Failed Game Consoles that could have benefited from an XBox 360-like name and strategy

 

   With the XBox 360 release only mere weeks away I thought it'd be appropriate to look back through gaming history and ponder the following: What if past failed consoles had used the XBox 360's clever naming scheme and ingenious multi-tiered pricing system? Surely that would have turned the tide in their favor! To be fair (and to keep this list shorter than a Stephen King novel) I'll only have a *few* failed Atari and Sega systems... Let's go!


Original name / year of failed console: Atari 5200 (1982)

New name: Atari 52m

   What the new name is supposed to mean:
"52m" stands for 52 million, the number of Atari 5200 users Atari intended to have within a year. Considering in 1982 some people still rode horse and buggy this was quite aggressive.

   What the new name REALLY means:
Absolutely nothing. But it's short and sweet.

Cheap "Core" system: $150. Includes: Atari 52m console and a non-centering controller. Power supply and RF box sold separately. 

Expensive "Premium" system: $250. Includes: Atari 52m console, CENTERING controller (well, instructions included as to installing the rubber band), power supply and RF box. Plus a "Kangaroo" cartridge. Yippee.

The Pitch

  For all the millions Atari spent on research and development it's quite sad that most of their [released] game systems were either based on the 2600, the Atari 800 computer or both. The Atari 5200 was the first Atari computer based system, with the XEGS being the second. Anyway, had they told people they expected "52 million" users the general public would have surely gone out and bought the "Atari 52m" system like mad, if only to help Atari achieve its goal and avoid the sting of false promises. Sadly the public assumed they only wanted 5,200 users and so didn't exactly rush to the stores. What a shame. Plus the unit was about the size of Rhode Island which didn't help matters much. (In fact only 1 was ever sold in Rhode Island and it garnered a lot of parking tickets)


Original name / year of failed console: Sega Master System (1986)

New name: System X80

   What the new name is supposed to mean:
By just saying "System" it's kind of up in the air who makes it. Could be Nintendo, could be Atari, who knows? The X80 is a reference to the Z80 processor, but research shows people like the letter "X" better than "Z" Note the at-that-time recent film "Xanadu" - not "Zanadu" Case closed. Plus it was the 1980's so the "80" part was hip. Really big with the legwarmer crowd (again the Xanadu fans)

   What the new name REALLY means:
80's a bigger number than the Atari 52m, since the "m" doesn't count you know.

Cheap "Core" system: $100. Includes: System X80.... system, 1 one-button controller (2 button controller sold separately), frayed power cable and RF box.

Expensive "Premium" system: $200. Includes: System X80 system, a 2 button controller, unfrayed power cable, RF box and a copy of "Jungle Shooter" or whatever that thing was.

The Pitch

  Sega entered the console scene shortly after Nintendo with their "Sega Master System" Maybe it was the blasť games, perhaps the ugly case design, at any rate the unit didn't sell very much in America despite having some success in Europe. Likely the main problem was people were just to lazy to say "Sega Master System" when the competition was simply "NES" X80, while having more syllables than NES, at least sounded cool and perhaps similar to the name of a fast foreign sports car. Alas, we'll never know just how much the simple name change could have helped.


Original name / year of failed console: Atari Lynx (1989)

New name: Lynx 25000

   What the new name is supposed to mean:
Still the name Lynx, but "25,000" to remind you it's portable and can be taken all 25,000 miles around the Earth. (Atari research $$$ was limited by then and therefore could only calculate the circumference of the Earth to within 100 miles. So they rounded off and called it a day)

   What the new name REALLY means:
25,000 is more than "7800" and way, waaaay more than the Sega System X80. Besides, who needs a stink'n "X" when you've got a big number?

Cheap "Core" system: $100. Includes: Atari Lynx 25000 system. Carrying strap, foam packaging and box sold separately. 

Expensive "Premium" system: $200. Includes: Atari Lynx 25000 system, foam packaging, box, and instruction manual. Carrying strap still sold separately ($50)

The Pitch

  Possibly the best Atari system (or the one with the most potential) ironically the Lynx wasn't even designed by Atari but rather the Commodore Amiga guys. Atari simply bought the rights to it. While a cool system, users of the day obviously had no idea it was portable (possibly because it was about the size of a small surfboard) and thus the "25,000" indicator would have obviously pegged the system as a contender for world travel. 24,000 could also indicate, in milliseconds, how long the average set of batteries would last.


Original name / year of failed console: TurboGraphx-16 (1989)

New name: TGX-65535 Revelations

   What the new name is supposed to mean:
16 bit processing doesn't sound impressive enough. So let's tell people the system can handle numbers up to 65535! Now that's impressive! Also Sega isn't the only one to use books of the Bible as names - behold the REVELATIONS! Public domain baby!

   What the new name REALLY means:
More than 2600, 5200 and 7800 combined. Also nearly 3 times as much as the Lynx 25000. Truly a milestone in videogaming.

