5 Biggest Console Fails Of All Time
Over the years gamers have bared witness to the launch and death of countless game consoles. Some survive a generation, while others fail hard due to a huge list of problems. There are even those who were dead before they hit stores.
Join us as we run down the five biggest console fails, and remember, we’re not saying these consoles are failures, we’re simply highlighting fails associated with them. There’s a difference.
5. PS3 is hit by hackers and doesn’t know what a leap year is
Described by many in the gaming press as a ‘meltdown’, the PS3 leap year bug struck on Monday 1st of March 2010, leaving up to an estimated 33 million gamers unable to log on to PlayStation Network. Oops.
The ruckus began when the internal clocks of Slim PS3s everywhere were programmed to think that 2010 was a leap year. It wasn’t of course, leading to a raft of people unable to go online, with some even losing their save data and trophy count.
Although the leap year debacle was a massive pile of fail on Sony’s part, it was nothing compared to the notorious PSN outage that happened in April 2011.
PSN mysteriously went down in April, leaving the financial and personal details of an estimated 77 million users at the mercy of hackers.
The attack forced Sony to shut down all access to PS3 online features, which got a lot of gamers understandably upset.
Talk at the time was that hacker group Anonymous was behind the attack, but to this day the organisation has denied all involvement.
Since then however, Lulzsec members Jake Davis and Ryan Cleary have been taken to trial in connection to the PSN outage, but it’s still not clear if they were responsible for this particular attack.
Sony eventually updated the PS3 firmware to combat the outage a month after it began, leading to a compensation scheme and several humble apologies at E3 that summer.
The whole messy ordeal has bought Sony a lot of criticism for taking so long to fix the issue and for failing to have proper safeguards in place. In the eyes of many gamers, this was a royal screw-up.
4. Virtual Boy pitches 3D years too early
The world was incredibly boring in 1995. Check your history books, nothing happened. We’ll wait.
Back in 1995 everyone seemed hell-bent to create virtual reality as a way of escaping the futility of every day life, so Nintendo thought it wise to release a 3D console called the Virtual Boy.
It was an eye-straining monstrosity on cheap plastic legs, featuring a headpiece that you peered into to see what Nintendo referred to in a press release as “Their own private universe.” ‘Personal hell’ is a more-apt description.
With only 770,000 Virtual Boy consoles shipped, and the library of Virtual Boy games only peaking at a measly 22, even Nintendo of America’s then chairman Howard Lincoln apparently said that the device, “Just failed.”
This is an interesting entry because despite all of the console’s failings, Nintendo was actually right about the Virtual Boy. Just look at how popular the notion of 3D is today in televisions, cinema and Nintendo’s own 3DS.
It’s hard to pinpoint where the Virtual Boy went wrong. It came in at a modest $180 price point, but it didn’t have any must-have games that other consoles had at the time. Plus sitting in the same position to peer through the viewfinder must have been uncomfortable.
There might even have been a disconnect between the Game Boy and Virtual Boy. Both share similar names, yet one is a cheap portable device with hundreds of games available, and the other is an underpowered desktop console.
Nintendo’s heart was in the right place with Virtual Boy, but the technology to produce high quality games in 3D just wasn’t there in 1995, and unfortunately, the console failed hard.
3. Apple Pippin arrives years too early, flops tremendously
Another console that was ahead of its years, the Pippin was a joint effort from Bandai and Apple. The aim of the hardware was to take the concept of a Mac and turn it into an online-enabled games console.
You have to remember that the Pippin arrived in 1995, a time of screeching modems, painfully slow connection speeds and before the Internet had Google. That last one is hard to imagine these days isn’t it?
There was no YouTube, no Facebook, no Google, and no Trololol Guy. Why are we just focusing on the console’s Internet capabilities? Well because the Pippin only shipped a paltry 18 ‘games’ in its entire two-year lifespan.
Bizarrely, easily the biggest game release on Pippin was Super Marathon by Bungie, and the game many regard as the spiritual predecessor to the Halo franchise. It had online deathmatch, on a console.
Now look at gaming today, particularly the Xbox 360. It’s essentially a PC rig within a console, with online capabilities, many apps and it plays exclusive home to the Halo franchise that Bungie created.
The real shame here is that Apple and Bandai were really on to something with the Pippin concept, but together they only manufactured 100,000 consoles and only managed to sell around 42,000 of them.
It died because PlayStation was dominating the scene at the time, and because proper PC gaming was really taking off thanks to Doom. There was simply no need for a PC hidden within a console’s shell.
That, and the Pippin cost a whopping $599 at launch, which in the time of reasonably affordable alternatives was just lunacy. Apple selling one of its products at a ridiculously high mark-up – who would have thought it?
2. Xbox 360’s red ring of death becomes a plague on gaming
Oh this old thing. The red ring of death was a dark chapter in the Xbox 360 saga, leading to much aggravation, and loaded the cannons of PS3 fanboys with enough troll material to last for years. Until the PS3 outage we mentioned earlier of course.
If you’re unfamiliar with what the red ring of death means, it’s when the front light of the Xbox 360 console displays three red lights, which is Microsoft’s way of telling you, “Your console is irreparably broken. Bad times.”
Now, a few hardware failures are deemed acceptable by the consumer electronics industry at large, and this makes sense because not everything works perfectly 100 per cent of the time. It’s just a fact.
But between 2007 and 2009, electronics warranty consultancy SquareTrade tracked the Xbox 360 failure rate at 23.7 per cent, and deemed it the least reliable console when compared to Wii and PS3. 12.7 per cent of that number is purely red ring of death-related failure.
Responding to the outcry from gamers, Microsoft extended Xbox 360 warranties to three years, but that didn’t really help the thousands who had to suffer getting their console replaced, and dealing with tech support guys over the phone on a tri-monthly basis.
Microsoft even issued a statement to say it was putting aside $1.15 billion fund in anticipation of the cost needed to make the new three-year warranties a reality, and to deal with an expected torrent of replacements. That’s a lot of money.
It was a farcical display, and to this day Microsoft has never fully revealed what caused the red ring of death, but there have been many theories bandied around over the past few years. We may never truly know.
1. Phantom becomes vapourware of the season – for two years
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of vapourware, it can mean one of two things. First, it can be used to describe a product that is being passed off a real, but one that doesn’t actually exist.
Second, it can be used to describe a game or product that keeps on getting cancelled and restarted, or have its release date pushed back constantly. Duke Nukem Forever is a good example of vapourware for taking something like 47 years to finish.
We’re exaggerating of course, but the Phantom is a hard one to bracket because it’s a console that is shrouded in mystery, countless delays, wild promises and more. But much like the Apple Pippin, the core concept behind the idea was years ahead of its time.
Look at the games industry today – you can download full triple-a games over the internet instead of going to your local shop. Phantom was a console that promised to embrace this idea long before Xbox 360 and PS3 took it mainstream.
Developed by the now-defunct Infinium Labs, The Phantom first appeared at E3 2004 in prototype form, where it began raising eyebrows almost instantly.
Lofty promises about launching for Christmas 2004 without any games or signed content suppliers caused the gaming press to react with more cynicism than usual.
Fast forward to 2007, and the troubled Phantom project still wasn’t available at retail. Infinium Labs had also racked up a reported $62.7 million in losses and received allegations of financial scandal.
It was a messy affair, and although the project was a colossal failure, the concept lives on in digital storefronts you see on PSN and Xbox Live, and coming just a year after Valve opened the Steam platform.
Phantom can’t take credit for any of this of course, but it does make you wonder if the console was first pitched today, would it have had more of an impact? Who knows?