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Skippy B. Coyote

Do you collect for any "failed" systems?

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One aspect of the retro gaming community that is always of constant interest to me is what draws people to various game systems, and what makes them feel so passionate about these devices that they'll jump through all kinds of hoops and often spend rather large sums of money to collect for them. For commercially successful systems the answers are usually fairly obvious. It was a popular system that they grew up with and spent a lot of time playing with their friends or family back when, or it was something that their friends had and they wanted but never was able to acquire when they were young.

 

Where I think it really gets interesting though is when people feel passionately about a system that wasn't something every kid on the block had when they were growing up. Systems that weren't successful in the marketplace, didn't have a large game library compared to the competition of the time, and generally require some kind of special personal appreciation to really make you want to collect for them.

 

As someone who has always collected for systems with cheap and plentiful games (Atari 2600, Game Boy, PlayStation, etc.) I'm often surprised by the large amounts of money that people who are enamoured with more obscure systems will spend to acquire games and hardware for them, and I'm always curious to know what the driving force behind those purchasing decisions is. Mind you not all "failed" systems are expensive to collect for, since most games for systems like the Atari 7800 and GameCube aren't all that expensive these days, but when you get into systems like the Vectrex or Sega Saturn prices can get pretty wild.

 

In any case, what I'm wondering is if there are any "failed" systems that you enjoy collecting for? And if so, what draws you to those particular systems and makes them special to you? I'd like to hear your story. :)

Edited by Jin

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I'd throw in a few TRS-80 Pocket Computer stories and ruminations, but the lineup wasn't a failure. It was a vertical niche market.

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For me, it is like caring about endangered animals. While cats are cute, red pandas seem more important to care about so they don't go extinct. However not all oddball systems are crazy expensive to collect for, as some of them are relatively unheard of and thus don't attract that many bidders. One bonus aspect of that is that resellers are less likely to buy items just to resell for profit, because the customer group is much more narrow and they risk having games sitting on the shelf for months or years before finding a buyer willing to pay their inflated prices.

 

Most of the "failed" systems that I've got, I don't have any previous relation to. They just popped up when I researched the market, and I grew to cater for them as long as it doesn't set me back a lot of money. Also I don't know if either the GameCube or Vectrex should be called a failed system. I mean my big brother, who is not a die-hard collector although he's got a decent collection of late 90's, early 2000's games, at one point had somethling like three or four GC consoles scattered around the house. The Vectrex is highly sought after, even among parts of the Nintendo crowd, and unique due to its screen. While it may not have had a large library or sold a lot back in the 80's, it never was forgotten. I can't speak for the Saturn, but perhaps that was mostly a stop-gap console between the Genesis/32X and DreamCast.

 

I mean if we should speak about obscure systems, some of those in my collection include the VTech CreatiVision and Laser 2001, the Epoch/Yeno Super Cassette Vision, the Sord/CGL M5, the COMX-35, the Oric-1/Atmos, the RCA Studio II and clones, the Nintendo Famicom... heh, just kidding about the last one. Of course YMMV and some consider MSX computers, the VIC-20, Fairchild Channel F, British computers like the Acorn Electron (which indeed had a huge number of unsold units at the end) and BBC Micro to be oddballs but several of them have rather big libraries and cheap games (well, the MSX cartridge games command NES pricing so that is an exception).

 

Some of those I mentioned above have very close relatives in the field of far more common systems. Some of them have nothing that is quite the same. Some have individual, exclusive games that are well worth playing every now and then, while others have a bland library that you might want to play through for a laugh once a year, but you still love them, just like you'd love a three toed sloth even if it isn't much fun to play catch with - for that purpose a dog is more appropriate.

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I decided to go the Jaguar route. Although I had other systems (some which I also collect for currently) somewhere in my mid-teens I had a Jaguar with Alien vs. Predator, Checkered Flag, Club Drive, Cybermorph, Kasumi Ninja, Raiden, Doom.. and I think Wolf 3D? I didn't have the system for too long (can't remember exactly what I did with it, maybe traded or sold it) but I do remember it being the way I could play Doom before I had a PC capable of handling it. I also liked a majority of those games and like the design of the Jaguar logo / colors / boxes.

