The video game console manufacturing is a really fascinating sector of the consumer electronics industry. From the standpoint of economics it’s this little microcosm of monopolistic competition and were the moves of each competitor can impact all the others or even the whole industry. This in laymen’s terms means the competition is tight, the products are similar, and on the move to differentiate products, manufacturers make some “interesting” choices.
If we where to walk along the road of home video gaming console history we would find the bodies of countless victims who strove for the brass ring and failed. Some of them were because they hit the market past their prime, and ye others because they where way ahead of their time. There is one group however that seems to be a little bit of both and they are the ones that seem to have to corpses of notoriety, infamy, and ridicule you learn about along the way. These are of course are the mezzanine consoles, or of generation x.5 systems that left behind the safety of the current gen to bring us the next big thing but just couldn’t deliver.
Sometimes this was because the system was just crap, or because it was quickly replaced. Others times marketing departments were to blame, or a company just out and out screwed up by making a rash decision in the fight for market share and product differentiation, in a world of monopolistic competition.
There are probably many of these Generation X.5 mezzanine systems out there but I’m going to focus on four in this series. I will be taking a look at Generation 2.5’s Atari 5200, and Gen 3.5’s Sega CD, Sega 32X, and Atari Jaguar.