games / Columns

The Top 8 Failed Console Initiatives

June 28, 2022 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Project Spark Image Credit: Microsoft Studios

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! This week I’m here to talk about game companies, specifically when they launch a new initiative or service. This isn’t related to a specific game, per se, it’s more about any of the big three tries launching something new and it goes either disastrously wrong or is so middling that no one cares that it actually is a failure. Let’s begin:

#8: Project Spark

Honestly, I only have very vague memories of Project Spark. Spark was meant to be a game creation suite, like Little Big Planet or similar to other customization programs. The problem was, it wasn’t very fun. Like, for all of its faults, Little Big Planet still has a single player mode to mess with, if you don’t have a creative bone in your body, you can only really download other people’s stuff and that was contingent on those people making quality stuff. I think Spark’s biggest claim to fame was that it sold some Conker’s models and assets and that’s about it. Really, when THAT is the biggest thing about your game, it has some serious problems.

#7: Virtual Console

Now, don’t get me wrong, the Wii Virtual Console was an amazing service. And the Wii U version, while not quite as good, was also pretty great. The Switch version…doesn’t exist. The real fatal flaw is that Nintendo didn’t, and still kind of doesn’t have a unified account system. When you bought a game on the Wii it should have transferred over to the Wii U when you did a system migrate, but it didn’t. Instead, you had to buy it again. And when the Switch came out, it didn’t have the option at all to buy it. Great going, Nintendo. And then they wonder why people pirate their NES/SNES stuff to this day.

#6: MAG

Massive Action Game, or MAG, was Sony’s attempt at a Call of Duty/Battlefield competitor. The notable thing about this game was that it has a 256 player limit, so 128 players per side. To actually get into this mode though, required some work. You basically had to rank up your character through the smaller game modes (32, 64, 128 players) until the 259 one was unlocked. The game heavily focused on ranks/tactics, with certain players being squad leaders, platoon leaders, and even the Officer in Charge, during the 256 player matches, each OIC for one side. It’s an interesting idea but players back then, and especially now, don’t care about ranks or having to play as an actual good soldier, so this concept kind of fell apart for most.

#5: PS4 Themes

Sue me, I liked the PS4 theme idea. It gave you a nice bit of change from the default PS4 menus, with some themes having custom sounds, songs and looks to help customize the PS4 interface. It also gave me a small reason to splurge on either pre-ordering the game digitally or buying the Collector’s edition, if it came with an exclusive theme. The best use of themes was with Persona 5 Royal though since you could unlock characters themes just as you played through the game, so by the end, you had like 8 or 9 additional themes to use. The PS5 interface is so less interesting than the PS4 one, because of a lack of themes.

#4: Game Room

If you went by what was said about Game Room at the time, it was going to be a mind-blowing arcade/console archive service where you could try games out, buy them and even build your own little arcade for your friends to check out and play at. In actuality, while it did offer you the ability to try and buy games, the game selection was…lacking. It had a decent amount of Intellivision, Atari 2600 and arcade games but only from like the early to late 1980’s. I think the latest game, which didn’t actually come out officially, for Game Room was Sunset Riders, which came out in 1991. Someone with the Game Room developer also said that later emulation, up to and including the Dreamcast, was supposed to be a part of the service but it never actually happened. Bummer.

#3: PlayStation Home

What if Sony made Second Life but it was even crappier? Well then, PlayStation Home was for you! Built as a MMO/social space, Home was a product that never officially even came out of beta, coming out in late 2008 and existing till early 2015, Home never officially released out of the beta period. Not bad for a product that is 7 years old. Home really was supposed to be a competitor to Second Life or the Sims, letting you and your friends customize your avatars with stuff you spend money on, and hang out in either your personal apartment spaces, or in the public ones with arcade game, mini-games and dancing going on. The problem is, NONE of it was ever any fun. It was also perpetually buggy and laggy with it getting worse in the more populated areas.

#2: 1 vs. 100

God, I still miss 1 vs. 100. I don’t think I ever even made any of the real live Chris Cashman games, but I did some of the games that were hosted by other people. The sad thing is, I didn’t actually care about any of the prizes. It was neat you could win Microsoft points or free games but I just liked having a live service trivia game that I could occasionally play. It also gave the Avatar system something to do, which a lot of games for the Xbox 360 didn’t bother to include. 100’s downfall was just the lack of ad money, which I think is dumb. IT’S MICROSOFT! They have more money than most countries, they couldn’t keep one live, internet gameshow going? This was really the turning point for me against Microsoft when they shut 1 vs. 100 down.

#1: Kinect

The first Kinect was a profitable failure. The hardware itself was a disaster but the first Kinect did engender some goodwill due to solid games like Just Dance, Kinect Sports, Kinect Disneyland, The Gunstringer and Double Fine Happy Action Theater. Then Kinect 2.0 came out and that goodwill evaporated. Most people saw it as an unwanted add-on for the Xbox One that added $100 to the price tag, and thought the thing was either spying on you, or part of the Xbox One’s maligned DRM system. More to the point, even if the Kinect 2.0 was better from a technology perspective, it had no real killer games, except the annual Just Dance series. I imagine the entire Kinect experiment is something Microsoft wishes it could erase from history.

For comments, list which Failed Game Initiatives are your favorites and why.

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Top 8 Abandoned Capcom Franchises