Sadly, not all videogame consoles are created equal. For every brilliant idea in the form of PlayStations, Xboxes, Megadrives, and Gameboys, there must also be pure darkness to redress the balance.
The following consoles aren’t all entirely awful in execution, but the ideas driving each were – relative to the time they were conceived – terminally ridiculous.
Although as an aside, the majority of these consoles were all pretty awful in execution.
One might say that after the insane mainstream success of the Wii, Nintendo got a little too big for its boots. Clearly, the central idea behind the Wii U was that everyone loves using Tablets and iPads. Great idea, right?
Wrong. By the time the Wii U drunkenly stumbled into the world (after a shockingly vague reveal), the tablet controller was an unwieldy beast compared to the sleek, sexy modern tablets that all the kids were gaming on.
It didn’t help that the average Wii U also had a poor 8GB of memory and shockingly short battery life. There are some genuinely great games on this machine, but they’re destined to be trapped on a sub-par console for all eternity – that’s the real tragedy of the Wii U.
Before the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive convinced everyone that VR was the future (and it probably is) Nintendo took a stab at virtual reality with the infamous Virtual Boy.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that back in 1995, the technology was nowhere near in place to do VR justice – what Nintendo offered was a clunky controller with awful battery life – clearly the Wii U’s closest relative.
Oh, and the display only ever showed games in a horrendous red tint, leading most of us to believe we were trapped in some kind of hell – we pretty much were, to be honest.
The SEGA Nomad
The SEGA Nomad was a colourful handheld that came out not long after the Gameboy, which at the time could only offer relatively dull black and white visuals – how could this flashy alternative (that played Genesis games!) not kill on the market?
Here’s why: it was more than twice the price of a gameboy, costing over £200 quid in today’s money. It also took six AAA batteries, and gobbled ’em all up in under two hours.
These days you can probably easily emulate a Genesis game on your phone, and while you have to admire SEGA’s efforts, the technology clearly wasn’t there to do the concept justice at the time.
Apple Bandai Pippin
Oh, Apple. You’re already great at phones, tablets, and desktops – can’t we leave it there? There’s clearly no place for you in the world of videogames.
Back in 1995, Apple teamed up with Japanese toy giant Bandai to produce the monstrosity you can see it above. If you can’t remember it, then you’re exactly like 99 percent of the rest of the world.
So why was this a stupid idea? Well, Nintendo and SEGA still had a pretty good grip on the market, and Sony had just put out a little console called the PlayStation – putting out an overpriced piece of crap with no games? Great idea Apple.
The PlayStation 5 isn’t out yet (obviously) and I have no doubt that if/when it does appear, Sony will have some solid ideas for their new console.
No, the PS5 is here because of what most people currently think it’ll be like. Firstly, a lot of people seem to think it’ll be out in 2018, just two years after the PS4 Pro releases, which is frankly madness and renders the Pro essentially pointless.
But the most disturbing thing to me are the rumours that Sony plan to move the distribution of their games to some kind of streaming only model, similar to Netflix, or PS Now (which allows us to stream PS3 games).
Simply put, not everyone has (or can afford) a great internet connection, and I can’t imagine that will have changed by 2018-2020. Imagine finally beating a boss in Bloodborne 2 only for the stream to fuck up and erase your progress – no thanks.
This brief sojourn was entirely speculative of course (based on fan ideas and analyst theories), so let’s get back to laughing at shit that has actually happened.
Long before Amiibo and Skylanders started to gobble up the pocket money of children (and man-children) everywhere, there was the Mattel Hyperscan.
But where other ‘toys to life’ accessories simply enhance and complement a console or game, it was the entire point of this 2006 Mattel monstrosity.
Games didn’t run on discs or cartridges, but cards. The idea was to then sell additional cards to enhance the games (basically physical DLC) because kids like collecting cards, right… RIGHT?
What manner of beast sits before us? Is it dad’s old stereo system? No, it’s the PIONEER LASERACTIVE, the console with a name so cool, it deserves to appear in capital letters.
The younger of our audience might not be aware what LaserDiscs are, so here’s a very brief rundown: They were like DVD’s, except much, much bigger (and shitter). Here’s a picture of one compared to a DVD.
You don’t remember LaserDiscs because they were a colossal flop. So obviously, a console that played them was hardly gonna achieve much, was it?
It didn’t help that they expected to charge an insane $970 (around £740), at a time when the already unpopular format was in clear decline.
To be fair, you could pay an extra £600 odd quid and bag yourselves a karaoke machine and expansions that allowed you to play SEGA Genesis games – that’s value.
If one thing has become clear over the years, it’s that the worst consoles are the ones that seem to rely entirely on gimmicks. It’s a big reason why the Wii U failed, and it’s sure as hell why the likes of the Laseractive and Mattel Hyperscan didn’t stick in the memory.
Developers take note: If you wanna take on the big boys, don’t repeat past mistakes – gimmicks do not make for a good console.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.