NEC PC Engine Duo

NEC PC Engine Duo

4th Generation Competitors
Neo Geo CD Megadrive Super NES Neo Geo AES CDTV Philips CDI
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 21st Sep 1991 1995
North America 10th Oct 1992 1995
Europe NA NA  NA

Whilst the SuperGrafx was largely failing in the market, NEC kept pushing the PC Engine platform.  One of it’s various versions (and my personal favourite) was the PC Engine Duo.

The Duo took the PC Engine and combined it, in one sleek package, with the SuperCD addon.  It was certainly successful in terms of hardware, the unit was far more convenient than the previous add on units had been and was very reliable.

The Duo was also released in North America as the TurboDuo but never made it to Europe.

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NEC SuperGrafx

NEC SuperGrafx

4th Generation Competitors
Neo Geo CD Megadrive Super NES Neo Geo AES CDTV Philips CDI PC Engine
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 8th Dec 1989  1990  6.26M
North America NA NA  NA
Europe May 1990 1990  NA

When the PC Engine started losing ground to the Megadrive, NEC decided to try and maintain the same platform but extend it.  The result would just about keep up with the soon to arrive 16 bit generation and have the advantage of being backwards compatible to the extensive PC Engine library.

Unfortunately, NEC still did not trust their platform enough to push worldwide and Nintendo and Sega already had Japan sewn up.  The Megadrive had been released early the same year and had catapulted Sega to the top of the fight and the SNES was due not long into the next year and was already growing a fan base.

The SuperGrafx did not sell well in Japan and only saw a limited release in Europe.  It only received 6 games that took advantage of it’s extra power.

NEC took some time away from the console market after the failure of the SuperGrafx and, apart from some special editions, only returned with their entrant to the 32 bit Era, which also did not go well.

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NEC PC-FX

NEC PC-FX

5th Generation Competitors
3DO Jaguar Saturn Playstation Nintendo 64 FM Towns Marty CD32 Pippin Playdia Loopy
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 23rd Dec 1994  1998  400K
North America NA NA  NA
Europe NA NA  NA

When the SuperGrafx failed to make ground up on the 16 bit consoles and with the 32 bit generation on the horizon NEC realised they had to develop a new machine from scratch.

NEC looked at the Playstation and Saturn to see the areas they needed to concentrate on.  They chose a fairly powerful 32 bit chip in the RISC based V810 and they picked a very speedy double speed SCSI CD drive.

Unfortunately they missed what would turn out to be the single most important aspect of the new consoles.

The PC-FX had no 3D capabilities at all.  It was a very powerful 2D machine, but this didn’t help it against the onslaught of 3D games that came with the 32 bit generation.

Aside from the 3D aspect, the PC-FX was a powerful machine, capable of moving large 2D images around and using Jpeg animation in-line with other 2D assets.

It was also a very expandable machine, including a memory slot for backup and an in-built SCSI chain to add various SCSI devices (although none were ever announce or supported).

In the end the PC-FX ended up being a repository of Hentai titles, much like most failed consoles in Japan.  This failure also saw NEC leave the console market, which was a shame given their previous attempts.

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NEC PC Engine

NEC PC Engine / Turbografx 16

4th Generation Competitors
Neo Geo CD Megadrive Super NES Neo Geo AES CDTV Philips CDI NEC SuperGrafx
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 30th Oct 1987 1994  3.9M
North America 29th Aug 1989 1994  500K
Europe 22nd Nov 1989 1993  1.4M

The PC Engine is an unfortunately forgotten piece of gaming history.  For a long time in Japan it was the second place console and is one of the few consoles to successfully straddle two generations, selling in the 8 bit and 16 bit eras.

NEC was a big player in Japan’s PC98 world.  Seeing the success that Nintendo had garnered in the console world they considered entering the market themselves.

Enter HudsonSoft.  HudsonSoft were a successful software company in Japan, they’d developed a hardware platform involving thin card sized cartridges nicknamed HuCards.  Realising they couldn’t develop it, they approached NEC to partner with them.

The resulting console was incredibly powerful for it’s time and managed to hold second place in the Japanese console market, holding off Sega.  They eventually released in the US and Europe, with a larger remodelled version called the TurboGrafx 16.

Unfortunately, NEC were not sure of these markets and did very little advertising.  Europe didn’t even receive a full stock of units, meaning it never had a chance to compete against Nintendo or Sega.

