For every PlayStation or Nintendo Wii that sells in the tens of millions and generates billions of dollars, plenty of other video game systems enter the market…and then it’s game over.
The OUYA system got to market outside of the system—the creators raised $8.5 million in development cash via crowdfunding website Kickstarter. Units were produced and shipped in 2013—the console was about the size of a baseball and came with a huge controller at a cost of just $99, a fraction of the $400 consoles usually cost. Plus the games, which users had to download, were free. Well, you get what you pay for. It ran on Google’s Android software, which at the time, wasn’t optimized for video games. Users complained that the games moved along incredibly slowly as a result…plus there were only a handful of those free (and as it turned out, generic) games available. About 200,000 OUYA units sold in all, and it was discontinued in 2015.
Today, the name of the game in gaming is “mobile gaming.” Adults play games on their smartphones, while kids play them on their handheld video game devices, like the Nintendo Switch or the Nintendo 3DS. Sega gave the idea a go back in 1995 with its Nomad, when the technology really wasn’t there yet. It was marketed as a portable version of the successful, high-tech Sega Genesis system—users didn’t even need to buy new cartridges, because their Genesis games worked fine in the Nomad. And that was the problem—it was “fine.” The Sega Genesis was nearing the end of its period of dominance, and gamers probably wanted a new system with new games, not a new way to play old games. Also, it cost a lot to use—the Nomad required six AA batteries, which powered the device for a mere two hours.
Some hardcore gamers might own two, three or even more consoles—and cartridges are not interchangeable between them. In 1993, Pioneer thought they could build bridges with a system called the LaserActive. It played games from two different Sega consoles, games from a briefly popular system called the TurboGrafx 16, not to mention karaoke discs, CDs, and laserdiscs. It was a dream come true, but the price was a nightmare: $970, roughly four times the cost of the leading console. Only 10,000 people ponied up for a LaserActive.
Hitting the market in 1982 when Atari was dominating the home video market, the Milton Bradley board game company released this gaming system that was completely unlike anything Atari was doing at the time. For example, while Atari’s 2600 plugged into a user’s TV and displayed crude but recognizable graphical representations of aliens, spaceships, and Pac-Men, the VecTrex utilized vector graphics, basically stark lines (think of the classic video games Asteroids). Nevertheless, a VecTrex cost the same as an Atari did ($200—about $500 in today’s dollars). That cash had to cover manufacturing—the VecTrex didn’t plug into a TV, as it had its own built-in viewing screen. The system didn’t sell well, and the video game market crash of 1983 certainly didn’t help things, and neither did a price drop to $79. The VecTrex was gone by 1984.