In order for progress to be made, we need failures. It’s the way of life and definitely not a bad thing. Without these unreleased consoles, the respective companies would have never learned about the market and what will and won’t work. Of course, if these consoles were successful and did see the light of day, it would have changed the face of the video game world in a number of ways. So, let’s get to it, shall we?
9 – Action Enterprises GameMaster (1994)
Oh yes. Remember Action Enterprises? Or should I say, Action 52? Since their 52-in-one video game cartridge did so well, Action Enterprises decided to embark on designing and marketing their own console—the GameMaster.
The GameMaster was to video game consoles as Action 52 was to video game carts. And because Action is much too good for copyright laws of any kind, their GameMaster was going to play NES, SNES, Gameboy, Genesis, TurboGfx-16, and Lynx games in addition to its own GameMaster games. Did I mention this behemoth was a handheld system?
What if it was successful?: If Action Enterprises was successful with the GameMaster, in addition to the Action 52 cart and The Cheetahmen, then the apocalypse would have come and gone. Judgement Day would have happened, John Conner wouldn’t have been able to stop SkyNet, and there’d be nothing left of humanity as the robot war waged on.
8 – Taito WoWoW (1992)
Taito, famous for giving us Bub and Bob of Bubble Bobble fame, embarked on an innovative console in 1992, the terribly named WoWoW, which sounds like a bad Jersey Shore cast member (not to be confused with the good Jersey Shore cast members?) At any rate, WoWoW was designed to use CD-ROMs as its main form of game media. Nothing too crazy there, but the WoWoW would also be able to download new games through an online service. This 16-bit machine was test-marketed in Japan, but never made it past that stage.
What if it was successful?: Taito would have led the industry in what is now common-place—downloadable games and content. Maybe the Sega Channel would have caught on, too.
7 – Panasonic M2 (1997)
The M2 was slated as a follow-up to the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer console circa 1993, but 3DO ended up selling the technology to Panasonic, who cancelled it in 1997 due to not wanting to compete with PlayStation. Lame. The M2 isn’t completely gone, however. The technology was used in Panasonic’s FZ-21S and FZ-35S multimedia players in 1998. The machines were not marketed toward consumers; rather they were targeted to working professionals in medicine, architecture, and sales. Who says video games don’t do any good? It ended up being used as a game machine for a small time, in an arcade board from Konami. Although, with only five games developed under its belt and long load times from its CD-ROM drive, not much came from it.
What if it was successful?: The M2 reportedly had technology that blew Sega out of the water. It’s even still used today in some ATMs. That’s more than the Dreamcast can say.
6 – Konix Multisystem (1989)
This was 32 bits? It looks worse than the Jaguar!
The system was plagued by a few issues—mainly that the graphics weren’t that impressive and they opted for 3.5-inch floppy disks instead of cartridges. I mean, what? The system was also difficult to program for due to its shortage of RAM, which was reportedly kept low in order to keep prices low. Overall, the main factor that held this system back was Konix running out of funds. Lots of controversy around this one, so check out this site.
The biggest innovation in the Konix Multisystem was their motorized gaming chair, or Power Chair. This was a motorized seat akin to arcade games that players would sit in (the Power Chair is widely compared to the After Burner arcade). Big names were tied to the machine, such as Electronic Arts and Ocean. Lucasfilms was also touted as a developer and rumors flew about the company releasing their own branded version of the Multisystem in the U.S. It’s also been long-rumoured that the Multisystem ended up becoming the Atari Jaguar. While the Jag and the Multisystem did share some of the same programmers, the technology is rather different.
What if they were successful?: The Konix Multisystem would have set the stage for isolated video gaming. As players’ butts expanded, so did the Power Chair line to include the Power Loveseat, Power Sofa, and my favorite—the Power Sectional. We definitely wouldn’t be running around all willy-nilly with a Wii-mote playing Tennis.
5 – Sega VR (1991)
Did you hate the Virtual Boy? Because… you’ll feel similarly about the unreleased Sega VR, which was basically a virtual reality headset with LCD screens in the visor to burn images of Sonic directly into your eyeballs. Fun for the whole family! Slightly more advanced than the Virtual Boy, the Sega VR included sensors in the headset, which tracked and reacted to the movements of the player’s head. Probably by inducing seizures. This actually came before the ill-fated 1995 Virtual Boy. You’d think Nintendo would have clued in and avoided this virtual reality crap.
The product failed not due to VR-induced headaches or shoddy controls and graphics—nothing of the sort. The virtual reality was much too real, all 16 bits of it, and that freaked people out. Yup, the company that brought you the Sega 32X got too real with the virtual reality thing.
What if it was successful?: If the Sega VR did what it was reported to do, we’d see it partnered with the Konix Multisystem Power Chair for a life straight out of the Matrix.
4 – Ultravision Video Arcade System (1983)
Like bootleg systems of the 1990s up until current day, Ultravision was supposed to play a myriad of cartridges, such as Atari 2600, Intellivision, and Coleco, in addition to its own Ultravision line of games. It even included a 10” color television integrated with the game console. Yes, 10” was once an acceptable television size. Ultravision touted itself thusly: “It’s a game! A computer! A color TV!” Well it turned out to be none of those things since it was never released.
What if it was successful?: Well, us retro gaming nerds would have saved a lot of room. Instead of 25 consoles, I’d be down to one. And since it plays all the games, screw Sony and Microsoft, and everyone else. All programmers, all the time. No big companies. Indie games would be an even larger market. Of course, that can also mean some (lots) of crap games sneaking through. And we’d be fine with 10” televisions. This is not a world I want to live in.
3 – Atari Mirai (late 1980s)
Not much is known about the Mirai, but rumors buzz about Atari and Neo-Geo shackin’ up and pumping out a baby—a possibly more affordable version of the Neo-Geo for the average consumer.
What if it was successful?: If the rumors are true, we’d all have Neo-Geos and damn, wouldn’t that be awesome? The partnership would have set the stage for lower prices and maybe even saved Atari’s ass. And maybe, just maybe, there wouldn’t have been the Jaguar.
2 – Phillips In2It (1996)
Before there were texting and cell phones that wouldn’t break a storefront’s window if you chucked it across the street, people loved PDAs. The In2It was a PDA marketed toward kids that included such fun things as an address book, calculator, and calendar.
What if it were successful?: There are two possibilities in my mind—texting would have caught on much earlier, or we’d still be using PDAs. I kind of like PDAs, so I’d be happy playing fun things like alarm clock and notepad.
1 – Atari Cosmos (1981)
The Atari Cosmos was supposed to be a sophisticated 3D handheld console, the first to use holographic images, but as we now know—Atari was always full of crap. And I say that lovingly because I love Atari. It just pains me since the company had so much potential with a lot of projects that unfortunately flopped. This is one of those projects.
So now that we’ve gotten that pesky disclaimer out of the way, we can get into those even peskier facts. Instead of awesome holographic Pac-Men jumping off the screen, we’re presented with a pre-printed holographic overlay, like we’re playing a slightly fancier Magnavox Odyssey. The electronics part was simply a 7 x 6 grid of red LEDs. So, a quasi-holographic Virtual Boy? Once word got out that this was a piece of crap, Atari abandoned ship.
What if they were successful?: Imagine having a slightly crude Nintendo 3DS in 1981. Atari would still be around today producing regular consoles with 4D technology. The answer to “Have you played Atari today?” would actually be YES.
What was your favorite unreleased console? Leave us a comment below!