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The Most Disappointing Video Game Console Launches

Game consoles are the backbone on which the video game industry is built. When successful, a console translates into billions of dollars in video game sales and fosters brand loyalty in consumers. When unsuccessful, it means millions of dollars lost in research and development, dissatisfied consumers switching to the competitor and game developers reluctant to create content.

From the classic Atari to the behemoth next-generation PlayStation 4, there have been many iterations of consoles over the years, some a success while others were a disappointing launch at best and a colossal failure at worst. The big-name hardware manufacturers aren't immune to the latter fate either. Below is a look at three of the most disappointing console launches.

Sega Dreamcast

Sega had early success in the console industry with their Genesis, which was the only competitor to Nintendo for several years. The Dreamcast, however, would turn out to be their last attempt at a console due its failed launch. Many suggest the Dreamcast was ahead of its time with features like an operating system instead of the standard automatic game launch and the incorporation of online gaming, but the reality is Sega's disappointing post-Genesis consoles and the successful introduction of the PlayStation meant both gamers and developers lost interest by the release of the Dreamcast. Two years after its launch, Sega discontinued the console.

Nintendo's WiiU

There isn't a brand more synonymous with video games than Nintendo. Anyone old enough to play games in the '90s has fond memories of rescuing the princess from Bowser and company or duck hunting. Nintendo's success, in fact, is due in large part to the consumer loyalty they've built in the last three decades with both their consoles and proprietary games.

With the release of its most recent system, the WiiU, the gaming giant experienced a significant misstep. On the heels of the overwhelming success of the Wii, which attracted new, casual gamers with its simplistic design and motion tracking, Nintendo anticipated similar results with the WiiU. Instead, the launch was met with poor sales, diminished consumer enthusiasm and a lack of games for two main reasons:

  • The unnecessarily complicated multiplayer system required gamers to generate, share and authenticate friend codes before playing with each other, causing online gamers to skip the WiiU.
  • A significant difference in hardware from the Xbox and PlayStation consoles meant developers had to almost rebuild games for the WiiU. With poor console sales, the incentive just wasn't there, resulting in a lack of non-proprietary games.

As a result, most WiiU owners are long-time Nintendo fans, which means no growth in sales.

The Xbox One

Released in the fourth quarter of 2013, the Xbox One received mixed reviews prior to launch. Microsoft's controversial new licensing system meant consumers never fully owned physical games but rather just a license, the always-on feature required a continuous Internet connection and the Kinect accessory was listed as a requirement for the system to function, all of which were points of contention for consumers. Add to that the high price tag of $500 -- compared to Sony's competing PlayStation 4 cost of $399 -- and many consumers opted not to buy a system deemed too expensive with inferior graphics compared to the PS4.

Microsoft eventually backtracked on the licensing, always-on and Kinect requirements, released a $399 version without the Kinect and later dropped the price again to $349, but the damage of a failed launch was already done. To date, the Xbox One has sold just over 12 million units compared to the 22 million PS4 units shipped

Console Gaming