How Consoles Die

Sega Dreamcast
“Game Over Yeeeeeah.”

Cause of death: Peter Moore, apparently

The Dreamcast had much going for it when it launched: a reasonable price point, online out of the box and last but not least, the eye-popping Soul Calibur. But a determined Sony, bolstered by consumers’ unparalleled loyalty to the PlayStation brand and DVD-playing capability, outdid the Saturn successor handily, as Sega’s resources dwindled.

The Sony hype machine didn’t help Dreamcast’s prospects either, as execs promised PS2 graphics on par with the CG movie Toy Story, with gamers on the Sony side of the fence lapping up the marketing spiel happily. Despite a valiant effort that yielded some classic Dreamcast titles, “Sega” as a hardware brand couldn’t fend off PlayStation.

And that was that. Sega was out of the hardware business.

“Just Passing Through”

Cause of death: torn in two

The GameCube, with its toy-like appearance, big-green-button controller and adorable purple color scheme, was a symbol of Nintendo trying to bridge a gap between hardcore gamers and the mass market.

But Nintendo would soon find it impossible to balance the supposed needs of hardcore gamers and its own desire to create a completely original console that threw out all conventions. In the end, consumers viewed the GameCube as a kids’ toy that was trying to be a PS2, minus the sexiness. Sales paled in comparison to the market leader, and third parties began to question the console’s purpose.

The GameCube served as a noble stopgap before Nintendo decided to go all-in, and introduce a console that would immediately find an audience, as well as its own identity—the Nintendo Wii.

“Why, Brother, Why?”

Cause of death: homicide by younger, stronger sibling / hemmoraging

Microsoft was perhaps the only company on the planet with the resources (or audacity) to jump into the videogame console market when it did. The Xbox arrived in 2001 following a year headstart for the PS2, a console whose popularity would only explode. Elsewhere, veteran Nintendo was launching its GameCube.

The Xbox would spend its life battling for second place with Nintendo’s purple lunchbox. By the time successor Xbox 360 launched, Microsoft had virtually erased the original Xbox from its memory, as software support almost immediately ceased to exist. The money-bleeding Xbox had served its purpose as the foot-in-the-door, and Microsoft was ready to move on to bigger, better prospects.