We’re not saying consoles on this list are all bad, a bad launch isn’t everything. Systems can recover and yes there are some well… not so good ones. This list is all about the worst console launches of all time.
The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are now out and in your living room, if you were lucky enough to get one on pre-order. Every console generation has the hype around the new systems, heading to the crucial launch. Get it right and companies are off to a great start, but getting it wrong can set them back and even spell doom for the new system.
To make this list there has to have been a mishandled, botched, or underwhelming launch. Google Stadia isn’t included as it’s a streaming service and not a physical console.
In no particular order here are some of the worst console launches of all time.
Launch price: £230
Units sold: Under 25,000
This bizarre entry is the handheld console that crashed and burned faster than the company’s co-owner crashing a Ferrari. The handheld market is a nightmare to crack, with Nintendo slaying all the competition. So Tiger Telematics thought we can do this. The result a console that struggled to achieve double digits in games released. Its bestselling title was called Sticky Balls after all.
The system included text, GPS, and music storage capability. The problem, all these struggled to work even the GPS was useless.
The Gizmondo launched in 2005 and in twelve months Tiger Telematics went bankrupt in style. The company was £189M in debt. The system was a flop selling under an estimated 25,000 units. Stefan Eriksson one of the company’s co-owners legged it with previous convictions linking him to the Swedish Mafia.
Gizmondo reviewed badly on launch with Pocket-Lint’s Charlie Brewer giving it a two out of five saying “The body of the device looks good but nothing works properly besides the games, and even those were partly to blame for the device ‘crashing’ more than a dozen times”.
The Gizmondo was ahead of its time with smartphone abilities (except it couldn’t make calls). If a more reputable company had been behind this would it have made a difference? (Don’t mention the Nokia NGage).
Launch price: $199/£129
Units sold: 21.75M
The N64 marked the first time that Nintendo was no longer the industry leader. Refusing to use discs Nintendo lost the support of developers such as Squaresoft. Final Fantasy VII jumping to Sony’s PlayStation. The N64’s successor the GameCube didn’t exactly have the best start either.
A big issue was the lack of games. On launch in Japan, there was a whopping, wait for it, 3 games to choose from. Luigi’s Mansion, Wave Race Blue Storm, and Super Monkey Ball, that was it. Mario was missing, as the SNES and N64 both featured the much-loved plumber in Super Mario World and Super Mario 64. The US and Europe had more titles at launch including Star Wars Rogue Leader. I remember playing the Death Star Trench level over and over at a Toys “R” Us until the staff asked me to stop (It was that good).
The GameCube was the first Nintendo console to use discs. Unlike the PlayStation 2 and Xbox these were smaller discs instead of the popular DVD format. The only exception was a Panasonic version in Japan that could also play DVDs. If you wanted a console and DVD player it’s safe to say you likely bought the PS2.
Nintendo slashed the price weeks before the European launch. The BBC reported, “Nintendo has announced a price cut for its GameCube console in Europe almost two weeks before it is even launched. The machine was expected to sell for about £150 when released to shops on 3 May but the company has set a new price of 199 euros (£129).”
The GameCube finished third in the generation selling around 21M units worldwide.
There was also an image problem as Nintendo had the reputation of being for younger kids. The purple design with a handle on the back gave it the nickname of the lunchbox. I remember some kids in school mocked those who owned a GameCube.
The GameCube featured Nintendo’s first mature-rated game in Eternal Darkness and the much-acclaimed Resident Evil Remake. Those high school bullies didn’t have a clue what they were talking about (as usual). The GameCube was a great system, underappreciated during its life cycle. The games today often sell for a much higher price when compared to the PS2.
3. Atari Jaguar
Launch price: $249.99/£299.99
Units sold: 250,000
Launched under the slogan of “Do the Math” to show the Jaguar was a stronger 64 bit system (Remember when bits were a major selling point?) The trouble was the commercials treated gamers like idiots. The most prominent one featuring a sadistic school teacher yelling at people about the console is still on YouTube to watch and cringe at.
