The Fallen Soldiers of the ‘90s Console War: Part One
The decade between 1990 and the turn of the millennium was an amazing time to be a gamer. This virgin form of entertainment was nothing like the juggernaut of an industry we have today. It was a time of experimentation, where not all systems looked the same, and every console had its own unique joypad design. We started out the decade with Nintendo’s NES ruling the industry and Sega not too far behind. It ended with Sega throwing its last roll of the dice, Nintendo hanging onto practices of the past, and a young upstart from Sony wearing the king’s crown. In between those times, there were other consoles that fell by the wayside, now all but forgotten to time. Let’s look back at some of them, the good and the bad.
The 3DO Interactive Multiplayer
The 3DO was a strange one. Developed by former EA founder Trip Hawkins, 3DO didn’t actually make the console. Instead, they licensed the specifications to other companies to build themselves and so the market sawhad different versions of the same console from Panasonic, Goldstar, and Sanyo. Released in the U.K. in June 1994 for an astronomical £500 (other companies sold consoles at a loss, recouping the loss through the sales of games but because of the licensing cost this wasn’t possible for the 3DO so consoles had to be sold at a profit.)
The competing MegaDrive and SNES consoles had long been on the market and were already heavily discounted by this point, so the system’s high cost became a major factor in its downfall. You could even buy a PlayStation at launch for £299. And though the 3DO had a good lineup of games, the majority of them were ported to PlayStation and Saturn anyway. The 3DO simply couldn’t find a market, making it one of the losers in a saturated console market. It was discontinued in 1996 after two short years.
The Amiga CD32
Released in September 1993 the CD32 was a 32-bit CD-based console made by the legendary home computer company Commodore. Effectively this was an Amiga 1200 in console form with a batwing style controller. You could even plug in a third-party keyboard, mouse, and disk drive to make it an actual Amiga 1200. Unfortunately, most games released were just ports of existing Amiga games and, when Commodore went bankrupt in 1994, the CD32 was discontinued after selling just 100,000 units across Europe, one of which was mine.
The Atari Jaguar
Everyone knows Atari. From the mid-’70s until the video game crash of 1983 they ruled the roost when it came to making video games, with such consoles as the VCS, 400, 800, 2600, and 5200. After moderate success with the ST home computer and the handheld Lynx, they released the Jaguar in June of 1994 in the U.K. It was marketed as the first 64bit system, a claim that was ridiculed by experts saying that just because it had two 32-bit processors didn’t make it a true 64-bit system.
Whatever the truth, it was certainly more powerful than the SNES and MegaDrive that were the kings of the time. It cost £199.99 at launch with 4 games available. The machine was dreadfully difficult to develop for, resulting in only 50 games being released for the system across its entire lifetime. The release of the Sega Saturn and then then the Sony PlayStation killed the Jaguar off. Atari tried to resurrect their fortunes with the Jaguar CD, a plug-in unit similar to Sega’s MegaCD, but the company discontinued the Jaguar completely in 1996.
The Sega 32X
This one may be the strangest one of them all. It’s one thing for a company to recognize an emerging market and want a slice of the pie, but quite another to release a product that could sabotage your own upcoming release. Sega was riding high in the early to mid-’90s, covering all possible bases with their lineup of the Master System, MegaDrive, MegaCD, and a handheld in the form of the Game Gear. They also had a 32-bit system in development in the form of the Saturn, due out in 1995.
It was into this menagerie that they also released a second 32-bit machine, the 32X, with the idea that it would give people a cheaper way to enter the 32-bit market until the Saturn arrived. This mushroom-shaped addon plugged into the top of the MegaDrive allowing you to play 32-bit cartridges through the original hardware. Launching at a price of £169.99 in the U.K. in January 1995, just 7 months before the Saturn, the 32X failed to receive any third-party support due to the upcoming release of the Saturn. As a result, only 40 games were made for the system before its price was heavily reduced and the system was ultimately discontinued in 1996.
We hope you enjoyed our look back at some of the ‘90s forgotten consoles. Be sure to let us know in the comments if you had any of these systems and what your favorite memories of your time with them are!