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The Top 7... Consoles that never were

Created by: Phantom Entertainment (formerly Infinium Labs)

Intended for release: 2004

The hope: A pioneer in the field of downloadable gaming, the Phantom would simultaneously eliminate the need for physical discs and bring PC gaming to the masses. Essentially just a slick-looking PC itself, the Phantom would be built around a direct-download service that would enable users to quickly and easily play commercial games without the troublesome old concepts of "walking to the store" or "waiting for a delivery." Also, the games would cost exactly what they would at retail, or users could pay a subscription fee that would allow them to download a certain number of games per month.

The reality: Ragging on the aptly named Phantom at this point is like beating a dead horse with another dead horse that was beaten to death with dead horses. But even so, no other console is as synonymous as the Phantom with vaporware, broken promises and outright lies.

Starting in 2002, the Phantom immediately aroused suspicion across the web when Infinium Labs announced it as a "revolutionary" new console, while saying precious little about what it would actually do. The ugly, computer-rendered mockup of the thing that came with the initial press release didn't help matters much; neither did the company's secrecy and relative obscurity. It wasn't long before insistent rumors started to circulate that the "console" was a hoax.

An investigation into Infinium by hardware site [H]ard|OCP reinforced these beliefs - the company was revealed to have no actual offices, and its founder's resume was sketchy at best. And when Infinium subsequently threatened to sue [H]ard|OCP for reporting facts, it only made them look worse.

Two years down the road, however, the Phantom stunned audiences at E3 2004 by actually showing up. The company even acknowledged its shady reputation with T-shirts and banners saying, "I Believe," the former of which were handed out to anyone who stopped by the company's booth. Sure enough, real, working Phantom consoles were on display, along with the interesting "lapboard," which enabled users to use a keyboard and mouse without a desk.

After that somewhat impressive showing, however, the Phantom was never really seen again. The console underwent numerous delays, each one pushing it back a few months, until finally it was announced that the console would be delayed indefinitely, until further funding had been secured. In August 2006, all references to the console were quietly removed from Phantom Entertainment's website.

Currently, the Phantom website advertises only two products: the lapboard, and an as-yet-unavailable direct-download service for games. For what it's worth, it looks like the Phantom will stay true to its name for the time being.

Why it never saw life: Assuming that Phantom Entertainment wasn't out to swindle its investors from the beginning, you can chalk this one up to money. Honest or not, it takes a lot of startup cash to launch a game console. And that money can't be easy to raise when the entire internet thinks you're running a massive scheme to defraud your investors. Or when you continually delay your product. Neither of those things really build confidence.

Hear more about this article in TalkRadar.

Jun 9, 2008

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15 comments

  • Predreus - December 29, 2012 5:31 p.m.

    Oh man, I was at E3 in 2004 and walked into the Phantom booth just in time to see one blue screen while someone was playing Madden. It was just a modified Windows box is all.
  • Zetabyte - April 6, 2011 5:32 a.m.

    Wha!?? No Bandai/Apple Pippin? Amiga CD32!? NO NINTEDO DD64!?!?!? No Worries, i'll just assume those would have been 8,9, and 10.
  • thefreakysurgeon - March 7, 2011 12:54 a.m.

    i always find the whole deal with Nintendo and Sony and the SNES CD to be very interesting and i always love reading about it.
  • talkraider - December 29, 2010 4:17 a.m.

    Sorry phantom, onlive beat you to the punch
  • fartinapot - July 23, 2010 5:48 p.m.

    that sucks. it looks like the phantom could have been a big hit. I wonder how popular the phantom would've been if it was released?
  • Strangleme - May 11, 2010 9:04 p.m.

    Amazing article!! I never knew the whole story behind the Nintendo/Playstation drama.
  • AFilthyIbis - October 24, 2008 8:44 a.m.

    Nope. We shant be having thatbehaviour here. Away with you hail56790 and your "first". "reported"
  • wiigamer024 - June 23, 2009 1:39 p.m.

    Nintendo, and Sony worked TOGETHER?!? Holy shiz! were was I, under a rock? I'm glad THAT was never relesed.
  • Hypershadic - May 17, 2009 1:16 a.m.

    You know a few of these could possibly have made it but you know what I don't really know that much so hell thats it....
  • AA95mp - January 3, 2009 8:10 p.m.

    it's a pity about a lot of these consoles they might of actually done well (but probaly not.)
  • d3athcr4ft - September 6, 2009 2:18 a.m.

    The Phantom sounds pretty much like the new OnLive system that is scheduled for release later this year. It remains to be seen if OnLive will actually hit the market, although it does seem to be much further along than the Phantom ever was.
  • scatterlaser - June 26, 2009 10:26 p.m.

    The phantom had potential but if it was released eventually or a consel based on the same idea it would have serious competition with xbox live and the more established download services e.g. steam,wii shopping channel,psn.
  • kurkosdr - January 7, 2009 8:56 p.m.

    @AA95mp EXCUSE ME?? Specifically WHAT on these list could have done well?? -->All of the systems on this list were a prime example of 1)Overpricing 2)Incompetence 3)Useless features 4)Shitty games 5)Inability to understand the market and what customers want. -The Gizmondo2 would never stand a chance next to the PSP, even with it's (lets call it a) camera. - The ProjectX... not a console, a useless feature tucked in overpriced DVD players. Answer to your self: Can the dedicated hardware of a standaalone DVD player run proper games? -The Indrema L600. An attempt to make a product (and games), out of the work that hobbist no-pay programmers did during their free time. Which, by the way, should have to compete with consoles designed by a thousand of paid engineeres. And games made by big-ass companies, which can afford to pay an army of programmers, artists and graphics designers. Does tux racer count as a game? Probably. As a competent racing game? No effing way! Sorry open source fans, this works only on OSes, browsers and media players -Neptune: Another effort from SEGA to tranform their 16-bit fossil into a modern console. Or in other words "our accounting department said that making a new console would be too expensive, so lets try to upgrade the stuff we already have". Losers! Answer to your self: Can you turn a 16bit system into a modern powerhouse, without making the programming process for it a pain in the ass? Impossible. Good for SEGA to aknowlegde their mistake. It saved them years of life. -M2: When you have made a console that will cost as much as a professional multimedia platform, you know you 've gone the wrong way. Look what happened to Sony and their PS3 powerhouse. Look how successfull the underpowered (but cheap and full of games), the SNES and PSOne were. Period. -Super Nintendo CD: For those who didn't get it the first time... you can't upgrade a fossil. -Phantom: Eh... Hem... can't an average user do the exactly same by assembling a media center PC??? In case you didn't noticed, this was exactly what the phantom would have been. A media center PC with a fancy video card. The idea of downloadable games (the ancestor of Steam) was a good idea, but I doubt if infinium could have pulled this out. Too much aggreements with too much game companies, by a small company. Impossible
  • kurkosdr - January 1, 2009 1:27 p.m.

    Altough it's not exactly a console... Any post-G350 video card from Matrox capable of running games even from it's era fast.

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