Not too long ago I did a trade with a friend who had a bunch of Jaguar stuff and I was able to start a small collection, then, being able to acquire one of my favorite games on any system (Another World) pretty much cemented my desire to collect for it.

Edited by ChaosCX
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That was a great read Carlsson, and you're absolutely correct about systems such as the GameCube, Vectrex, and Saturn not being failed systems in any objective sense outside of the number of units sold in comparison to their competitors of the time. They still had great libraries, even if they were smaller than those of their competitors, and they all had a devoted fan following both at the time of their release and to this day.

 

For me personally the GameCube was my favorite system of it's generation and I've actually owned a couple of them over the years, both at the time of it's release and later down the line. A couple years back I ended up selling off my small GameCube collection when the system broke and I didn't want to spend the money to replace it, which was a mistake in retrospect, but I'll be working on rebuilding my modest GameCube collection next month so it's alright. Fortunately prices for GameCube games haven't changed much since I sold off my previous collection, if anything they've gone down slightly, so I don't think I'll have too much difficulty reacquiring the roughly two dozen games I used to own for the system.

 

What I really like about the GameCube is it's game library, from the system exclusive games like Star Fox Adventures and Star Fox Assault to the offbeat and quirky titles such as Killer 7 and Alien Hominid. While it doesn't have nearly as big of a library as the PlayStation 2 or XBox I still really love the games it does have, and I spent much of my teenage years playing it when it first came out so there's definitely a nostalgia factor there as well. I also really dig the controller design and the Game Boy Player add-on, since the Game Boy / Color / Advance have been the primary systems that I've collected for and held onto over the years and it's a great way to play all those games on the big screen.

 

As far as other "failed" systems that I like go, the only other one for me is the Atari 7800. I only just discovered it this year and really enjoy it's game library, with tons of outstanding arcade ports and some really unique system exclusives like Ninja Golf, Midnight Mutants, and Alien Brigade. I also appreciate that it's relatively inexpensive to collect for, and due to it's fairly small library of original release games (58 in the US I believe, but don't quote me on that) it's really the only system that I can ever imagine myself collecting a complete North American library for. I'm not a big fan of the controllers it came with here in the States, but a CX-78 Europad from Best Electronics and a Super Twin 78 from Edladdin are sorting that problem very nicely. :)

Edited by Jin
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Have fun collecting for your "pet ferret", and I'll stick with my pandas and sloths. :)

I like to think of the GameCube more as a "red fox". Not endangered, but certainly not popular amongst the masses and often the victim of poaching on eBay. Plus I mostly just like it for the Star Fox games anyway. :P

Edited by Jin
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That works!

 

Of course for someone like me, who regularly arranges retro gaming events, having a wide range of systems is useful. Most of the common ones we've got within the arrangers' organization, but when we want to spice up the selection with oddball systems, those tend to be personal loans from me and other people. I also consider that a cultural benefit, to display to the general public the width and variation of what video games and home computers looked like 20-40 years ago. It is easy to get the wrong assumption that back in the days, first there was nothing and then came Nintendo out of the blue and invented the art of playing games on your TV. Putting on display a number of systems from early-mid 70's to today quickly invalidates that false history writing.

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One for me would be the Atari 5200. I found their first attempt to make their 8-bit computer games into a console kind of clever. The size of the thing including the huge trackball makes me think they were trying to up their game by making it seem more like an arcade machine at home than the 2600. It can play 2600 games with the 2600 Adapter, it has a good but small library so it isn't too hard to collect them all, there is homebrew, and there are Atari 8-bit conversions. So, there is a lot that can be played on it.

