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The 6 Worst Console Launches Of All Time

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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.

The rules

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.

1. Gizmondo

Released: 2005

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).

2. GameCube

Released: 2001/02

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

Released: 1993/94

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

Released: 2013

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.

6. PS3

Released: 2006/07

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.

The verdict

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.

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Animal Crossing 2.0 – Review

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On November 5th, Animal Crossing 2.0 alongside the DLC Happy Home Paradise was released. It was the last major free update to hit the latest game in the franchise and added a host of new features to the game. After almost a month of playing it, here’s our review and everything new in Animal Crossing 2.0 from Nintendo.

Background

Animal Crossing has been around for 20 years, with its first release on 14th April 2001. Since then it’s released several versions of the game for the DS, Wii, and so on.

The latest version, New Horizons, came to the Nintendo Switch at just the right time; at the very beginning of Quarantine. It was easily the most popular Nintendo game last year. But it had a fatal flaw; rather than including everything upfront, Nintendo would release periodic updates where they would add to the game. The goal was to keep the game feeling fresh, but the result was that New Horizons felt unfinished. The game was bare-bones compared to past versions of Animal Crossing and didn’t have half as much to do. With the release of the last free update, New Horizons finally feels like a complete game. So what’s new? While there were a lot of things added and small things fixed, we’re just going to focus on the major gameplay changes and additions.

Brewster

The beloved pigeon, Brewster, has been in Animal Crossing since 2005. He runs a cosy coffee shop, The Roost, usually located in the Museum. But he has been missing from New Horizons. A fan favourite, his absence has definitely been felt. Brewster is one of the most demanded additions to New Horizons. With the update, you can find him gyroid hunting on one of Kapp’n’s Islands and invite him to your island, where he will set up the Roost once more. You will also find some of your residents and NPCs there and can invite current and past Animal Crossing characters to the Roost via Amiibo card.

Kapp’n

Speaking of Kapp’n, the turtle is back. In past versions of the game, Kapp’n is usually the one taking you to your new village at the start of every game. Whether it be by taxi, bus, or train, Animal Crossing typically kicks off with the retired seafarer. But New Horizons didn’t feature Kapp’n at all; until now. Now you can have him take you on island tours via his little boat off your dock. Some of these islands are extremely rare and feature exclusive items. He also sings you a little song while you make the journey..

Gyroids

Gyroids have, once again, been a part of every Animal Crossing game until New Horizons. They are little singing things that can be placed like furniture. In New Horizons, you can find a fragment on Kapp’n’s islands, bury it, water it, and a gyroid will grow the next day. Or some may be buried on your island after a rainy day. While past versions of gyroids have been annoying, the New Horizon’s gyroids are adorable and delightful. In New Horizons, Brewster is an avid collector. You’ll even get a Brewster gyroid after drinking enough coffee.

Cooking / Farming

Cooking has also been added to the game, something entirely unique to New Horizons. You can purchase crop starts from Leif, start a farm, and then cook the produce you grow. This opens up a whole host of fun recipes, and you can gift your creations to your residents. Eating a meal will make your villager stronger for longer, the same effect eating fruit previously had.

Group Stretching

You can also host a group stretching event in the plaza. Random villagers and NPCs will join you. You can use your controllers to actually stretch with them, or use the joysticks if you’re stuck with a Lite or don’t feel like standing up.

Harv’s Island

Harv’s Island was previously… pretty useless. There was really nothing to do there aside from taking pictures, which is fun once. Now you can help him build an open-air Farmers Market/Commune. For 100,000 bells each, you can invite NPCs to set up a permanent shop. Among these are Leif, Redd, Kicks, Saharah, Reese, and Cyrus, who have all been seen in New Horizons. But it also introduces the return of Tortimer, the mayor from past games. (Who some fans theorized was dead until now). Harriet, a hairdresser who introduces a ton of new hairstyles to the game. And the fortune-teller Katrina. This expansion to Harv’s island is a huge resource.

You no longer have to wait for these NPCs to come to your island to purchase goods from them. It also opens up more customization for previously uncustomisable items. And it’s another goal to work towards after you pay off your home loans.

Ordinances

You can now issue Ordinances through Isabelle in the town hall. These include things like adding a Bell Boom so that you find more bells and goods are worth more, but things also cost more. Or the Beautiful Island ordinance, which will have your villagers pick up weeds and trash and will cause your flowers to grow faster. You can also issue that your villagers wake up earlier or go to bed later.

Happy Home Paradise

In addition to 2.0, a DLC was added to the Nintendo Store. Happy Home Paradise allows you to “get a job” building vacation homes. You report to your boss Lottie for work, alongside your coworkers Niko and Wardell. From there, you choose a character and build a home for them. They will give you a theme and some items they want to see in their home. You can also design facilities, like a cafe or school and assign characters to work in them. Using an amiibo card, you can also design homes for NPCs like Isabelle or Tom Nook, where you will have free reign over the design.

Happy Home Paradise also introduces partition walls which allow for more design options in your house. It also includes a lot of new furniture. When you’ve designed enough vacation homes, you are able to then redesign the houses on your island.

HHP adds a lot to the game. Animal Crossing’s flaw has always been that it gets too repetitive. HHP adds some flavour and a lot more to do. So even long after you’ve paid off your home loan and made your island pretty, you can still really engage with the game. It adds to and boosts life on the island, but also extends the world a bit. You can interact with more characters beyond just your residents and have more interaction with NPCs beyond purchasing goods from them.

Overall

All in all, the 2.0 update and Happy Home Paradise have elevated New Horizons. It makes the game feel new and adds what many fans have been asking for. While they are both great, it’s hard to shake the feeling that this all should have been included from the get-go like past versions of the game. After playing a skeleton of a game for a year, we now truly have a new Animal Crossing game.


Do you like Animal Crossing 2.0? Do you agree with our Animal Crossing review? Let us know in the comments below.


We compare Animal Crossing with Stardew Valley HERE.

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