Cheap "Core" system: $150. Includes: TGX-65535 Revelations system, controller and a coupon for Radio Shack to buy some wire to make your own TV adapter. Also includes instructions for taking the cord off an old lamp for use as a power supply. (Ask an adult for help)

Expensive "Premium" system: $250. Includes: TGX-65535 Revelations system, controller and all required cables. Copy of "Legendary Axe" sold separately.

The Pitch

  Back in 1989 game magazines and the like were bending over backwards to sing the praises of the latest high tech game system - the TurbroGraphx-16. (Even while the Genesis snuck up in the background and did all the actual butt-kicking) But "TurboGraphx" is kind of a lame title and they topped it off by spelling "Graphics" wrong! Apparently the editor was out to lunch that... year. I mean come on - parents aren't going to buy this and openly contribute to their child's illiteracy! Plus the Genesis was named after something from church and therefore surely had a bevy of religious cartridges available, hopefully all from Color Dreams. "TGX-65535" itself may not mean anything but putting "Revelations" at the end would let people know they meant business! Sadly it was not to be... Nor did the GX-65535 Revelations Xpress ever find an audience...


Original name / year of failed console: Sega Game Gear (1986)

New name: GamePerson 100k

   What the new name is supposed to mean:
Not just for boys, this portable game system is for every PERSON on Earth! 100k refers to the minimum cartridge size - wow it sure is big!

   What the new name REALLY means:
There is no minimum cartridge size, that's a bunch of hooey. 100k, or 100,000 is bigger than 65536, that's all. I mean, come on! It's not rocket science you know.

Cheap "Core" system: $75. Includes: GamePerson 100k system. Nothing else. Seriously, it comes wrapped in newspaper.

Expensive "Premium" system: $175. Includes: GamePerson 100k system, battery compartment doors, screen and a plain cardboard box. If you're lucky the storekeeper will magic marker "GamePerson" on it so you don't accidentally purchase a bulk container of freeze-dried lima beans or worse, an Atari Jaguar.

The Pitch

  Sega, having bombed out the gate with the would-be System X80 but doing pretty well with the Sega "No Number Involved" Genesis, decided to try their hand at the portable gaming market. They called it the Game Gear, which sounds like something from your car's transmission. Plus the name contains no numbers - surely a mark of death back then or even today. The user-friendly "GamePerson 100k" moniker would have surely taken the system to an easy success over the original Gameboy. So much so, in fact, people would hardly notice the 3 minute battery life or the blurry color screen. Still I'd probably get emails asking "can I use a GamePerson 100k screen for a portable?" Oh well. Can't win 'em all.


Original name / year of failed console: 3DO (1994)

New name: 3DX-100001-CD

   What the new name is supposed to mean:
3D, as in 3-dimensional, then X for XTREME. Next, the 100001 indicates it is "not just exactly but over one hundred thousand times better than anything you'd ever played before" Finally the "CD" indicates there's a CD player too. Gotta remind people of that.

   What the new name REALLY means:
A bunch of mumbo-jumbo so industry types can't call it the "3-DOA" anymore. Also, wanting to best the GamePerson 100k, but not wanting to go overboard (that would be insane!) they simply made their number 1 higher (Obviously Trip Hawkins was a big "The Price is Right" fan)

Cheap "Core" system: $800+tax. Includes: 3DX-100001-CD system, TV remote-style controller, power cord and RF switch box.

Expensive "Premium" system: $999+tax, title and license. Includes: 3DX-100001-CD system, actual videogame style controller, power cord, composite video cables and a free copies of "Mario is Missing" and "Night Trap"

The Pitch

  Trip Hawkins, former bigwig at EA, decided to strike out [literally] on his own and create the "ultimate videogame system" He loaded it with every bell and whistle they had back in 1993 and called it the 3DO, which of course meant absolutely nothing and left the general public scratching their heads as they listened to their Ace of Base CD's. Had he called it the 3DX-100001-CD, people would have disregarded the high price and surely bought up the system like mad. Gex would have become the new Mario and the Army Men series woulda ate Grand Theft Auto for breakfast. Alas, none of that conjecture happened and the system kind of went down in expensive flames. Now the 3DOA is but a mere footnote in history, its ashes scattered to the wind like so much Tang blown out the door of your campground's tent before you can get any in your cup of iron-tasting river water.


Original name / year of failed console: Sega Saturn (1995)

New name: Sega Genesis CD-ROM 320,000-XP Fusion Reactor Powered Virtua Game System Gear (or SGCDR3200000-XPFRPVGSG for short)

   What the new name is supposed to mean:
No one is really sure. But it has a big number! They took 32, as in 32X, and added a bunch of zeroes.

   What the new name REALLY means:
The name of all the Genesis add-ons put together, plus the power supply it takes and the trendy, for its time, word "Virtua" (Sega was too good for "L's")

Cheap "Core" system: $300. Includes: SGCDR3200000-XPFRPVGSG console, one controller and 3 gauge wire power cord. 3-phase power line and Nuclear Reactor Permit sold separately.

Expensive "Premium" system: $400. Includes: SGCDR3200000-XPFRPVGSG console, one controller, power cord, A/V wires and a coupon to build onto your living room so you can fit the thing in.