The other issues were a system that was difficult to develop games for seeing only 67 games released. The controller is possibly one of the ugliest known to mankind. Digital Spy dubbed it something “which looked like what E.T. would use to phone home with.”
The Nintendo GameCube had three games available on launch. The Jaguar went one worse featuring only two games for its North American test launch in New York and San Francisco. Cybermorph and Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy (I’m not even making that name up) were the only choices.
Games on the Jaguar for the most part didn’t look much better than SNES or Mega Drive offerings. The Jaguar limped on before being discontinued in 1996.
The shell of the console found use in later life to store dental equipment. The unreleased infamous Coleco Chameleon would also use the mould for its shells.
4. Sega Saturn
Released – 1995
Launch price: $399/£399
Units sold: 9.26M
Oh boy, where to start on this one. SEGA in the mid-1990s didn’t capitalise on the success of the Mega Drive. Two expensive add-ons the Mega CD and the 32X, the latter often compared to a tumour undersold. Gamers were getting fed up with buying new short lived SEGA hardware.
The Sega Saturn’s North American launch is infamous for how not to launch a console. It was pencilled for a September 1995 launch so developers and retailers alike were working to that timetable.
At E3 1995 SEGA’s American Ceo Tom Kalinske took to the stage and announced the Saturn was available to buy now for $399. The move was due to pressure and competition from Sony’s upcoming PlayStation. The move backfired! PlayStation Head of Development Steve Race walked to the stage during Sony’s press conference and said “$299” then walked away. Sony had undercut the competition by $100.
The fallout led to limited stock with angry retailers unaware of launch date change. Some would later refuse to stock the Saturn in protest. If things couldn’t get worse, well they did the third party developers were outraged their development cycles were ruined. Many developers jumped ship to the PlayStation.
The Saturn went on to become a footnote in the generation selling over 9.2 million units. The original PlayStation would outsell the Saturn more than ten times over. The Dreamcast had a better launch, but by then SEGA had reached the point of no return. SEGA would quit the console manufacturing business in March 2001.
5. Xbox One
Launch price: $499/£429
Units sold: 46.9M (Estimated)
It only took the unveiling of the Xbox One at E3 2013 to cause outrage and anger online. In a recent interview, the Head of Xbox Phil Spencer said “Microsoft was considering abandoning the console space after the 2013 launch of the Xbox One”. The response and sales were that bad.
So what did Microsoft get so wrong?
In the worst E3 presentation since the SEGA Saturn, Microsoft announced a string of features that got people angry. The system would need a persistent internet connection (checked every 24 hours) to play games, lose your connection, and no gaming for you.
The Xbox One would come bundled with the Kinect sensor that ramped up the price to £500, £100 more than Sony’s PS4.
The nuclear policy, killing used games meaning they wouldn’t work on another console. You wouldn’t even be able to borrow a game from a friend.
The negative backlash was so strong that Microsoft issued a complete U-turn in June 2013.
The damage from the launch was so great that the PS4 would get an early lead in sales. Microsoft later stopped publishing Xbox One sales figures; Forbes estimates a total of 46.9M Xbox One consoles have been sold. In comparison, the PS4 would surpass over 100M units sold.
Microsoft did the correct course and the Xbox One is a great system. Yet it’s clear due to the train wreck of a launch that the PS4 takes the crown in the last console generation.
Launch price: $599/£425
Units sold: 87.4M
The PlayStation 2 ruled the 6th generation selling more units than the Gamecube, Dreamcast, and the Xbox combined. It was untouchable! So how did Sony capitalise on this for the PlayStation 3? Well, they didn’t. The launch line-up was small, the commercials were weird and the price was expensive for the time. On top of that, the PlayStation 3 logo borrowed the Spider-man movie font and the original controller concept never made it to market. It was a too greater departure from the much loved Dualshock series.
