Wii U (Late 2012--)

Nintendo's first HD games console, with in-control displays. Weak sales figures followed by down-scaled prospects. Strange design, possibly slipping behind the cutting edge.

Apple Pippin (1995--1997)

Intended as an open-platform standard, licensed to third parties, Apple even imagined the Pippin would evolve to include "home telecommunication devices." Stifled by hardware limits, a high price and very weak marketing efforts, it never took off.

Sega Neo Geo CD (1994--1997)

The Neo Geo CD was a successor to the 1990 cartridge-powered Neo Geo "Advanced Entertainment System." Its CD ROM drive was slow, and its capabilities were quickly outclassed by 3-D capable peer devices.

Sega Master System (1985--1996)

Designed as a rival to the NES, the Master System lived on for years in different editions worldwide but only sold around 10 million units in total. It never had a huge games library, and the time between releases was too long to maintain enthusiasm.

Sega Saturn (1994--1998)

The Saturn was lavished with peripherals and a clever marketing campaign but was beaten by the PlayStation and the N64. It only sold 2 million units in the U.S. (of a maximum of 9 million).

Atari Jaguar (1993--1996)

Selling far fewer than 250,000 units the Jaguar was to compete with the Sega Saturn and the PlayStation, but it was criticized for bad controller design, buggy hardware and poor games library.

Coleco Telstar (1976--1978)

A million Telstars were sold, beginning with a Pong clone and ending with the weird, triangular home arcade machine-like Arcade edition. Limited games options meant they had limited long-term appeal.

Atari Video Pinball

Sold in 1978 and serving up a grand total of seven games (four of which were pinball variants) the Video Pinball could never compete against the real arcade machine or more capable games consoles in the long term. Plus it was ugly!

Magnavox Odyssey (1972--1975)

Said to be the world's first commercial home video game console, it had "cartridges" that physically programmed the circuits inside the box. Suffered from poor marketing and confusion over which TV sets it could work with. Battery powered and quickly outclassed by Atari machines.

Nintendo Gamecube (2001--2007)

The Gamecube sold nearly 22 million units over six years...was this a failure? Slightly: It never achieved the market share of its predecessor the N64, and never really challenged the PlayStation 2 or the Xbox. It also had a limited-space minidisc optical cartridge, and only limited take up by games writers.

Sega Dreamcast (1999--2001, U.S.)

Widely hailed as being technically ahead of the game, the Dreamcast was briefly very popular, and remained so in some markets for years, but only sold 10 million units ever. The PlayStation 2 stole its limelight and its market, and Sega was too short of cash to properly promote it.

Vectrex (1982--1984)

Weird and wonderful, with its own 9-inch built-in cathode ray tube, the Vectrex could play Asteroids just like you were in a very small video arcade. But it was bulky, limited in potential games design and suffered from a collapse of the video game market in 1983. It was never a commercial success.

Turbo Grafx 16 (1989--1995, U.S.)

Selling only 2.5 million units in the U.S. (and only 10 million ever) the Turbo Grafx was tiny, and ultimately lost out to the NES and the Sega Genesis. It only had one controller port, and its peers had more.

Atari 400 (1979--1985ish?)

If you include the Atari 800, the early 8-bit Atari games line sold 4 million units. It was a moderate success, but was difficult and expensive to build, limited in performance and quickly outclassed by machines from Commodore and Apple, and even by other classic home computers like the TRS-80 or ZX Spectrum.

Will Wii U Join The Gaming Graveyard?

Nintendo's newest games console looks at risk of suffering the same sad fate as a long list of failed gaming machines.

Nintendo has just cut sales predictions for its brand-new Wii U games console after a disappointing quarter. The machine is bold, brave, unusual...and yet these figures hint it might actually flop in the market.

Why is almost impossible to say. You may think Nintendo may have lost share in the low-end casual gaming market to the boom of smartphones and tablets and their cheap apps. It may have been out-maneuvered at the high end of gaming by much more powerful machines like Sony's PS3. The strange non-tablet but yet still tablet-like Wii U controllers may just be an eccentricity too far for a conservative public.

The Wii U's got some fight in it yet, admittedly.

