boast — good games, impressive power and innovative hardware like the VMU. While there were quite a few things credited with causing Sega’s console flop, like poor advertising and some friction with EA, the console’s innovation actually seemed to play a part in its lackluster sales.
The Dreamcast’s online capabilities couldn’t really be supported by the limited broadband access that was available at the time. So while the Dreamcast was praised as one of the best products of 1999 by BusinessWeek, it couldn’t convert its massive potential, power, and innovation into actual sales.
Many gamers probably weren’t even aware of Mattel’s attempt to create an inexpensive console for young gamers back in 2006. The Hyperscan was created to cater to young gamers between the ages of five and nine who might not be considered ready to play more high-end consoles. What made the Hyperscan unique, however, was its use of additional trading cards that can be scanned in order to add new features to certain games.
Virtual Boy was the first attempt at creating a virtual reality gaming experience and the first console capable of displaying stereoscopic 3D graphics. Unfortunately, it suffered from many of the same issues that still serve as a challenge for VR today, albeit on a much smaller scale. The Virtual Boy caused many consumers to suffer from motion sickness, headaches, eye strains and sore necks. This discomfort for players combined with poor marketing and a high price tag of $179.95 prevented the Virtual Boy from even coming close to being a commercial success.
Nintendo was forced to discontinue the console in 1996 after shipping out a measly 770,000 Virtual Boys. The poor sales made the console Nintendo’s second-lowest selling platform after the Nintendo 64DD.
3DO Interactive Multiplayer
The 3DO Interactive Multiplayer was another console that actually offered great features and truly innovative technology. This proved to be the first home console that was positioned as a full home entertainment experience. It also proved to be rather unique in the fact that 3DO was more a list of specifications than it was a console in and of itself.
The idea was that any company would be able to manufacture the console as long as they signed a licensing agreement with the 3DO company. Unfortunately, the console was simply priced too high in a market full of more affordable competitors and it never managed to become a retail success.
Sega CD wasn’t a stand alone console but rather a console add-on that also pushed Sega to the front of the pack when it came to using CDs for their games. It’s also yet another ugly reminder that a simple innovation to hardware isn’t enough to make a console a success.
Despite giving Genesis owners access to faster processing speeds and improvements to graphics, only 2.24 million units were sold, according to the Sega CD Wikipedia page. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how many units sold since Sega never released any numbers regarding the add-on console. Just like with many other console flops, the Sega CD suffered from poor pricing. Despite being positioned as something consumers would buy to compliment their Sega Genesis, the Sega CD was initially priced at about $300.
The Game Gear was Sega’s attempt to compete with Nintendo’s Game Boy and although it ultimately lost the battle with its counterpart, it still had its impressive moments. With a full-color backlit screen and a landscape body that was made to fit more comfortably in consumers’ hands, the Game Gear did have some nice new hardware features. Compared to the other handhelds on the market at that time, the Game Gear seemed to do the best job of truly creating a portable version of its home console counterpart.
With its 8-bit processor and bright color screen, Game Gear gave gamers the Sega Master System in the palm of their hands. Unfortunately, those features weren’t nearly significant enough to thwart the popularity of the Game Boy and prevent Sega from experiencing yet another embarrassing console flop.
Nintendo has always had a serious love affair with portability and the GameCube was created with the vision of a home console that can easily be taken on the go. This vision was made apparent via the console’s small footprint and the handle that was attached to the back. Its small size also made it the first console to use Nintendo’s optical discs, which may not have been a great move considering the small storage space available on the miniDVDs.
Unfortunately, another thing Nintendo seems to be known for is not learning from their mistakes. A lack of compelling games at launch, not enough support for third party developers and no true online support ultimately contributed to the GameCube’s demise. The console sold less than all of its competitors and was deemed an “unmitigated disaster” for Nintendo by the International Times.
The Sega Genesis Nomad was considered the first true 16-bit handheld. It was packed with potential and gave gamers the ability to play any Sega Genesis game on a handheld device. It seemed like a handheld console that would easily benefit in a major way from its parent console’s success. Unfortunately, Sega didn’t handle their new portable baby with care.
The Genesis Nomad suffered from poor advertising, disappointing battery life and some seriously unfortunate timing on when to enter the market. The Nomad smelled like a flop before it even hit shelves, and that turned out to be the case after the console sold only about 1 million units.