The UK launch price was £425 and to date is the only console I’ve ever pre-ordered at launch. The three-game bundle set me back £525 a lot of money to my 18-year-old self. The Six Axis motion controls felt like a gimmick built in after the Wii’s success. Motorstorm one of the launch games was near unplayable with the motion controls turned on. I opted for the traditional analogue controls instead.
The Guardian’s Steve Boxer wasn’t impressed with the high price point stating “Hard done-by UK gamers were understandably unhappy at a price that compares unfavourably, to say the least, with US and Japanese prices of $599.99 and ¥60,000”
The 7th Generation of consoles had a high failure rate. The Xbox 360’s infamous red ring of death and the PS3 seemed to have issues too. My launch console bit the dust in 2010 caused by an overheating problem. The slim models also had problems; my brother went through two of them. A broken disc drive and a failing hard drive were to blame.
The PS3 was successful, but a marketing campaign in weird settings with the slogan “This is Living” didn’t do any favours. Most variations are still on YouTube so you can see for yourself how weird Sony’s marketing was at the time.
These consoles had less than ideal launches and in two cases would lead to the end of console production for Atari and the start of SEGA’s decline. The Xbox 360 and Wii U were also considered for this list, yet both featured more substantial failings in business and technical decisions in addition to launches. (We could write an essay on them alone)
And that’s our list of the worst console launches of all time, did we miss any? Do you agree with the order? Leave your thoughts in the comment box below.
More from our gaming pages HERE.
9 Rarest And Most Valuable Pokémon Cards In Existence
If you’re one of the millions of people with a set of Pokémon cards stashed away somewhere, it might be time to dig-lett them out (sorry). Time to see if any of these babies are in your collection. Here’s our list of the top 9 rarest and most valuable Pokémon cards in existence.
Chances are you haven’t caught them all. But having even one of these could net you a large wad of cash.
Pokémon has been an on/off craze ever since it first started back in the mid-’90s. But despite releasing games, a cult anime series and several films, it’s those little cards that are making a profitable resurgence right now.
Even in just the last three years, rare Pokémon cards have been sold for thousands of dollars at auction. So now is definitely the time to check your collection. Time to see if you could be sitting on a small fortune.
9. 20th Anniversary 24-karat Gold Pikachu
Crafted in solid gold
Sold for 216,000 yen ($2,081) in October 2016.
You don’t get much more unique than a Pokémon card made from solid gold. Yep, you heard right. This insanely unique and incredibly rare Pokémon card was produced by Japanese jewellery maker, Ginza Tanaka. A limited number of solid gold cards were created as a replica of the original Japanese Pikachu card (affectionately nicknamed ‘Fat Pikachu’).
Made from 11 grams of pure 24-karat cold, the only way to get a copy of this ultra-rare Pokémon card was to enter a lottery held in 2016. If you won, you were given the chance to buy a copy of the limited-edition card for 216,000 yen (around $2,081/£1,700).
The solid gold card was shipped in its own unique box and housed in a plastic frame. And what makes this even more incredible is that, whilst most rare and unique Pokémon cards stem from early on in the game’s beginnings, this card appeared for the first time in just the last 5 years. Definitely one of the rarest (and coolest) Pokémon cards in existence.
8. Master’s Key
A more recent card – but no less rare
Sold for $21,000 in November 2019.
Like the 20th anniversary gold Pikachu, Master’s Key is another rare yet relatively new Pokémon card. It made its first appearance just over ten years ago when it was awarded to competitors in the 2010 Pokémon World Championships held in Hawaii.
Participants in both the TCG (Trading Card Game) and video game counterpart received a copy of Master’s Key. Only the trophy case differed depending on the category.
Only 36 copies of the card are estimated to exist – equal to the number of participants in all age divisions of the world championships. And to prove just how rare this Pokémon card is, one of them sold at auction in November 2019 for more than $21,000.
7. Espeon and Umbreon Gold Star POP Series 5
A pair of Gold Star Pokémon cards from one of the most valuable Pokémon sets of all time
Sold for $22,100 and $20,000 respectively between December 2020 and February 2021.
