In 1983 the entire history of video games and home consoles nearly came to an untimely end brought upon by numerous factors. At the time there were a total of 13 different home consoles available on the market that I can recall: Atari 2600, Atari 5200, the Bally Astrocade, the ColecoVision, the Coleco Gemini, the Emerson Arcadia 2001, the Fairchild Channel F System II, the Magnavox Odyssey2, the Mattel Intellivision, Intellivision II, the Sears Tele-Games systems, the Radio Shack TandyvisioN, and the Vectrex. The market was supersaturated with these and possibly more as everyone saw video games as a way to make a quick buck because every household had at least one of these consoles. With the flooded console market and dollar signs glued on the insides of company eyelids came a surge of incredibly low-caliber games; the most memorable of which are E.T. and the Pac-Man port on the Atari 2600. People finally got wise and stopped buying games and consoles which led to the great Video Game Crash of 1983-84.
However, one Japanese toy company got the courage to revitalize the entire industry on their own and the result was the Nintendo Entertainment System of 1985! Nintendo single-handedly jump started the entire industry and we all owe them a great debt because of it. BUT, we aren't here for a history lesson (not the good kind anyway) we're here because, like any other company, Nintendo has taken a lot of risks and had many failures. The time has finally come for me to FAIL Nintendo! [Note to Shigeru Miyamoto: I am so sorry for this! I really am!]
Since we're in 1985 right now, let's discuss their very first gaming-related victory/failure: R.O.B. the robotic operating buddy. When the Big N reworked the Famicom system and turned it into the NES for North America they knew that Americans weren't willing to invest in video game consoles again. It was a rather large hurdle considering what happened previously, but they figured out a way to recapture people's interests with the ultimate peripheral, a robot. ROB and his launch title, Gyromite, were bundled in a deluxe package which included the robot and the NES along with the NES Zapper and Duckhunt. It was a huge risk, but it paid off in the end as everyone was curious about the little guy and snatched up every NES off store shelves. Unfortunately, ROB was a disaster in the sense that his response time was too slow, he tore through batteries faster than Disney goes through pop stars, he was too damn loud, and he only worked with TWO games! The other game, Stack-Up, could barely even be called a video game since there was really no way you could lose. Thankfully, the game that made the system into a console legend is the one people remember the most and the one that helped save gaming. Do you really need me to tell you what game it was?
We aren't done with the NES era of FAIL just yet, though, as we still have one more to talk about. "It's so bad" was a line used to promote it, but thanks to irony, is actually the perfect way to describe it. Released in 1989 the Powerglove was only licensed by Nintendo and not created by them; that horrible honor goes to designers Grant Goddard and Sam Davis and it was produced by Mattel (the company that makes Barbie!) Many people don't realize this, but the Powerglove was based on a design for home computers as a way to interact and manipulate virtual environments, called a Data Glove. The Data Glove originally used optical flex sensors inside the glove to measure finger bending and ultrasonic and magnetic technology to detect hand position. The technology used to make the highly advanced device was far too expensive for a video game accessory, though, so the more expensive sensors were replaced with much cheaper ones and the end result was the legendary FAIL that was advertised in The Wizard as the ultimate controller. The damn thing never worked properly and was too complicated for anyone to get enjoyment out of. Regardless, it remains a legend in its own right and was the very first step for Nintendo into the realm of motion controls. (see also: Nintendo U-Force and BatterUP)
I love the Powerglove! It's so bad! No, seriously, it's f*cking awful.
Moving forward in time we now arrive at the next generation of consoles and the 16-bit era of gaming. The Super Nintendo Entertainment System has less failures to talk about, but it wouldn't be a Nintendo system if it didn't have at least one giant elephant in the room. The Super Scope was the overweight bloated cousin to the NES Zapper and featured wireless technology. Shaped like a bazooka and promoted in the god-awful Super Mario Bros. movie, it didn't have much support and quickly died out due to a lack of games and consumer complaints ranging from dismal battery life to eye and muscle pain from holding it up for so long. The Super Scope lives on forever as a usable item in the hit series Super Smash Bros.
"Pop quiz, asshole: You've got a piece of crap peripheral that you can't sell, what do you do? Turn it into a prop and hope to God that enough kids see the crappy movie it was in so they beg their parents to buy it for them."
Meanwhile, on the portable side of things, the Gameboy was a phenomenal success and sold millions of units creating a new market for them to dabble in. Unfortunately, when you dabble you sometimes end up with a dud. That dud came in the form of the Virtual Boy and was the first step into the 3rd dimension for the company (precursor to the upcoming Nintendo 3DS). The device was ugly in design and was not portable in any way because it had to be standing on a flat surface to be used properly. The graphics for all 22 games released on the platform were a hideous bright red that often resulted in severe headaches after about 15 minutes of use. Needless to say, the system was discontinued after only a year and it has become a collector's item ever since.
This kid's parents obviously hated him in retrospect.