The Pitch

  Instead of bothering to design a new system it would have been much better for Sega to simply use all the stuff that was meant as add-ons for the Genesis and throw it together! The SGCDR3200000-XPFRPVGSG would have been a home revolution in gaming, coupled with its 13 processors, 6 power supplies, games involving post-apocalyptic hummingbirds and support beams to put in the floor below where you keep it. Alas, Sega abandoned the workhorse mutated Genesis and released a simple numberless "Saturn" instead. Had they but known...


Original name / year of failed console: Nintendo's Virtual Boy (1995)

New name: Virtua 360^2pi

   What the new name is supposed to mean:
'Virtua" to capitalize on the latest fighting games from Sega, 360 degrees around each of your circular eyeballs, to the second power (because you have 2 eyes) and pi because it's a cool symbol, like Prince turned himself into.

   What the new name REALLY means:
An algebra major ended up in marketing. But apparently nobody told him the final result of the system's number was actually LESS than that of the Sega
SGCDR3200000-XPFRPVGSG and therefore he was quickly fired after it was too late to change all the packaging and labels.

Cheap "Core" system: $150. Includes: Virtua 360^2pi system and controller. Batteries, games, and wire to connect controller to system all sold separately.

Expensive "Premium" system: $250. Includes: Virtua 360^2pi system, controller, game, wires and free bottle of aspirin for all the headaches you'll get using it. Remaining 8 games for the system sold separately.

The Pitch

  Nintendo, having great success with the Gameboy, decided their stock was too high and therefore shot themselves in the foot with the Virtual Boy. Its lame lineup of titles and McCarthy-vision graphics didn't do very much to sway the general public towards "the 3 dimensional future" If it had a cool name (besides "Boy") people may have been more inclined to give it a try. And Nintendo could have inked a deal with major pain reliever companies to get kickbacks from all their greatly increased business. Oh well. Hindsight is 20/20.


Original name / year of failed console: Sega Dreamcast (1999)
New name: Sega Uranus-70X

   What the new name is supposed to mean:
The obvious sequel to a "Saturn" should be a Uranus, duh! Tact on a number 7 (as in the 7th planet in the solar system), add a 0 to make it 70 and finish up with an X for good measure. Shake, stir, success!

   What the new name REALLY means:
Sega decided to go "old school" and drop out of the system numbering wars that was reaching insane levels what with the Virtua 360^2pi and all. They scaled it back to 70, but kept with the old tradition of the faithful X. As for the word "Uranus"... well...

Cheap "Core" system: $250. Includes: Uranus-70X system, controller and a cable (A/V or power, your choice) 

Expensive "Premium" system: $350. Includes: Uranus-70X system, controller, both cables and a free "Marky Mark Make Your Own Music Video" disc. (remastered from the Sega CD days)

The Pitch

 Sega press release:

"Sega's gonna kick.... URANUS!

Get out your wallets! Sure it's only been 4 years since we asked you to spend $300 of your hard-earn dollars on a system. But instead of considering that a lack of faith in our own products why not just run out and buy a URANUS-70X? As you probably are aware "70" is more than "64" so it's obviously better than your Nintendo. And for you math whizzes our there, note that 70 is a whopping 69 more than a PS1! What more can we say? Buy a Uranus-70X, and we promise we won't support it for a mere 4 years! [fine print: rather a mere 2] Order now!"


Original name / year of console: Nintendo Gamecube (2001)
New name: Gamecube6

[Disclaimer: I know the Gamecube is more successful than any other system mentioned thus far, but it's in 3rd place so fair game I think]

   What the new name is supposed to mean:
A cube has six sides! So does a room in your house! And as such the Gamecube6 will surround you, like a room does, with all-encompassing game-related excitement.

   What the new name REALLY means:
"6" is more than Playstation 2, 3, 4 or even 5. That's thinking ahead. Plus 6 also refers to the total number of different game franchises for the system (Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Monkeyball, Resident Evil Remakes and Metal Gear remakes) for easy reference. As usual Nintendo doesn't consider any other game company to be a threat so they were OK with the fact 6 is less than 70.

Cheap "Core" system: $50. Includes: Gamecube6 motherboard and PDF's of pinouts for connecting everything else. Case sold separately ($40)

Expensive "Premium" system: $150. Includes: Assembled Gamecube6 system, controller, cables and free discs of Mario Party 16-800.

The Pitch

  Nintendo decided to make a rectangle shaped system and call it a cube. That's fine - to each his own they say. But they should have covered their butts and put a 6 on the end, since both a rectangle AND a cube have 6 sides! This would have at least put geometry buffs at ease. Also the Big N needs to get in the habit of using numbers for their new systems instead of just, bleh, words. Then people would at least know how good it is. It's really the trend you know. Think of it - people know 3 is more than 2, just like they know 360 is more than 3 and a LOT more than 2. But what is better, a cube or a revolution? Darned if I know! I guess time will tell.


I hope you have enjoyed this little trip through an alternate history of things that never were or meant to be. Maybe this wasn't the way it was... maybe it's the way it should have been. Until next time!

-Ben


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