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Gizmondo: An examination of a failed, but forward thinking, handheld console

This article is a short look into the tumultuous history of one of the most unpopular handhelds ever made, the Tiger Telematics Gizmondo. The Gizmondo was a failed handheld experiment released into the highly competitive handheld market with a US release date of October 22, 2005. It was initially developed by Tiger Telematics, not to be confused with Tiger Electronics famed makers of cheap LCD games, and first debuted at the 2004 Consumer Electronics Show.

The device was very rare in storefronts in the US, as it had a limited release coupled with little to no advertising. The only way to purchase the console was either through kiosks set up in malls around America or online through the official Gizmondo website. The device was also hamstrung from the beginning by a combination of high cost (it released with a retail of 400 USD), and poor developer support (the console only had 8 games released for it in the US). Interestingly, a version of the device was released that had "Smart Adds" (Yes, Tiger Telematics actually patented that misspelling), advertisements that could be shown on the device in return for a reduced price of 229 USD; interestingly, the ads were never activated and thus Smart Add purchasers saved a lot.

On top of this poor start, a widescreen version of the device was announced alongside the US release, causing the house of cards built by Tiger Telematics to begin to fall down immediately. Obviously, nobody wanted to purchase a console which had an already announced, superior version coming in the next few months. However, the widescreen version never saw the light of day, as Tiger Telematics went bankrupt before it could do so. All of these factors conspired to ensure that the Gizmondo would sell less than 25,000 units sold total.

Of course, this isn't to say that the Gizmondo was a bad device, in fact it was somewhat pioneering. It had video and music playing capability from SD cards, and decent battery life of around 6 to 8 hours (not bad for 2005). The device also featured WIFI capability for web browsing and Bluetooth. It was actually planned for the Gizmondo to utilize the built in camera for augmented reality games, though these never came to fruition. So at the end of the day, the Gizmondo was an interesting console, hamstrung by poor executive decisions.

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