Possibly the two biggest kicks in the ass for Nintendo had to have been their attempts to incorporate CD-ROM drives as an add-on for the Super Nintendo. This quest to enhance the system brought them to two different companies. The second company they went to resulted in the Philips CD-i and everyone knows how badly that went. But I'm not counting that as the FAIL, no, no, no. The biggest bite in the ass in all of gaming history has to be the first company they contracted to create this new CD-ROM drive. The company was Sony and the devise was called the "Play Station" (note the two separate words) and for whatever reason Nintendo decided to end their relationship which is what brought us the CD-i. Sony was despondent and full of rage that Nintendo abandoned them like that, so they went ahead with what they had already designed and so was born the Sony PlayStation. Naturally, Nintendo sued the hell out of Sony for moving ahead on the project without their consent and the launch date was delayed for a few years. Sony pulled through in the end and by the next generation the PlayStation became a surprise hit leaving Nintendo feeling bruised and remorseful.
This was a bad idea from the start...
But THIS was just a huge kick in the balls.
This was the start of the 64-bit for Nintendo and so they released the aptly named Nintendo 64. The system itself could be somewhat seen as a failure due to its programming difficulties for developers. It's biggest flaw was that it had a low texture cache of only 4KB making it difficult to load anything but small, low color depth textures into the already limited rendering engine. This limitation caused blurring due to developers stretching small textures to cover a surface, and then the console's bilinear filtering would blur them further. Making matters worse, due to the design of the renderer, if mipmapping was used, the texture cache was effectively halved to 2 KB. Towards the end of the N64's lifetime, creative developers managed to use tricks, like multi-layered texturing and heavily-clamped, small texture pieces, to simulate larger textures. Perfect Dark, Banjo-Tooie, and Conker's Bad Fur Day are the best examples. When it came to accessories, the only failure worth mentioning is the Nintendo 64DD which was supposed to be the N64's version of the add-on that became the CD-i and the PlayStation. Only nine games were ever released for it and were only available in Japan. Two of those games worth noting are Earthbound 64 and Pokemon 64, a full console version of the handheld games. I'm still waiting on a Pokemon game like that, Nintendo!
It died so fast we never even knew of its existence until years later.
We've now reached the generation of consoles we just left behind and like the Nintendo 64 the Nintendo Gamecube doesn't really have any large failures worth noting. There were a few odd accessories made for it like the ASCII keyboard controller which was used for Phantasy Star Online Episode I and II and the DK Bongos for the Donkey Kong games on the system. The Gamecube itself wasn't much of a success was trounced by the PlayStation 2 which was graphically far inferior to any of the other systems proving that graphics don't make the machine. The Gamecube finished dead last with only 22 million units sold making it even less successful than the Nintendo 64's 33 million sold units. Nintendo realized that hardcore gamers demanded more and their next console would have to take a huge gamble if they wanted to stay in the Console Wars.
Also known as the purple lunchbox.
So here we are at the present day and in the current generation of consoles. Once codenamed the "Revolution" and then renamed the Wii, it is Nintendo's latest system and incorporates motion controls making players get up off the couch and move around some. They took a different approach this time as well and opened the floodgates for developers to release pretty much anything they want in an effort to get more support from third parties. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the kind of trash not witnessed since the original crash that Nintendo itself saved us from. The motion controls weren't very advanced when they originally came out resulting in "waggle" gameplay where all you would do was shake the damn Wii remote left and right until you win (Red Steel is the perfect example). Other games use it as a simple pointer and are rushed to make money for small garage developers like Zoo Games who have brought us such classic pieces of sh*t like Calvin Tucker's Redneck Jamboree. The console has outsold the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 and managed to get into the homes of non-gamers creating the easily fooled demographic of casual gamers who throw away money on any game with the words "fun", "party", "family", or "games" in the title resulting once again in the market being supersaturated with low-quality games.
I know these aren't REAL games, but they might as well be considering the library they'd join. Just don't ask me to review them.
Sony and Microsoft called the motion control technology a mere gimmick and stated several times that they would NEVER go that route. We all know Sony always imitates Nintendo and at the last minute tossed SixAxis controls into their controller which resulted in a FAIL for another day, but they later released a new motion controller they call the PlayStation Move which looks and IS a direct Wii rip-off with better graphics. Microsoft knew the motion control craze was a perfect chance to make some money since people were buying anything with the Wii named attached to it regardless of how horrible the product was. So, they took the high ground and created the Kinect which uses your body as the controller, utilizes facial and voice recognition, and has already incorporated its way into future technology (except televisions and computers to use this by next year).
Sony Fanboy: "It's totally not the same and it's better than the Wii!"
Me: "Oh, really? How so?"
Fanboy: "It's black!"
Me: "The Wii comes in black, too."
So that's the big FAIL I've been waiting on. With the Nintendo 3DS right around the corner it only seemed natural that I talk about them. Some of you might think that Nintendo isn't that bad of a failure, but you can't let nostalgia get in the way of reason. Mario and Zelda will always be dearly remembered and I'll always wait with excitement for the next iterations, but Nintendo has abandoned hardcore gamers and created a market that is ready to burst. I could be wrong, though, and this motion control craze could be the industry finally hitting puberty with motion controls being the horrific acne and squeaky voice that takes too long to go away. I hope for everyone's sake that Nintendo gets back into the concept of quality control otherwise their damn seal of approval will be even more meaningless than it is now!
Can anybody even remember what this is supposed to stand for?