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The Top 7... failed futures of gaming

3. Console expansion hardware

The promise

An end to the painful cycle of consigning much-loved and trusty consoles to the dusty cupboard of outdated tech every five years. Instead of the live burial of our silicon best friends whenever the next generation rolled around, we'd be able to rub out the next generation altogether by gradually evolving our current machines into all-conquering hardware behemoths by way of incremental add-ons and upgrades. With just a few extra bits and bobs, your NES could be running Gears of War with 3000-player online co-op for decades to come.

The crushing reality

Above: The meteoric evolution of Sega gaming

People like shiny new things and game developers like playing with brand new technology. And however many new storage media and memory upgrades you bolt onto an old console, it's impossible to shake the stigma that it's still an old console. Thus, despite the best efforts of Sega's Mega CD and 32X in the '90s, third party innovation was largely eschewed in favour of slightly upgraded 16-bit ports and yet more multimedia games. Gah. First-party, we got a slightly flashier Sonic and an ugly-as-Satan's-arse Virtua Fighter.

And Nintendo's aborted SNES CD add-on succeeded only in getting the big N's face stomped off by a brand new rival, leading as it did to the creation of the ironically very next-gen PlayStation.


2. The 3DO

The promise

Envisioned and marketed by  EA founder Trip Hawkins, the 3DO console was to be the man's greatest innovation and one of the biggest game-changers in the industry. Released in 1993, the idea was to launch not a console but a universal gaming platform, a standardised set of technology that could be licensed to any manufacturer, ending the petty console wars once and for all. With a similarly open (and low-cost) game licensing agreement, the utopian future of gaming was very much on the way.

The crushing reality

The 3DO was a noble concept, but also naive, foolhardy, and doomed to all buggery. It was ubdoubtedly uber-specced, but however awesome the technology, releasing a high-end $700 dollar multimedia game console into a world of people accustomed to the sub $200 SNES was never going to end well. And by the time people were really ready for what the 3DO could do, the PlayStation was doing it for a considerably lower price. Additionally, the too-early launch only exacerbated the problems of half-hearted software that had already battered Sega's Mega CD. Still, it had a great version of Road Rash.

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32 comments

  • scorcher64 - February 21, 2013 4:13 p.m.

    I can see a spot reserved on this list for 3D/Steroscopic games, glasses, TVs, etc. we have now.
  • TheBoz - March 15, 2010 9 p.m.

    Here is a notion. In the news today was an article about a blind soldier that attached a piece of equipment connected to a pair of glasses with cameras to his toungue, this in turn sent information through his senses to the brain enabling him to see. Could THIS be the way forward in Virtual reality? It is an interesting piece of technology and a very interesting concept.
  • Fiirestorm21 - February 13, 2010 10:07 a.m.

    To say Telltale is the only developer so far who has done episodic gaming well is a fair argument, but the nonsense about the HL2 episodes being a failed experiment need to stop. The whole point from the beginning was that they'd be shorter but cheaper and take less time to come out. Shorter? Yep, though still ironically about as long as most mainstream shooters these days. Cheaper? You betcha. And the last time I checked, three episodes are coming out in the same amount of time it took Valve do a full-scale single entry in the series. So, last time I checked, that would mean that they are being released more frequently. Not to mention that saying it's taken 3-4 years for Episode Three since Episode One completely skips over that little game in there called Episode Two. Come on, people, basic math isn't all that hard. Though, granted, like I said at the top, I agree Telltale is the only company to do episodic gaming well in the way gamers envisioned it. @drawed - Considering the success of Steam in addition to the successes of Xbox Live Arcade and the PSN store (both of which you mentioned but seemed to undercut substantially), I wouldn't say digital distribution is a failed future. Simply that we're not completely where we want to be doesn't mean that it's a failed future. That would be like saying our trip to Kansas failed because we're still in Michigan...driving...to Kansas. Doesn't exactly make much sense.
  • Romination - February 11, 2010 3:51 a.m.