But if Nintendo's experiment quickly disappears into gaming history, it won't be the first games console to flare and fade as speedily as a meteor crossing the sky. Because there's something geekily romantic about making a dedicated games machine that has always attracted upstarts like the Yves Behar-crafted Ouya, riding the wave of its Kickstarter appeal, or the weird Gizmondo gadget, saddled with controversy. And then, after these machines get a brief moment in the sun, they can simply disappear, leaving a sad tale of fading opulence, broken joysticks, and discarded program cartridges...like the sorry but inevitable bankruptcy of Atari.

Chat about this news with Kit Eaton on Twitter and Fast Company too.

Add New Comment

23 Comments

  • Orange Lada

    Huh?  3MM sales versus 1.5MM for Xbox when it first came on the market.  25 titles vs 15 for Xbox when it first came out.  No .... it isn't as big as the Wii was, but the Wii was a huge evolutionary jump.

    Wii U is clearly here to stay.  Attach rate for games is over 4 to 1, middleware developers are jumping on board so independents can develop quicker on the platform.

    Ohh .... and from personal experience (and we weren't too sure when buying, whether we should)  I can say the Wii U gets more play than the other consoles in our home - by FAR. 

    The real issue is communicating how much fun this console is, with ability to play without TV when others are using that, and asymetrical gameplay.  

  • Elem187

    " It may have been out-maneuvered at the high end of gaming by much more powerful machines like Sony's PS3"

    Did you really just say that? The PS3 has a GPU in it that is an equivalent to a Radeon 2000 series. The Wii U has a Radeon 6000 series, it is slightly more than double the speed of the PS3 (remember GPU's is what really renders games, not having 12 CPU cores)

    And all the leaked specs of the new consoles from Sony and Microsoft seem to be in agreement that they will both sport a Radeon 7000 series..... The next consoles from Sony and Microsoft will only be roughly 20-50% faster than the Wii U not exactly revolutionary high end, bleeding edge gaming here. A a year old PC will be faster than any of the next gen systems. Kudos for Nintendo for concentrating on gameplay elements and improving interaction with games, combined with their stellar 1st party titles, they will be around for at least another 10-15 years.

    Something tells me that Sony and Microsoft, due to the only selling point (according to their very own fanbois) Is the GGGRRRRAAAAPHHHICS.... which if thats all they care about, then skip over all the consoles and get the steambox that will be more then 4-5 times the speed of the PS4/720x

    If Sony's next console performs as poorly a the PS3 did in its first 3-4 years of life, we can wave Sony goodbye out of the home console market. With the massive hemorrhaging of money from their TV and Blu-ray division, they cannot tolerate another console that never makes them a single dime of profit like the PS3 failed to accomplished. How many video game flops can a company have in a 10 year span? (the Eye, the Move, the Vita and the PS3(profit wise))  Sony must have set some kind of record.

  • Elem187

    it actually sold 45 million units. And if Nintendo only sells 45 million Wii U's, they will pat themselves on the back of another successful system.

    Remember, Nintendo is a very VERY tiny company compared to the multi-billion dollar conglomerates like Microsoft and Sony. Nintendo's overhead and R&D is quite small  in comparison, they don't require 60-70 million units sold to be considered a success. Unlike a company like Sony, who yes shipped 60 million PS3 consoles, and still hasn't made a dime on either the hardware, nor the software.

    Wii U might not sell as fast as the original wii, but that doesn't make it a failure. Grandma isn't gonig to pick up the tablet controller and figure it out in 2 seconds like the original wii. But parents will rave about this console as it frees up the TV when it needs to.... Me personally, have never been more happy with a console before, long cut scenes on games like Mass Effect and Assassins Creed can be moved to the gamepad, and I can take it with me into the kitchen to start dinner, or go fold some laundry. Its absolutely brilliant..... There is nothig Sony or Microsoft can put into a box that will make me ditch my gaming PC for thier inferior consoles, Nintendo on th otherhand is pretty good at this innovation thing, so who cares what the graphics look like when they push gameplay forward every console.

  • Pete

    Wikipedia, "The GameCube sold approximately 21.74 million units worldwide during its lifetime" "Despite Nintendo's efforts, the GameCube failed to reclaim the market share lost by its predecessor, the Nintendo 64. In terms of overall hardware sales, it remained a steady third place behind its direct competitors"

    Even the N64 which was well recived by critics and its fanbase only sold a moderate 32.9 million units.

