The 10 Worst-Selling Handhelds of All Time
- July 30, 2007 08:19 AM PST
Nintendo has crushed a large majority of competing video game handhelds since first popularizing the platform over 20 years ago. Save only a few, an overwhelming number of portables are commercial botches. Here are the top handheld failures.
10. Game Gear (11 million sold)
Sega released the Game Gear in North America in 1991 for what was then a hefty $150 asking price. The machine was basically a portable Master System with a larger color pallet for slightly better-looking graphics. Unlike the Game Boy, the Game Gear rocked the landscape holding position, making it less cramped for human beings with two hands to hold. And even though the Game Gear could be considered a success, its bulky frame, relative high price, constant consumption of AA batteries, and a lack of appealing games ultimately kept Sega from releasing a true successor.
9. Nokia N-Gage (3 million sold)
Nokia launched the first 3D-enabled handheld gaming device in October of 2003 just prior to the release of the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable. The N-Gage was an extremely versatile cell phone that included wireless multiplayer and a built-in MP3/video player. Unfortunately, it under whelmed as a game system. Its high launch price of $299 and lack of enticing games are commonly cited for its early demise, not to mention the system's abhorrent, clunky, and widely mocked "taco" design. Gamers actually had to remove the battery to insert a game, and the 12-digit keypad doubling as command buttons would even make the Jaguar controller blush.
8. GBA Micro (2.5 million sold)
While beloved by many and heralded by some as the best of three GBA models, the Micro has been the lone commercial failure in Nintendo's expansive portable portfolio. First introduced at E3 2005 along with the unveiling of the Wii, the Micro was geared towards the few "image conscious" Game Boy owners in existence. While the screen set a new standard in brightness, even outshining the PSP, the Micro didn't support original Game Boy games like the SP did, and it forced gamers to upgrade to pesky adaptors not compatible with previous GBA hardware. Even Nintendo admitted the Micro's defeat saying "we failed to explain its unique value to consumers."
7. Neo-Geo Pocket (2 million sold)
Neo Geo released their first handheld, the Pocket, in late 1998. Due to lower than expected sales, the company quickly discontinued the monochrome version in favor of a 16-bit colored one released in 1999 across Japan, North America, and Europe at a retail price of $69. The portable initially sold well due to its attractive price, good battery life, and surprisingly strong line up of first-party games. Ultimately, however, a lack of third-party support, its cost-cutting cardboard box, and the impending threat of Nintendo's Game Boy Advance left Neo Geo with no choice but to gracefully bow out of the hardware business altogether as its home and arcade platforms had already shriveled up.
6. NEC Turbo Express (1.5 million sold)
The Turbo Express was the first ever handheld to play actual home console games some five years before the Sega Nomad could do the same for Sega Genesis games. It was a commensurate Turbo Grafx-16 if you will. While the most technologically advanced portable of its time, the Turbo Express was plagued with problems since first launching in 1990. The system was originally priced at an unheard of $349, could drain six AA batteries in less than 20 minutes, and a large number of units were shipped missing display pixels. Factor in NEC's disastrous marketing, and the oft labeled Rolls Royce of handhelds was quietly discontinued around the same time as NEC's Turbo Duo.
5. Sega Nomad (1 million sold)
The Sega Nomad was the second portable to allow mobile play of home console games. In its case, the device played both Genesis and Mega Drive cartridges. Sega launched the handheld in October 1995 for $180 in Japan and North America only. It featured a Genesis controller port on the bottom of the system for two-player games, and strangely, it supported an external out to TV so a second person could watch on the Nomad's smaller screen (Why not peep the larger TV?). Released at a time when 3D graphics were standard, the Nomad suffered an early death due to its poor timing, inadequate marketing, and dismal 2-hour battery life.
4. Atari Lynx (fewer than 500k sold)
Released in 1989, the Atari Lynx was the first commercially available color handheld to market. It featured a backlit display, a switchable ambidextrous layout by turning the unit upside down, local networking of up to 17 other systems, and it was the first system to support sprite zooming for pseudo-3D graphics. Though available in the US for five lackluster years, the rarely owned Lynx never caught on due to its high $189 launch price, poor distribution, limited 3 hour battery life, cumbersome design, and some of the worst games this side of the Pacific. Atari dropped the Lynx like a bag of dirt in 1994 to focus on the soon-to-fail Jaguar.
3. Game.com (fewer than 300k sold)
The Game.com (pronounced "game com") was released by Tiger Electronics in September 1997. It was the first system to use a touchscreen and stylus, first to provide internet access, and it was squarely aimed at an older audience with its PDA-style features. The touch screen lacked precision, however, due to its low sensor resolution and lack of a backlight. Furthermore, Game.com suffered from some of the worst game advertising in history; an insulting midget spokesman claimed "It plays more games than you idiots have brain cells," referring to the very gamers he was trying to sell to. Ironically, it only had a total of 20 games. Idiots!
2. Tapwave Zodiac (fewer than 200k sold)
The Tapwave Zodiac was another touch-screen handheld released shortly before the Nintendo DS in 2004. Despite its robust feature set including Microsoft Office support, MP3 and video playback, and an internet browser, the gamer-aiming system clearly lacked Nintendo's portable pixie dust as it did little right. The system was largely doomed at its birth being that Palm-base devices were already on their way out. More detrimental, however, was that Tapwave had zero experience in gaming, not to mention a piss-poor marketing budget to go up against both Nintendo and Sony. A year later, it was "game over" for the Zodiac as Tapwave declared bankruptcy.
1. Gizmondo (fewer than 25k sold)
Oh, the Gizmondo! Where to begin with this Euro trash? For the sake of time let's just summarize the mediocrity. The handheld was released in 2005 with two versions; a $400 ad-free unit and a $229 ad-supported unit. Only eight of the 14 planned games were ever released because the Gizmondo was never about launching a viable gaming machine; rather it was a front for company president Stefan Eriksson to sucker (ahem, bully) investors for money, throw a year long party, spend exorbitant amounts of cash, and bifurcate Ferrari Enzos in southern California before getting arrested for Swedish mob ties then going bankrupt a year later. Utter incompetence. Top handheld failure.
Via -Gamrpro's The 10 Worst-Selling Handhelds of All Time
FootballFan - "GT has never been bigger than Halo. Now do a comparison between the two attach ratios and watch GT get stomped by Halo. Reach will sell 5 million more than GT5. Quote me on it."