    I'm calling it, the fiber diet metaphor made my fucking DAY
  • Yeager1122 - February 10, 2010 4:23 p.m.

    haha love the virtual reality one.
  • Duckmaster - February 10, 2010 7:03 a.m.

    I never played it when it first came out, but my mom got me a Virtual Boy a few years ago and I love it! It's graphics may not be the best, but the red and black coloring of every game is interesting and for some games, it has great 3D for when it was released.
  • mentalityljs - February 10, 2010 1:40 a.m.

    Goodness, the only thing keeping Sega CD alive in my head is Eternal Champions. That shit kicked ASS! I think I've only known one person my entire life who's ever owned a 3DO. And Virtual Boy, LMAO. I remember playing it and burning my eyes out at Blockbuster when it first came out. They had the right idea, just WAY too ahead of it's time.
  • upUPandAWAY - February 9, 2010 6:49 p.m.

    hahaha! 3DO. I had the first version with the flip top not the auto sliding disc loader thingy. That system was so far advanced compared to the others out at that time. Road Rash was the whole reason I bought it. Does anybody remember "R.I.S.E. of Robots"? For anyone who doesn't remember that game, just think of a fighting game with only 6 battles and no music. It did however have exceptional graphics (at the time) and full motion video for the characters.
  • 8bitBaby - February 9, 2010 5:49 p.m.

    daawww... the future is fail.
  • AuthorityFigure - February 9, 2010 12:07 p.m.

    My advice to you, fellow gamers, is not to wait for any Half-Life 2: Episode Anything. Valve seem very arrogant to me.
  • GameManiac - February 9, 2010 3:51 a.m.

    I can only imagine the money that eye doctors have made with Virtual Boy reladed cases...
  • RebornKusabi - February 9, 2010 1:23 a.m.

    Ah my childhood! How many useless abandonware was released during that period lol
  • robotechandnarutosucks - February 9, 2010 12:46 a.m.

    LOL at the last pic.
  • MaynardJ - February 8, 2010 11:56 p.m.

    Sega CD, 32X, 3DO, Virtua Boy... I remember all of these. Damn, the 90s were exciting! Thankfully the Activator never made it to Europe, this is the first time I read about it. Thank heaven for the choices my brother and I made back then; SNES and Megadrive (European name for Genesis), after that PC and Playstation. We're both still gaming omnivores. Episodic gaming still looks interesting, at least the way Telltale does it. I just finished a free episode of Sam & Max and I'm interested in more of it, but I'd still like it on a disk. I do want all three HL2 episodes, but once the third is complete they'll probably release a new Orange Box and I'll buy that. Which means I still haven't played the main game... life's not fair.
  • Cyberninja - February 8, 2010 11:28 p.m.

    as long as the new sonic episodes are good it will be fine by me
  • WonsAuto - February 8, 2010 10:04 p.m.

    Holy crap, that picture of the fat guy with Short Round is gold!
  • farsided - February 8, 2010 8:36 p.m.

    um...let's see. Motion control is booming, and eventually it will be able to capture small hand gestures (aka Minority Report). So that hasn't failed. Episodic content works for the most part (Sam and Max anyone?), but citing valve taking forever to release Episode 3 does not cement your argument. Virtual Reality is in essence dealing with 3D, and while the stupid little helmets didn't work (come on, it was too far ahead of it's time) CES'09 or whatev basically proved how into 3D and immersion people are. So while VR basically hit a 10 year road bump, it didn't fail, it just had to wait for the technology to catch up with the concept. So only 4 of the 7 were spot on. WEAK.
  • Madserj - February 8, 2010 8:33 p.m.

    To be fair, the Sega thing looked ok, but I bet that 1-800 number was in meltdown on the first week. That has to be the most complicated controller ever.
  • OberKommando44 - February 8, 2010 8:29 p.m.

    Ugh Virtual reality, another 60 bucks down the drain :(
  • twewy13 - February 8, 2010 8:20 p.m.

    hah, virtual reality, super fail...

Showing 1-20 of 32 comments

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