Third console is the console of financial failure
Nintendo & N64 - Lost the title as top dog. FAIL!
Sony and PS3 - Lost the title as top dog and lost a crapload of money. FAIL!
Microsoft and XB1 - DRM and Kinect meant people went back to Sony instead. FAIL!
Sega and Saturn - Stealth launch in the US doomed the Saturn and ultimately caused them to leave the hardware market. FAIL!
Atari and 5200 - Crashed the whole damn console market in the US and doomed Atari as a console maker forever. FAIL!
The only third console that wasn't a big fail was Nintendo's third handheld. That's because their second handheld, the Virtual Boy, was a giant FAIL. Their third handheld was either the Gameboy Color or GBA depending on how you number it. Both were financial successes. Perhaps the secret is to fail big on the second console and then make an epic comeback?
From a financial perspective, the N64 wasn’t a failure. Nintendo still made a ton of profit off of it. The hardware itself was profitable and they had several of the biggest games of the generation, all of them first party. It didn’t bleed them out for billions like the PS3 or the Xbox One did. I think the only platforms that were net financial losses for Nintendo were the Virtual Boy, which was definitely a huge black eye for Nintendo, and the Wii U.
It was a failure in terms of Nintendo losing its leadership in the industry. Even so, I’d argue that both the PS3 and X1 were worse in that regard, and Nintendo didn’t have the same overwhelming lead from the SNES that the Sony did coming in from the PS2 to the PS3.