At the beginning of the 16 bit era, NEC realised their machine could still compete, software development was mature and the initial titles being released on the SNES and Megadrive were not especially more impressive.

But this was a losing battle.  As developers got to grips with the newer machines the PC Engine started looking less and less powerful.  Eventually NEC tried to reclaim some market by releasing a slightly improved version in the SuperGrafx, but it was too little too late.

The PC Engine also received a CD Rom addon.  This was only a single speed drive and suffered from developers cramming the discs with unskippable film sequences, but it had some very impressive titles and was certainly the most successful of the CD Rom addons.

One of the biggest flaws the PC Engine had was a reliance on a single joystick port, this meant any multiplayer required purchasing a multitap device.

The PC Engine is considered to be the best platform for shoot-em-ups and also had some of the most impressive arcade conversions of either the 8 bit or 16 bit eras.

 

 

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Microsoft XBox

Microsoft XBox

6th Generation Competitors
Gamecube Playstation 2 Dreamcast
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 22nd Feb 2002 2006  24M (total)
North America 15th Nov 2001 2009
Europe 14th Mar 2002 2007

Microsoft had dabbled in the console world when they helped Sega with some of the technical aspect of their ill fated Dreamcast console, primarily licensing the rights to use Windows CE for easy porting of games.

So some engineers in the DirectX labs, the people responsible for the graphical libraries that Windows games were commonly built on, put together a prototype using old laptop parts to show the executives.

This prototype succeeded and resulted in the XBox.  Whilst the XBox wasn’t the first console with broadband (many consoles had addon’s and the Dreamcast could be purchased with the option built-in) it was certainly the first to make it standard.

The XBox also came with a built-in Hard Drive.  This allowed developers to use it to offset the (relatively) slow access speed of the DVD Drive.  It also opened up the opportunity to patch and update games, and even have DLC.

The option was so useful that it surprised pretty much everyone when the follow-up, the XBox 360, was released with an option to not have a hard drive, limiting it’s ability to be used to it’s full extent.

In the end the XBox was certainly the most powerful console of it’s generation, but due to Microsoft‘s lack of experience in the market and the general distrust for American manufacturers in Japan, it did not perform incredibly well but did manage to take second place, easily beaten by the PS2 and narrowly beating the Gamecube and the Dreamcast which had been killed early in the generation.

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Mattel Intellivision

Mattel Intellivision

2nd Generation Competitors
Atari 2600 Vectrex
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 1982  1990  3M (total)
North America 1980 1990
Europe 1982 1990

Mattel decided to enter the console world in 1977, but they didn’t release the Intellivision properly until 1980.  That placed it squarely in the second generation of consoles.

Due to Mattel‘s manufacturing and supply power they were able to ship huge amounts of consoles to shops and they got some powerful exclusive titles, like Nintendo‘s Donkey Kong.

The machine will go down as one of the best consoles of all time, and it’s contribution to the pre-crash console world cannot be overstated.

The controller was interesting, the joystick was quite nice to use and it had a keypad that could use overlays (an idea borrowed by Atari for the Jaguar).  Both controllers slid into a compartment on the main machine for easy storage.

It’s main competitor was the Atari 2600, 5200 and 7800

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3DO

3DO

5th Generation Competitors
CD32 Jaguar Saturn Playstation Nintendo 64 FM Towns Marty PC-FX Pippin Playdia Loopy
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 20th Mar 1994 1996  2M (total)
North America 4th Oct 1993 1996
Europe 4th Sep 1994 1996

The 3DO was born from an idea that Trip Hawkins had.  Trip had started Electronic Arts and had witnessed how the console market worked.  He’d been frustrated with how the manufacturers (Nintendo and Sega) controlled the market and had come up with a different idea.

So he started the 3DO company and his engineers came up with a set of basic specifications for a console.  The idea was that different manufacturers would then build their own machines based on those specifications.

Each manufacturer could push those specs a little and case it however they wanted as long as the resultant machine was compatible with all the others.

A few manufacturers signed up but machines were only created by Goldstar and Panasonic, although Creative did create a 3DO PC card.

The machine was a flop, mostly due to the high prices.  Normal consoles of the time made a loss on the machine but made the money back on game licensing.  But the 3DO system did not allow license fees to be shared, so each manufacturer had to make a profit on the hardware.

After the other manufacturers pulled their support even Panasonic and Goldstar took their consoles off the market.  It was a powerful console and 3DO were designing the follow-up machine, the M2.

