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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Commodore 64 Game System

Commodore 64 Game System

3rd Generation Competitors
Atari 7800 Famicom / NES Amstrad GX4000 Sega Master System
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan NA  NA  NA
North America Dec 1990 1991
Europe Dec 1990 1992

Commodore was a huge player in the 8 bit computer field but when Nintendo and Sega started to make huge in-roads into homes they realised they had to do something to fight back.

Unfortunately, this didn’t happen until 1990, at this point the Amiga, Commodore’s 16 bit computer, was already out and doing well in Europe (not quite so well everywhere else), but Commodore decided to use their 8 bit Commodore 64 machine as the base for the console, in a similar move to Amstrad with the GX4000.

In fact, the C64GS is just a 64 with all the ports covered up and a new ROM in place.  If you open it you can see all of the tape connectors and keyboard points are on the motherboard.

The problem is that by the time the 64GS was released it was already facing the 16 bit consoles, a machine that would barely have the power to face the 8 bit ones had no chance with the 16 bit versions.

On top of that there was very little software, not all existing cartridges would work because there was no keyboard, indeed at least one title that claimed to be compatible wasn’t because it needed keyboard input to start.

The Game System was a huge flop, and it caused Commodore to step away from the console market for too long.

 

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Casio Loopy

Casio Loopy

5th Generation Competitors
3DO Jaguar Saturn Playstation Nintendo 64 FM Towns Marty PC-FX Pippin Playdia CD32
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 19th Oct 1995 Nov 1995
North America NA NA  NA
Europe NA NA  NA

The Loopy was an interesting concept, Casio decided that girls needed their own console and designed it with an in-built colour thermal printer.  Because it was a girls console all the games revolved around dressing up characters, with the ability to print the result to the printer.

Casio found out, within weeks, of the release that girls did in fact play consoles, they played the same ones the boys did and weren’t interested in a console that didn’t have the same games as mainstream ones.

The Loopy was discontinued almost immediately.  11 games in total were released in cartridge format.  You could also buy a mouse to use instead of the included game pad (which is quite nice btw).

An accessory called Magic Shop was available.  This was, in essence, a capture device that allowed you to use captured video to make stickers.

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Bandai Playdia

Bandai Playdia

5th Generation Competitors
3DO Jaguar Saturn Playstation Nintendo 64 FM Towns Marty PC-FX Pippin CD32 Loopy
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 23rd Sep 1994 1996
North America NA NA  NA
Europe NA NA  NA

The Playdia was Bandai’s attempt to enter the fifth generation of consoles in 1994.  It was primarily aimed at young children and, as such, it’s specs were woefully underpowered compared to the other entrants.

Unfortunately Bandai had miscalculated the popularity of the more powerful consoles with it’s target audience and the console didn’t sell well.

In the end Bandai were really the only developer to develop for the system (except for a couple of games developed by VAP), the other publishers concentrated on the more powerful and popular machines.

To suit the simplicity of the machine it came with a single infra-red controller.

 

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Bandai Pippin

Bandai Pippin

5th Generation Competitors
3DO Jaguar Saturn Playstation Nintendo 64 FM Towns Marty PC-FX CD32 Playdia Loopy
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 28th Mar 1996 1997 42K (total)
North America 1st Sep 1996 1997
Europe 1997 1997

In 1996 the post-jobs world of Apple was searching around for ways to spread their PowerPC platform.  Seeing how consoles had integrated into so many living rooms they decided that this was the direction to go.  So, working with Bandai, they developed the Pippin Platform.  This platform was based on their existing Power Mac computers.

The Pippin was a hugely powerful machine and included numerous options that no other console had.  These included the ability to be used in PAL or NTSC out of the box and they had a built-in VGA port as well as the usual composite jacks.

Bandai released the Pippin in Japan as the ATMARK and in the US as ATWORLD.  These machines were largely identical except the US one was black from the start and the Japanese release was white.

In Europe Katz Media released a slightly improved machine with more memory.

The Pippin was incredibly expensive at release, unsurprising seeing as it had such a powerful spec.  But despite that it couldn’t compete well with the Playstation or Saturn.  Nobody wanted to buy a machine that was weaker and more expensive.  The Japanese version is easiest to get hold of, the US version is rare and the European version is nearly impossible to get.

The Pippin came with internet access built-in, via a phone jack.  The controller, called the Apple Jack, had a built-in trackball to help you navigate web pages.

The community has since released a version of Mac OS 7 that can be booted, pretty much making the Pippin into a working Macintosh.

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