Top Five: Failed Handheld Systems With Potential

Hold these handheld L’s.

There is absolutely nothing more frustrating than wasted potential. Below is a list of what we feel are the cream of the crop of the handheld market, in terms of having great potential, and executing amazing failure.

5) Neo Geo Pocket Color

Handelds, handheld, NGPC, Neo Geo Pocket ColorFirst released in Japan on March 16, 1999,  the NGPC was developed to compete against the Gameboy color and came out of the gate with a competitive price tag of $69.95. The Neo Geo Pocket color sported a 2.7 inch 160×152 resolution display able to show various combinations of simultaneous colors out of a plate of 4096, but obviously, never the entire array of 4096.

Out of all the handhelds on our list, this one is the one that had the ultimate potential to compete, as it had both fantastic specs, and a great library of intellectual properties to borrow from to create software for said system. Sadly, potential means nothing without execution, and the lack thereof doomed this amazing handheld console to the obscure collector’s realm.


4) Wonderswan Color

Wonderswan Color, gundam, Handelds, handheldThe Wonderswan Color dropped in Japan on December 9, 2000, and was Bandai and Koto Laboratory’s entry into the handheld market. You would think with a dream partnership of Gunpei Yokoi (the mastermind behind the Nintendo Game Boy, Virtual Boy), Bandai, and all the other players that supported the hardware (Namco, SquareEnix, Capcom), would have allowed them to make some kind of dent in the market.

What they learned instead, is that when it comes to making your brand known, you can’t park yourself at niche. The system never made it outside of Japan, where it sold roughly 3.5 million units before they threw in the towel. With more of a concrete marketing plan, one could only imagine if the Wonderswan brand would have worked it’s way into a better competitive stance against the Game Boy brand.


3) Game Park 32

Game Park GP32, Handelds, handheldThis entry breaks my heart, because the soul of this machine should speak to anyone with a dream.

developed by Game Park out of South Korea, the GP32 boasted some pretty fun specs for developers, both of professional and homebrew level, to dive in and toy with until one would reach their desired results. Rather than creating a system that relied on expensive dev kits, the GP32 allowed anyone with motivation to create content, and distribute it via smart media cards (which ironically, was eventually a thorn on it’s side).

The GP32 did it all on the surface. It played MP3 audio, allowed wireless multiplayer via the GP Link dongle accessory, and accessible Homebrew development tools should have given the handheld a fighting chance.

So what went wrong? Too much to count. Poor software distribution plan, unstable smart media card that commonly corrupted on the user, and a limited release to one market simply did not allow the GP32 to gain any notoriety with gamers that could have been potentially looking for a system that did things vastly different from the undisputed leader in the handheld market.


2) Gizmondo

By Evan-Amos - Own work, Public Domain, Handelds, handheldWe can classify this as the ultimate Hail Mary. The Gizmodo by Tiger Telematics sported impressive hardware, and was positioned to deliver content and media in a way that could only be described as visionary for it’s time. The system sported and Nvidia GoForce 3D 4500, with Windows Media and various audio format support. It even offered users multiplayer via Bluetooth, something that was regarded as a convenient luxury when the system was launched on March 19, 2005.

So what went wrong? A few things. To start with, the price tag was ridiculous ($229.00 for a version that spammed you with ads and offers, and a $400.00 spam free version). At that range, you were better off purchasing any of the other handhelds or core consoles, which all boasted a much better software lineup than the Gizmondo.

Just like all the other victims in this list, it’s all about the games. Even though this hardware was impressive, the games that trickled out from it were not considered killer applications. If you can live without it, you certainly will not make the sacrifice to obtain it. Without a stable software list, this pretty much solidified itself as just another paper weight.

Last but not least, the Stefan Eriksson incidents in which he pretty much made a total jackass of himself did not reflect well on the company image, something that started to resonate between consumers in gaming during this time, and still holds true today.


1) N-Gage

N-Gage, Handelds, handheldPlay stupid games, win stupid prizes.

The N-Gage, on paper, was positioned to be the “last” handheld device you needed. In a sense, Nokia saw the benefit into creating a handheld console that also doubled as your cell phone long before anyone else did. And if they would have thought things through just a little bit more, they would have probably had a huge hit on their hands.

But unfortunately, right out of the gate, the system had way too many strikes against it. Poor marketing. Ridiculous design. Incoherent distribution. It’s biggest strike? Trying to actually talk on the phone. It’s hands down, the most awkward, uncomfortable actions you’ll take a part of, in your entire life.

The list of games available was actually not bad by any means. In fact, many of the games earned praise across the gaming media of that time. The unfortunate end came from the inevitable goofiness in hardware design, and the most disconnected marketing campaign that a gamer my age simply will never be able to get behind.

Nokia had a good idea with blending two devices. it’s execution was, unfortunately, a shot in the foot. With a shotgun.

Did we miss a handheld? What are your top 5 handhelds that waster their potential? Let us know!


Big Boss

Big Boss

War never changes.

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