 

I find the issues with people hating the controller kind of interesting because with the 2600 people didn't really hate the controller yet it had uncountable third party controllers which made it hard to find the high quality third party controllers but with the 5200 there is a small handful of third party controllers/solutions to the 5200 controller but everyone of them are high quality. Most of them have a y-cable so you can daisy chain a few of them together all at once. So, if you have all the third party solutions and wanted to you could have a couple daisy chains with the trackball at the end for the keypad and maybe use the trackball to calibrate all the controllers in the chain. They would also have the benefit of if you have different controller preferences for each game then there would be less unplugging since you would have them daisy chained. I have some of these third party solutions but would like to get all of them and daisy chain them together how I want them laid out on a coffee table to show the kind of arcade at home machine it would look like when complete and to use as a kind of rebuttal to the pack-in controller being the system killer,"All these third party solutions existed back in the day and they are all high quality. So, even if the controller was self-centering and the buttons didn't wear out then back in the day wouldn't you still want to opt-in to a setup similar to this? I mean, even with the 2600 not everyone preferred the pack-in controllers, preferred third party ones, and after getting all the other necessary controllers like paddles, trackballs, keyboard controllers, driving controllers, etc. it looked as extravagant as this setup but more of a hassle because you had to constantly unplug them because you couldn't daisy chain them together into one big setup like this." I just think it would look and function bad ass with it complete all laid out like that.

 

I don't know, just having it all setup complete as described above and eventually getting all the games and/or all on a flash cart makes it a failed console that stands out to me because if my first experience of it was walking into a room with a set-up like that and enjoying its good games would cause me to ask the owner,"You said this console failed. Can you explain exactly why that was the case because this definitely looks like a big step up from the 2600 that it was meant to replace? I mean, your coffee table is a bad ass arcade!"

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I have discovered that if you repeatedly put yourself in the right circumstances, you will be given opportunities to collect almost everything that was physically available in that geographic area for a rational cost (also including many items imported incidentally from outside the area). If you depend on finding everything online, you're just shopping, in my opinion, and will pay the price for that, which besides the money, includes the cost of lost opportunity, discovery, and novelty.

 

I almost always acquire games and systems at low cost, and have quite a few unusual items over 30+ years, including many so called "failed" systems. It's just a label applied to a product posthumously, and has no real meaning to me (other than the probability of finding it in the first place).

 

"Failed" is irrelevant. If I found one and got it without spending too much, I have it and can examine it, play it, research it, and yes, collect for it.

My collecting is NOT a result of targeted acquisition. It is almost exclusively opportunistic; and so I relish in the joy of finding something unexpected and surprising.

 

My collection includes many isolated items that were not mainstream (or only generally available in other countries), which I enjoy having, even when not fully functional. I've long since abandoned completism as a collecting tenet; it's really not very interesting, actually.

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Dreamcast (and the SEGA SG-1000, if that counts).

 

I quite like failed systems. They tend to have a higher percentage of oddball, yet fun, games.

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I have a softspot for systems that are not the populair choice. I love my CD-i collection, it was a system to far ahead for it's time, and poorly promoted. Also being Dutch a bit of local proud is also part of it.

Also love the Philips Videopac, for it's design and looks. I also love my Intellivision, Colecovision, Atari 7800, Amstrad GX-4000, Amiga CDtv amd CD32. Collecting for the odd system isn't always easy, going to retrofairs, and not finding stuff, because seller only picked the populair stuff to display.

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Soon we'll have to define what is not a failed system, but rather an important cornerstone in the history of gaming. While I don't collect Intellivision myself (only trying to use IntyBASIC every now and then), I would think it is a stretch to categorize it as a failed system. The Mattel Aquarius however was a failed home computer, but that is another matter. The Colecovision probably ended a bit early due to the videogame crash, but major enough to not be any more failure than the Atari 5200, which already was mentioned above.

 

Simply put, we'll have to watch out so we don't rule out everything besides Atari 2600, C64, NES, Genesis, SNES, PS1, N64 and PS2 as failed systems.

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My first suggestion would be "any system that was unable to maintain first party support for at least four years." That lets the Sega Saturn and Wii-U fall outside the realm, but still encompasses systems like the Dreamcast and 3do.

Edited by godslabrat

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As many as I can. I have a complete game.com, Didj, ActionMax and Microvision library, plus I also collect for N-Gage, Dreamcast, Odyssey 2, Game Gear, Virtual Boy, and a whole lot of others I can't think of right now.