The 3DO company finished their life making games for other consoles.

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Fujitsu Car Marty

Fujitsu Car Marty

Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 1996  1997  4K
North America NA NA NA
Europe NA NA  NA

After the Marty flopped Fujitsu gave the technology to their Car Audio arm, Fujitsu Ten.  Their brief was to make use of the Marty‘s capabilities in the car somehow.

Fujitsu Ten succeeded on many fronts, they created the worlds first car entertainment system.  It was capable of using multiple external screens, had built-in GPS (another first) and could use most of the software that worked on the Marty.  In fact, with the addition of an external floppy it could use all of the Marty software.

Once again, however, the Car Marty was far too expensive.  It did not sell well and was pulled from the market after a fairly short time.  It was a harbinger of things to come though and many other companies took notes from the Car Marty design.

The Car Marty itself is pretty hard to get working outside of a car.  There was a cable available, but this is even rarer than the machine itself (which is incredibly rare).  Because it’s made for a car, it needs a 12v power supply (centre negative) and a proprietary connector for video.

We’ve already got a pinout available if you need it, right here Car Marty Accessory Port Pinout

You can at least use a PSU of your choice, which means you can make it work without a step up/down convertor.  But that’s really the only advantage of using this over a standard Marty.

There were two versions released, the MVP-1 and MVP-10.  They’re pretty much the same but the MVP-10 has a slightly different CD mechanism for reliability.

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FM Towns Marty

FM Towns Marty

5th Generation Competitors
3DO Jaguar Saturn Playstation Nintendo 64 CD32 PC-FX Pippin Playdia Loopy
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 20th Feb 1993 1995  45K
North America NA NA  NA
Europe NA NA  NA

Fujitsu were deep in battle for Japan’s PC98 throne with their FM Towns systems.  Their main rival, NEC, was also doing well in the console market with their PC Engine machines so Fujitsu decided to fight them on this second front.

But instead of making a custom platform like NEC did, Fujitsu decided to take the base model from their FM Towns range and put it in a home friendly casing.  The Marty came out at a high price, unsurprising given the fact that it was a truly advanced PC in a compact casing.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that it was the first 32 bit console (debuting a few months before the 3DO) consumers were not swayed.

The Marty was compatible with a few titles from the FM Towns range of PCs.  It’s (relatively) low memory stopped it from playing the majority of the games. There was a memory upgrade released which allowed it to play some games, like Street Fighter 2, but it slowed the whole machine down due to it’s implementation.

Fujitsu released a second edition of the Marty, the only difference was the (rather smart) grey casing and a much lower price.  This change did start to work and sales started to increase, unfortunately Fujitsu’s management had given up and pulled out of the console market entirely.

Because of this decision a new rule of business was made in Japan called The Marty Law, basically it states that you don’t keep offering something for sale then you can’t increase it’s sales.

The technology used in the Marty finished with the Fujitsu Ten Car Marty.

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Commodore CDTV

Commodore CDTV

4th Generation Competitors
PC Engine Megadrive Super NES Neo Geo AES Neo Geo CD Philips CDI NEC SuperGrafx
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan NA  NA  NA
North America Mar 1991 1993
Europe Mar 1991 1993

Commodore’s second attempt at taking the living room.  Unfortunately, despite the fact that this was based on the Amiga 500, a machine well known for it’s games, they did not position this as a console.  Instead the CDTV was advertised as an educational system.

The CDTV was also incredibly expensive, especially when compared to other consoles at the time.  The CD Rom drive was a very early model and, as well as being slow, needed a caddy to play discs.

The price meant that potential buyers would buy Nintendo or Sega instead and because of poor sales there was little support from developers.  This was especially galling considering how easy it was to port software from the A500.

The CDTV had extensive upgrade options available.  As well as all the bits needed to make it into a fully fledged Amiga (Keyboard, Mouse and Floppy Drive) there were several memory upgrade options and even upgrades for video.  By default the CDTV outputs to RGB or Composite, but there were options that added RF / RCA and Scart.

It was even possible to add genlock options, meaning the CDTV could be used for one of the Amiga’s strengths, video editing.

At the end it was too expensive and was aimed at a market that had already failed with the Philips CDI.  Considering how powerful the Amiga hardware was this was a poor result by Commodore.

All of these errors were fixed in the CDTVs successor, the CD32.

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