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10 old game consoles you’ve probably never heard of

The Famicom Disk System and the Microvision, two old game consoles which probably passed you by
The Famicom Disk System and the Microvision, two old game consoles which probably passed you by

We all remember growing up with our favorite video game consoles.

For some of us, it was the Playstation. For others, the Nes and Snes were the pinnacle of our childhoods and which now bring back heavy doses of nostalgia.

However, it’s worth remembering the victims. Yes, those consoles and systems which never earned a place in our hearts and were lost to the sands of time. Here’s 10 you’ve probably never heard of.

1 Sega SG-1000

Sega SG-1000
The Sega SG-1000, which cost around $130 in today’s money when you adjust for inflation

The Sega SG-1000 was Sega’s first dedicated home console, and was released in quite a few countries. Despite this, many gamers aren’t familiar with its existence, and assume that the company’s later release, the Master System, was their first foray into the market.

Powered by a perfectly acceptable at the time (though woeful by today’s standards) 3.58mhz processor, the SG-1000 was capable of displaying up to 16 colours, and had 128kb of RAM. When it launched in Japan, it had a pricetag of 19,800 Yen (which would have been around $57, or just under $130 when you adjust for inflation).

The game’s library spans standard cartridge and card-based releases. Girl’s Garden, released on the SG-1000, was the first game directed by Yuji Naka who would go on to create the popular Sonic the Hedgehog series.

Other notable titles include a port of the Namco classic Galaga, as well as a version of puzzle classic Lode Runner.

Ultimately, it would fail to impact the industry in the way which Sega had hoped. This was primarily down to the difficulty of using the system’s joystick, and also the lack of component output.

Likewise, the decision to launch the system on the same day as Nintendo’s Famicom in Japan — alongside their lack of a game library which could compete — more or less cemented its commercial failure, and by 1985 it had been officially discontinued.

2 Nintendo PlayStation

Nintendo PlayStation
The only known surviving Nintendo PlayStation, which came to light in 2015

In 1991, Sony unvieled a new videogame console at the Consumer Electronics Show called the PlayStation.

As part of their then relationship with Nintendo, the PlayStation was a hybrid console which would play both Snes and Snes-CD games (the latter being a new Nintendo add-on which depended on Sony technology).

When things went south, Nintendo cut their ties with Sony and formed a partnership with Philips, which gave birth to some rather mediocre titles on their CD-I platform.

Interestingly, this brought Nintendo some bad blood in Japan, as it was taboo to partner with a failing American company rather than a successful Japanese one.

The lost console featured a 3.58mhz CPU, a 2x speed CD-Rom drive, and 552kb of RAM in total.

Much conjecture had been made about the fabled joint venture until one prototype unit showed up in November 2015; it was acquired by Terry and Dan Diebold, who purchased the machine at a bankruptcy auction.

Since then, more information has transpired and there’s even a homebrew game for the device.

One wonders what might have been had Sony and Nintendo joined forces in the beginning, but I guess we’ll never know.

It’s also worth noting that this fallout can be considered the birth of Sony’s first console, as they decided to persevere with their own system after these events.

3 Famicom Disk System

Famicom Disk System
The Famicom Disk System, which amazingly continued to be produced until 2003

Ok, so this is less of a console, and more of an add-on. Back in the mid-1980s, Nintendo was seeking a way to lower the costs of production involved with games for its Famicom platform (the Famicom is pretty much the Japanese Nes with some hardware variations).

The result was the Famicom Disk System, or the FDS. This accessory relied on the much cheaper — and more readily available — floppy disk, which meant that games could also be overwritten at certain kiosks placed in videogame stores throughout the country.

Likewise, progress could also be saved without the need for things like passwords or battery back-ups (which the later cartridge-based versions of games like Metroid and Kid Icarus would come to rely on).

The unintended side effect of their rewritability was that piracy ran rampant with the FDS, but it didn’t affect the success of the system too much.

In fact, the FDS managed to shift over 4 million units during its run (which continued up until 2003, surprisingly), and gave birth to some of Nintendo’s best known intellectual properties which we’ve since come to love (including The Legend of Zelda!).

4 JVC Wondermega

JVC Wondermega
The JVC Wondermega, which could play both cartridge-bases Genesis titles and Sega CD games

The Wondermega (later known as the X’Eye when it was released in North American territories) was a hybrid console produced by JVC in partnership with Sony.

In a nutshell, it allowed players to experience both cartridge-based Genesis titles, as well as Sega CD games, without the need for two separate units.

Unfortunately, the system didn’t sell particularly well. Despite the fact that it featured high quality audio (which was not widely available at the time), it also happened to retail for $620, which would be just over a thousand dollars today when you adjust for inflation.

Remember, this was back in the days when new videogame systems were expected to launch for under or around $200 and were mainly marketed to kids.

This isn’t the only obscure system based on combining the Genesis and the Sega CD, though; there was also the Pioneer LaserActive, which cost almost $1,600.

Lastly, there was the Aiwa CSD-GM1, which was a market failure despite the fact that it combined both systems with a fully-functioning boombox. Who’d a thunkit?

5 WonderSwan

The WonderSwan, which at one point held eight per cent market share for handheld consoles

The WonderSwan was Bandai’s handheld system which never saw light outside of Japan.

Released in 1999, it was the first real handheld with comparable power to second-generation consoles like the Genesis and Snes thanks to its 16-bit CPU.

The system could be played in both landscape and portrait orientations thanks to its unique button layout, and lasted around 40 hours on a single AA battery (which is pretty impressive!).

In a rather forward thinking move, Bandai also produced an affordable development kit, meaning developers could produce their own games for the system years before Microsoft would popularise the same concept with their XBox Arcade.