The Gold Star Pokémon cards are one of the most valuable Pokémon sets ever produced. At the time of writing, a near mint full set of 27 cards is for sale on eBay. The price tag? £35,000 ($49,717).
But it’s the Espeon and Umbreon which are the real moneymakers. Perhaps the rarest cards in the set, these two alone sold for over $20,000 in just the last few months.
The cards are named after the gold star that appears next to the Pokémon’s name at the top of the card. It signifies that the card features alternative colour artwork which is different from the common version.
Only 27 Gold Star cards were released from 2004 to 2007. Making them some of the rarest Pokémon cards in existence.
Whilst the Japanese versions of the cards remain the most valuable due to their limited availability, the English versions of the Espeon and Umbreon Gold Star cards still command a high price. PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator – the prestigious organisation that grades the quality, condition and value of trading cards) values the two cards at $194,209 and $187,277 respectively. Easily making them two of the rarest and most valuable Pokémon cards around.
6. 1999 Pokémon Japanese Promo Tropical Mega Battle Tropical Wind
An ultra-rare promo card – one of only 12 ever made
Sold for $65,100 in October 2020.
When it comes to availability, you don’t get much rarer than the Tropical Wind card.
With just 12 being given to the top players at the 1999 Tropical Mega Battle tournament, the Japanese Tropical Wind promo card is extremely rare.
This inaugural tournament – a precursor to the Pokémon World Championships – took place in 1999 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu, Hawaii. The event was invite-only and was a battle between the best 50 players from Canada, Latin America, Europe, the United States, and Japan. During the event, a handful of trophy cards could be obtained. One of these was this baby right here.
This particular Tropical Mega Battle promo card (the 1999 Japanese-language copy of Tropical Wind) has sold at auction for as much as $65,100 in PSA Gem Mint 10 condition, with the most recent sale taking place in October 2020. PSA estimates its value to be as high as $148,482. Making the ultra-rare card a contender for one of the most expensive and valuable Pokémon cards ever made.
5. No. 1 Trainer
Quite possibly the most unknown Pokémon card of all time
Sold for $90,000 in July 2020.
Most people won’t have ever heard of No. 1 Trainer, and it’s even more unlikely they’ll have seen a copy in person. When it comes to rare Pokémon cards, they don’t get much rarer than this.
With only seven copies believed to be in existence, No. 1 Trainer may well be the least known card in existence.
No.1 Trainer is a holographic promotional card awarded to finalists in the Secret Super Battle tournament held in Tokyo in 1999. To earn a place in the competition’s finals (which were held in a secret location) players had to first win a regional tournament. Their prize was the No. 1 Trainer card, which granted them access to the finals.
The text on the front of the card translates to: “The Pokémon Card Game Official Tournament’s champion is recognised here, and this honour is praised. By presenting this card, you may gain preferential entry into the Secret Super Battle.” It’s almost like a modern-day, real-life Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka’s factory.
As only seven regional tournaments were held, it’s believed that just seven copies of the No. 1 Trainer card were made – easily making it one of the rarest Pokémon cards in existence.
4. Pikachu Illustrator
Extremely expensive and extremely rare
Sold for $195,000 in October 2019.
The Pikachu Illustrator card is an incredibly rare Pokémon card. It still holds the Guinness World Record for the most expensive Pokémon trading card sold at auction (although, more about this later…).
Pikachu Illustrator was originally given to winners of promo contests held in 1997 and 1998 by Japanese magazine CoroCoro Comic. 39 copies were officially awarded to the winners. While two copies were reportedly later discovered by one of the creators of the card game, seemingly bringing the total number of Pikachu Illustrator copies to 41.
As well as being ridiculously rare, the card is unique in a number of ways. It’s the only Pokémon card to say “Illustrator” instead of “Trainer” at the top. And has a one-off pen icon in its bottom-right corner to acknowledge its creation for the design contest. The card’s artwork of Pikachu is by Atsuko Nishida, the original illustrator of the fan-favourite Pokémon.
Approximately 19 copies of the card are believed to still exist, with 10 having been certified by the PSA.