Edited by atari2600land

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One could also say that any system released past 1980, but failed to attract any 3rd party developers (or publishers where applicable) was a failure, if the original manufacturer had to supply all games by inhouse programmers. Some of them perhaps never even tried to get any support, I don't know.

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7800 and Jaguar for me. Had a complete collection of 7800 titles at one time, then sold and traded all of it away. When I started seeing all the wonderful ports PacManPlus was doing, had to get back into it. And big time! Besides all of his great titles, really enjoy other homebrewer efforts and many of the original titles more than ever. The 7800 has found a permanent place in my heart and home. :love:

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Can you consider a system a failure when it wasn't even made to be a success but rather to grab on cash?

 

I have some pretty obscure systems here - but as I pointed out, calling thme failed is hardly an option when the company behind them didn't even tried to made them a success.

I got all of the "Game Boy wannabe" trio of the 90's - the BitCorp Gamate, the Watara Supervision, and the Creatronic Mega Duck (yes, it's a name).

I also have a Game Master, but that thing is such a cheap rip-off you know that whoever made it wanted a cash grabbing scheme and not an attemps at making a decent portable system.

I also own an Interton VC 4000/Radofin 1292 Advanced Programmable Video System. Those are quite a bit hard to define. Individually they probably sold quite poorly but regroup all of the system family in a mass and it probably did respectable sales for the era, especially on a fragmented market like Europe. It quite hard to tell if they are a failure, given the time period and the lack of data on the sales.

 

I also have all but one cart from the PC-50X Pong cart series.

Again, certainly not a failure, but it's quite the not collected system, and finding the double gun kit can be tricky as well. It's more of a system that used to be popular for a very short period of time, and that is left aside by most collectors.

Also in the realm of systems that someone decided to make to grab cash, I have the HMG 7900, and about 4 games for it.

Seems not a lot? That's still 1/3 of all the games ever released for this system.

 

And why do I collect them?

Well, for several reasons; first, they are more than often undocumented, or looked partially at by people that decided that because everyone said they were crap, then they are crap.

Sometime, they are right, and well, I have a big steamy pile of plastic and boards. Sometime, they are wrong, and while not a great system, you can still have fun with the games!

One other reason is the seemingly easy goal that those make for a collectard.

9 carts released for the Pc-50* series, 10 games released for the HMG7900? sounds easy enough. Amusingly, I even have found a game for the Game Master that isn't listed anywhere on the web! So this alone make it worthwile, it's like uncovering a secret egyptian tomb! (And realizing that the only treasure inside is the vase in which the Ancien Egyptians placed the visceras of the deceased Pharao. But heh! Still a discovery).

Still in the collectar side, looking for anything for those system is a game of patience.

Try seaching for "Game Master" and you'll understand why it's so hard to find.

 

So unlike for some "failed" systems like the Jaguar, where it's quite easy to collect for, but you need to unloads trucks of money, collecting for rare unknow systems is equally hard and cheap. Yes, every now and then you'll see a seller on eBay selling a Game Master or a Watara Supervision "VERY RARE" for several hundred bucks, but you can still find them for nothing or close.

 

As an example, getting all the carts for the PC-50* (minus the one I can't locate, but it's a 6 game variant of the more common 10 Pong games) cost me less than 60€. Mostly because to get most of the carts, I had to buy a whole system, and I resold it right on minus the game I needed, which basically refunded me on the shipping I paid for the systems (pretty sure that in the end, I probably have 20€ worth of system and 40€ of shipping on average. Oh well.)

Edited by CatPix
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Yeah the definition of "failed" is probably different for different people - I'd consider the Saturn an overall failure, so I don't know if the 4 years of first party support definition works for me.

 

How about this: I'd call a system a failure if it both lost in the market to its competition by any significant amount *and* sold fewer units than its predecessor. If it's the first system a manufacturer ever made, then just take the former criteria. (I know, define "significant amount"... but I'm not talking a difference of a few thousand units, that's obviously not meaningful.)