Despite the fact that it was never released in the West, the WonderSwan did pretty well.

It managed to ship around three and a half million units (between the original incarnation of the system, and its successor which incorporated a color screen), which — at one point — gave it eight percent of the handheld market share.

Popular series like Final Fantasy, Front Mission, and Digimon all saw releases on the console.

6 Nokia N-Gage

Nokia N-Gage
The Nokia N-Gage, which was both a cell phone and a handheld gaming platform in one

The year is 2003. The handheld market, in the west at least, has been devoured by Nintendo’s flagship Gameboy Advance.

Nokia, being a behemoth in the mobile phone market, starts to face some stiff competition. Their retort: The N-Gage.

Half cellphone, half gaming console, and one hundred per cent doomed to fail from its original inception.

Don’t get us wrong. The N-Gage had some impressive attributes; it could play full 3D games, as well as multimedia files on the go (and, at this time, most cellphones were still using polyphonic ringtones), plus it could also make and receive calls and texts.

The problem was that the hardware was ridiculously cumbersome. Changing the inserted game cartridge meant having to take out the system’s battery first, and trying to use the device to make phone calls was logistically very difficult due to its shape and the placement of both the speaker and microphone.

The N-Gage received a revamp in the form of the N-Gage QD a few months after its release, but the damage had already been done.

Even though the game library was far from woeful — with titles like The Sims, Super Monkey Ball, Civilization, Worms, and Fifa — nobody in their right mind was going to invest in the machine.

By 2005, Nokia conceded that the device had failed, and the gaming platform was eventually incorporated into a few of their Series 60 smartphones.

7 Apple Bandai Pippin

Apple Bandai Pippin
The Apple Bandai Pippin, which was meant to be more than just a game console

The Apple Pippin was actually an attempt made by Apple to produce a stripped-down computer which could be cloned and released with certain hardware variations by other companies (so long as they stayed true to Apple’s explicit standards).

Unfortunately, the system did not succeed in attracting much attention from developers.

However, Bandai did take an interest in producing a home console based on the Pippin, and eventually produced one which also incorporated internet connectivity in order to broaden its appeal (it made use of the latter with a stripped down version of the Mac OS operating system).

The device also featured a PowerPC processor, and could even hold 64mb of RAM (although hardware limitations meant that it could only use 37mb of that!).

Very few games exist for the system, and only one of them is particularly notable. Because it also functioned as a kind of introductory home computer, you could also pick up titles like “Anime Designer: Dragon Ball Z”, but the only title we’d personally care to try would be the Gundam Tactics game.

We guess the moral of the story is that, no matter how obscure a Japanese system is, it will still receive a licensed Gundam game.

8 Sega Mega Jet

Sega Mega Jet
The Sega Mega Jet, which was exclusively made for use on plane journeys

The Sega Mega Jet was a handheld system version of the Genesis/Mega Drive which still required an external screen in order to play games.

Why on earth would someone produce a handheld console without a dedicated screen, we hear you ask?

Well, the system was actually designed for use during long flights (and was adopted exclusively by Japan Airlines).

Basically, you’d hook the console up to a small monitor inside your armrest, and then insert whichever cartridge you might have been carrying with you at the time.

The hardware itself was particularly clunky, as it contained both the controls needed to play the game, and a rearranged Genesis inside it.

The unit also featured several titles in case you forgot to bring your own games (because, why would anyone in their right mind carry Genesis cartridges with them during flights?).

These included Super Monaco GP and Sonic the Hedgehog. Ultimately, the system developed into the Sega Nomad, which saw slightly more commercial success but also failed due to its high launch price.

The, which would lose all your saved data if the battery failed

Tiger Electronics’ was actually a pretty neat idea. The handheld system incorporated unique PDA-like features including a touchscreen and stylus, and could even be connected to the internet with a lightning fast 14.4 kbit/s modem (that’s probably about 1,400 times slower than most acceptable internet connections today).

However, Tiger experienced difficulty in selling the device due to its lack of back-light, poor touchscreen capabilities, and its dependence on battery backups for saving data (if the battery failed at any point, you’d basically lose everything that was stored on the system).

Even when they tried to market the system to an older audience with titles like Mortal Kombat, Duke Nukem, and Resident Evil, their lack of third-party developer support and press (apparently the device was pretty much ignored by most magazines) dealt two very significant deathblows to the system.

Interestingly, several notable features (the stylus and internet connectivity, in particular) would later be seen in the wildly successful Nintendo DS.

10 Microvision

The Microvision, which was only produced for two years but paved the way for classic consoles like the Game Boy
The Microvision, which was only produced for two years but paved the way for classic consoles

For our last pick, we’re going to take a look at the Milton Bradley Company’s Microvision.

Released way back in 1979, the system managed to generate $15million in revenue thanks to its ability to use interchangeable game cartridges.

In fact, it was the first handheld system to ever let users change the game they were playing with external media.

Featuring a now-tiny 16 x 16 resolution, the device was powered by either one or two 9V batteries.

The Microvision suffered from a number of design defects, including the very likely possibility that users could accidentally damage the internal processor if built-up static electricity from their fingertips made its way into the empty game cartridge slot.

Additionally, the screen was known to break down due to overexposure to LCD (caused by poor sealing around the edges), and the keypad would generally break even with reasonable use.

The end result is that the Microvision was discontinued two years after its release.

By 1982, only 12 titles had been released, and nowadays it’s quite difficult to find a working unit due to their poor build quality.

Nevertheless, the console paved the way for later innovations such as the Nintendo Game Boy, and for that the Microvision absolutely deserves our collective gratitude.

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