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From hype to humiliation: Gaming notables

Several game machines have enjoyed lots of hype--and then failed miserably. Is Project Natal, currently being touted by Microsoft, destined to follow these disasters?

Microsoft's Project Natal has some real promise. It could transform the video game space. It could even catapult Microsoft to the industry lead.

Microsoft is so excited about that possibility that Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft Game Studios, said in a recent interview with MCV that Project Natal will make gamers think that it's a new generation.

"When Natal comes out, it will feel like a new generation has arrived," Spencer told the publication. "I see it as like the launch of the Xbox 360 back in 2005--there will be a launch portfolio of games to support it."

It's a lofty hope. Project Natal is still very much a question mark in the video game industry. It might be a huge success. Or it might be a major failure that didn't live up to the hype.

If it's the latter, Project Natal would follow a long list of video game ideas that never quite made it. Let's take a look at some of the most prominent of those failures.

The 3DO was founded by Electronic Arts co-founder Trip Hawkins. He believed that the 3DO could become a next-generation, CD-based console developed by a variety of vendors. Hawkins and his partners thought it would lead to major success in the market. It never happened. With a $699 price tag, consumers weren't interested. (Side note: I bought my 3DO for $50, including three games, six months after it was released in 1993. The sales clerk at the toy store where I bought it said he couldn't sell one unit. I still play games on my 3DO to this day.)

The 3DO was a big console with little sales.

Atari Lynx
The Atari Lynx was supposed to be the leader in the handheld market when it was released in 1989. It was the first handheld gaming device to feature a color screen. That same year, Nintendo released the Game Boy with a monochromatic display. Although it had features that weren't quite as attractive as the Lynx, the Game Boy stole the market with better games. Atari sold just 500,000 Lynx units. Maybe it was ahead of its time.

Atari Lynx
The Atari Lynx was perhaps ahead of its time. Wikipedia

The Gizmondo is one of the most interesting failures in gaming history. The handheld failed miserably, selling less than 25,000 units worldwide. It even pushed the device's designer into bankruptcy, which was perhaps overshadowed by allegations of organized crime regarding one of its executives.

The Gizmondo didn't sell well, but it's an interesting topic. Gizmondo

The Pippin was designed by Apple and produced by Bandai. It ran on a laughable Power PC processor, sported a 14.4kbps modem, and was based on a stripped-down version of System 7. It had few games, a $600 price tag at launch and, oh yeah, few users. It was an embarrassment for Apple (and what many critics point to when discussions on Apple entering the gaming space are brought up.).

The Pippin was, uh, quite the machine. Wikipedia

Power Glove
Nintendo's Power Glove was a disaster. The accessory was supposed to provide gamers with full-motion control over their games. It was a rather large glove, complete with a game pad sitting on the gamer's forearm. But once users put the glove on, they found that the glove worked poorly, and controlling the game was difficult. Nintendo sold 100,000 Power Glove units. Ironically, it became the inspiration for Nintendo's wildly popular Wii console.

Power Glove
Power Glove had some promise, but it didn't quite work. Nintendo

Sega 32X
The Sega 32X was Sega's attempt to beat the SNES. The company hoped consumers would see the 32X and its 32-bit technology as more capable. It didn't take long for the 32X to die. Its price ($159) and laughably small library of games ensured that it would never live up to the hype. All told, Sega sold 200,000 32X units. Yikes.

Sega 32X
The 32X was a disaster for Sega. Wikipedia

Sega CD
The Sega CD was Sega's first foray into the CD market. It promised more capabilities for the Sega Genesis, and Sega hoped it would lead to domination in the industry. After 6 million units were sold, a small library of lackluster games didn't grow, and its underpowered specs became a nuisance, the Sega CD went down as just another mistake from the gaming legend.

Sega CD
The Sega CD just didn't have what it took to make it in the CD market. Sega

Virtual Boy
Nintendo's Virtual Boy promised a slew of great features. Gamers were to be treated to 3D gaming by looking through the device's display, which sat on the desk in front of the user. Unfortunately, the Virtual Boy never followed through on Nintendo's promises. Images were red, only 22 games were released, and Nintendo shipped just 800,000 units. It was a disaster.

Virtual Boy
The Virtual Boy was quite the machine. Nintendo

Other notable contenders

I couldn't fit every gaming disaster into this roundup, so here's a quick list of other gaming failures that didn't quite make the cut:

  • Sega Dreamcast
  • Sega VMU memory units
  • Xbox 360 HD DVD add-on
  • Philips CD-i
  • PocketStation

Will Project Natal follow the path blazed by these failures? Which other video game disasters come to mind? Let us know in the comments below.

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