 

Domestically in the US, that would make the Sega Master System, Saturn and Dreamcast failures, along with the every Atari home system after the 2600, the Intellivision, Coleco Vision, Turbo Grafx 16, N64, GameCube, and Wii U. In handhelds, it would make failures of pretty much anything not made by Nintendo.

 

It gets slightly more complicated if you include Japan and Europe in the mix. Some systems were a failure in one territory but a success in others.

 

Anyway, it's probably not coincidence that these are basically all my favorite systems. I do root for the underdog, and I also have kind of niche tastes in a lot of ways, and having too many non-mainstream games is a big reason why some of these systems failed. That puts them right up my alley.

 

I don't spend a ton of money on these systems, though. They all have relatively common games that are cheap and fun. Probably my biggest collection of any system is the Dreamcast, which I have about 100 games for; some of them I got for free (I used to work in the industry), some I bought new when the system was still on the market, a few I bought on closeout or used for $5-$10. I'm sure the most I spent on any game was something like Ikaruga when it was brand new and I paid about $60 for it. Still, I ended up with at least a few DC games that are now worth $100+.

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Yeah the definition of "failed" is probably different for different people - I'd consider the Saturn an overall failure, so I don't know if the 4 years of first party support definition works for me.

 

How about this: I'd call a system a failure if it both lost in the market to its competition by any significant amount *and* sold fewer units than its predecessor. If it's the first system a manufacturer ever made, then just take the former criteria. (I know, define "significant amount"... but I'm not talking a difference of a few thousand units, that's obviously not meaningful.)

 

Domestically in the US, that would make the Sega Master System, Saturn and Dreamcast failures, along with the every Atari home system after the 2600, the Intellivision, Coleco Vision, Turbo Grafx 16, N64, GameCube, and Wii U. In handhelds, it would make failures of pretty much anything not made by Nintendo.

 

It gets slightly more complicated if you include Japan and Europe in the mix. Some systems were a failure in one territory but a success in others.

 

Anyway, it's probably not coincidence that these are basically all my favorite systems. I do root for the underdog, and I also have kind of niche tastes in a lot of ways, and having too many non-mainstream games is a big reason why some of these systems failed. That puts them right up my alley.

 

I don't spend a ton of money on these systems, though. They all have relatively common games that are cheap and fun. Probably my biggest collection of any system is the Dreamcast, which I have about 100 games for; some of them I got for free (I used to work in the industry), some I bought new when the system was still on the market, a few I bought on closeout or used for $5-$10. I'm sure the most I spent on any game was something like Ikaruga when it was brand new and I paid about $60 for it. Still, I ended up with at least a few DC games that are now worth $100+.

I like that definition! There's no real clear cut way to define what constitutes a "failed" system, because if there are still people who love it and play it to this day then it never truly failed, but from an industry perspective your definition certainly makes sense. Then there are those of systems like the Sega Master System that you mentioned, which most gamers in the US would consider to be a failure since it got absolutely trounced by the Nintendo NES in the North American market, but it ended up being wildly successful in Brazil and had a very strong European market share as well. So while it was a failure in the US it was anything but a failure in much of the rest of the world.

 

Ultimately what systems were failures or not is a very subjective thing that different people from different parts of the world will have varying views on, but at the end of the day all that really matters is that you love playing and collecting for it. And yes, that does include the Game.com and R-Zone. :)

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A big part of the attraction for me is that 'failed' systems usually had small libraries so full sets (or nearly so) could be had for relatively little money, and they generally had some games that were different from everybody else. Action Max, Astrocade, Arcadia, Microvision, VIS, Studio II, Channel F, game.com, R-Zone, Supervision, Hyperscan, Aquarius, and Tomy Tutor are all failed systems that grace my collection, and each has it's own charm.

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The only oddball console I own is the Jaguar. Its just interesting to me. Plus Ive always had a soft spot for Atari. I prefer to say "oddball" as opposed to "failed" since consoles like the Dreamcast are technically failures even though it is one the most highly praised consoles of all time and therefore doesn't really fit in with the conversation.

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