Feature: The 10 Worst-Selling Handhelds of All Time
Nintendo has crushed a large majority of competing video game handhelds since first popularizing the platform over 20 years ago. Save only a few, an overwhelming number of portables are commercial botches. Here are the top handheld failures.
10. Game Gear (11 million sold)
Sega released the Game Gear in North America in 1991 for what was then a hefty $150 asking price. The machine was basically a portable Master System with a larger color pallet for slightly better-looking graphics. Unlike the Game Boy, the Game Gear rocked the landscape holding position, making it less cramped for human beings with two hands to hold. And even though the Game Gear could be considered a success, its bulky frame, relative high price, constant consumption of AA batteries, and a lack of appealing games ultimately kept Sega from releasing a true successor.
9. Nokia N-Gage (3 million sold)
Nokia launched the first 3D-enabled handheld gaming device in October of 2003 just prior to the release of the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable. The N-Gage was an extremely versatile cell phone that included wireless multiplayer and a built-in MP3/video player. Unfortunately, it under whelmed as a game system. Its high launch price of $299 and lack of enticing games are commonly cited for its early demise, not to mention the system's abhorrent, clunky, and widely mocked "taco" design. Gamers actually had to remove the battery to insert a game, and the 12-digit keypad doubling as command buttons would even make the Jaguar controller blush.
8. GBA Micro (2.5 million sold)
While beloved by many and heralded by some as the best of three GBA models, the Micro has been the lone commercial failure in Nintendo's expansive portable portfolio. First introduced at E3 2005 along with the unveiling of the Wii, the Micro was geared towards the few "image conscious" Game Boy owners in existence. While the screen set a new standard in brightness, even outshining the PSP, the Micro didn't support original Game Boy games like the SP did, and it forced gamers to upgrade to pesky adaptors not compatible with previous GBA hardware. Even Nintendo admitted the Micro's defeat saying "we failed to explain its unique value to consumers."
7. Neo-Geo Pocket (2 million sold)
Neo Geo released their first handheld, the Pocket, in late 1998. Due to lower than expected sales, the company quickly discontinued the monochrome version in favor of a 16-bit colored one released in 1999 across Japan, North America, and Europe at a retail price of $69. The portable initially sold well due to its attractive price, good battery life, and surprisingly strong line up of first-party games. Ultimately, however, a lack of third-party support, its cost-cutting cardboard box, and the impending threat of Nintendo's Game Boy Advance left Neo Geo with no choice but to gracefully bow out of the hardware business altogether as its home and arcade platforms had already shriveled up.
6. NEC Turbo Express (1.5 million sold)
The Turbo Express was the first ever handheld to play actual home console games some five years before the Sega Nomad could do the same for Sega Genesis games. It was a commensurate Turbo Grafx-16 if you will. While the most technologically advanced portable of its time, the Turbo Express was plagued with problems since first launching in 1990. The system was originally priced at an unheard of $349, could drain six AA batteries in less than 20 minutes, and a large number of units were shipped missing display pixels. Factor in NEC's disastrous marketing, and the oft labeled Rolls Royce of handhelds was quietly discontinued around the same time as NEC's Turbo Duo.