A near-flawless copy of the card graded at Mint 9 (one grade under perfect condition) sold at auction in 2019 for $195,000 and broke a Guinness World Record. But arguably, there are a couple of contenders to that crown.
3. Black Star Ishihara Signed GX Promo Card
A signed card to celebrate the Pokémon founder’s 60th birthday
Sold for $247,230 in April 2021.
Of all the cards featured on this list, this rare and incredibly valuable Pokémon card is definitely one-of-a-kind.
Just last month on April 26, 2021, a copy of the Black Star Ishihara Signed GX Promo Card made headlines when it sold for nearly a quarter of a million US dollars.
The card depicts the Pokémon company founder and current president, Tsunekazu Ishihara. It was given to staff as a celebration of his 60th birthday in 2017.
What makes this specific version even rarer is that Ishihara actually signed this near-mint card to boost its price even further.
The ability “Red Chanchanko” refers to the red vest which is traditionally worn on 60th birthdays in Japan and prevents the effect of any attack, ability or trainer card against Ishihara. Meanwhile, its GX move “60 Congratulations” tells you to flip 60 coins, and take a present for each one. A truly unique, legendary card.
2. Pokémon Blastoise #009/165R Commissioned Presentation Galaxy Star Hologram
Quite possibly the only card one in existence
Sold for $360,000 in January 2021.
This Blastoise card is probably the single rarest Pokémon card in existence. One of only two such Pokémon cards ever made, it sold for a whopping $360,000 (£266,000) in January 2021.
This Pokémon card was created in 1998 as a presentation piece by Magic: The Gathering maker Wizards of the Coast to convince Nintendo executives to allow it to handle the TCG’s English-language release. The game would eventually make its international debut one year later in 1999.
While two Blastoise ‘Presentation’ cards were produced, this is the only one that has been seen publicly. Even more impressively, it has been graded at a NM/Mint+ 8.5 level by certification website CGC, meaning that the 20-plus-year-old card is in near-perfect condition. The location and state of the other Presentation card remain unknown. This either means that this card is the sole one remaining, or someone somewhere is unknowingly sitting on a small fortune.
1. 1999 First Edition Shadowless Holographic Charizard #4
The card that every kid wanted
Sold for $369,000 in December 2020.
Charizard. The card that absolutely every kid (and adult too now, apparently) wanted. And while the shiny Charizard has always been a firm favourite, this particular variant is even rarer.
While a number of top quality, first-edition cards from the Pokémon TCG’s early days are worth some money, due to their limited availability and age, this specific version of the holographic Charizard absolutely stands out as one of the rarest and most valuable Pokémon cards ever released.
What sets the card apart is the lack of a shadow underneath the dragon graphic. This was a printing error which was corrected for most of the cards printed but the few that sneaked passed quality control are incredibly sought after.
According to auction house Iconic Auctions, the rare card is “the Holy Grail of Pokémon cards, the most iconic and important card to both the Pokémon franchise and its die-hard fans”.
A mint-condition first-edition shadowless holographic PSA 10 Charizard sold at auction in October 2020 for a staggering $220,574 to the retired rapper – and Pokémon fan – Logic. Then, just two months later in December, another one of the same quality sold for a mind-blowing £350,000.
But as if that wasn’t enough, just a few hours after that, yet another card broke all records, selling for a mind-numbing £369,000.
Although this hasn’t officially been recognised by Guinness World Records, this certainly knocks the Pikachu Illustrator off its perch, as well as the staggering sum held by the Blastoise Galaxy Star Hologram.
Either way, despite not being the rarest, this is definitely the most valuable Pokémon card sold to date. But with the desire for rare Pokémon cards showing no signs of slowing, the big question is: how much higher can their value go?
One thing’s for sure, if anyone out there truly has caught them all, that would make for one incredibly valuable collection.
And that’s our list of the 9 rarest and most valuable Pokémon cards in existence. Did you ever have any of these? Which is your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.
Are Team Rocket just misunderstood? Read our article HERE.
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