    Nintendo are solely a console company, they don't strive to be in third place and certainly would consider the Wii U a failure if it sold as few as the GameCube did.

    I don't know why people take it so personally to think that there favourite brand of console might be a failure financially, the Sega Dreamcast sold just under 11 million units and forced Sega out of the console market yet it's still one of my favourite consoles ever, the stigma of being a financiall disaster hasn't spoilt my enjoyment nor did it make it a bad console.

  • Jason West

    I don't think so. It all comes down to the games that are released for the system. Any system can join the console graveyard if there aren't any great games for it. Powerful system doesn't mean anything when no-one is playing it. I think there is to much that the systems can do. Make a system that can only play games because that's what it's for. 

  • Lollers

    Your article has some weird facts.....

    Amstrad GX4000: 15,000 (9 months) [I added this one in because they forgot it.]
    Nintendo Virtual Boy: 770,000 (9 months) [This one too]
    Apple Pippin: 42,000 (2 years)
    Sega(?) Neo Geo CD: >25,000 (3 years)
    Sega Master System: 10-13 million (11 years)
    Sega Saturn: 9.4 million (4 years)
    Atari Jaguar: >250,000 (3 years)
    Coleco Telstar 1 million (3 years)
    Atari Video Pinball: Unknown (2 years)
    Magnavox Odessey: 330,000 (3 years) [Really they knocked on the first games console?]
    Nintendo GameCube: 21.74 million (6 years)
    Sega Dreamcast: 10.6 million (2 years (NA) 9 years (JP))
    Vectrex: Unknown (2 years) [I love the Vectrex so this is awful that they mentioned it]
    PC Engine (TurboGrafix 16): 10 million (7 years)
    Atari 400/800: 4 million (6 years) [These are home PCs why are they even mentioned?]
    PlayStation Vita: 2.2 million (6 months) [Added this in because it's seen as DOA nowadays]
    Nintendo Wii U: 3.1 million (2 months) [Point of the article]

  • Kyle Berger

    2.5 months into the release and you know the wii u is doomed. I should throw out mine and all of my games now right? I shouldn't wait for 3d Mario or Mario kart or Zelda anything like that I guess.

  • Remy Vanherweghem

    There's very little attention to detail with the Wii U: the whole thing is clunky, uncomfortable to use, ugly to look at, relatively expansive, etc.
    The non-gamer crowd the Wii was a success with aren't pleased by any of this: it lacks the magic the original Wii had; the gamer crowd is furious: no serious game title, the ads all spin towards non-gamers, etc.I really don't get how they haven't seen this coming.

  • Nortonj21

    You speak for the entire Wii crowd and know they are all disappointed by the Wii U?  What is considered a "serious" game title?  Mass Effect, Call of Duty, Mario, Madden or any others?  Relatively expensive compared to what? At launch the 360 and PS3 were more expensive, you can't compare current prices of 6 year old hardware to a new console in the market.  

  • Remy Vanherweghem

    I'm not saying it's a bad product that will fail for sure: I'm just saying the way they market it suffers from a bad angle considering the hardware, the pricing and the current gaming market.

  • Elem187

    Remy thinks just because those 360 ports look identical on the Wii U, that the Wii U has about the same hardware....
    Which is silly, there isn't very many ports where a developer decided to beef up the eye candy just because the new system could handle it.... I can't think of any except Trine 2, where they actually just put the PC version of the game on the Wii U, whcih the PS3 and 360 couldn't handle all the effects so it was severly degraded.

    A better way to look at it is the Wii U can run all those 360 games for hours on end and not even feel warm to the touch. The system isn't breaking a sweat at all.... Pikmin 3 will be the best looking console game to date when it releases in May and we will see what the Wii U is made of them, but until then, nobody is going to update their ported games to prettier eye candy just because it can do it.

  • Mrleelongi

    So 3.06M Wii U sold in about 2 1/2 months, plus the cut in the forecast, hints at a failure, yet not even the author can explain why it hints at a failure... Yeah, your grade is... A BIG FAT F!