How Consoles Die
Death, they say, is part of life.
But in the case of game consoles, sometimes death is just death. Here are 12 of the industry’s most notable dead consoles. Some whimpered in their last days, some went out in a hail of gunfire and glory and some were DOA. In any case, here’s our tribute to the dead.
Note that dates are generally Western-centric.
Atari 2600 (VCS)
Cause of death: self-inflicted
When an entire industry relies on the strength of one company, if that pillar ever falters, the roof comes down on everyone. With virtually no quality assurance and no business acumen, Atari unwittingly killed off its own previously well-regarded 2600.
The death of the Atari 2600 also signaled the Videogame Crash of 1984 (or 1983, depending on your viewpoint). A glut of consoles inundated the market (including Atari 2600 clones) and subpar games were the norm, leading to a massive loss of faith in cartridge-based home console gaming. The 2600 was clinically dead, although in the latter half of the 80s (amidst huge popularity surrounding the NES and with 16-bit gaming on the horizon), Atari tried to bring back the 2600 with the $50 “Jr.” model. That didn’t pan out.
The industry had crashed, but with the previously-introduced 5200 and 1993’s Jaguar, Atari wasn’t done with hardware quite yet.
Cause of death: natural
The Nintendo Entertainment System came at what could have been the worst possible time for a company to introduce a new game console. The videogame industry had just imploded and people were wary of dumping more money into home gaming systems.
But the NES performed at legendary levels, becoming the most popular gaming console of its time, saving the games industry. People didn’t play “videogames,” they played “Nintendo.” The NES gave up the ghost only after the SNES gained a foothold in the market, and Nintendo would enjoy another strong generation.
Sega Genesis (Mega Drive)
"It Was Hard Letting Go”
Cause of Death: complications from add-on cancer
The Genesis was Sega’s most successful console, standing toe-to-toe with the likewise revered Super NES during the intensely fought 16-bit console wars. But as the Genesis aged, Sega was seemingly unable to fully move on to the next generation. In an effort to boost the life span of the Genesis, Sega released the ill-conceived Sega CD and then, the 32X.
Instead of contributing to Sega’s value, the add-ons became a pimple on the game maker, which had somehow managed to significantly blemish an otherwise stellar run with Genesis. The Genesis had a rather wimpy ending, but Sega’s Saturn would fare worse.