7 Infamous Vaporware Consoles

The recent failure of the Coleco Chameleon, a cartridge-based console aimed at retro enthusiasts, caused much drama and hand-wringing among the video game community. Several prominent YouTube vloggers breathlessly proclaimed the Chameleon to be one of the biggest video game console fails of all time. But how soon we forget…

The Coleco Chameleon, previously known as the Retro VGS, is just one of a long line of video game consoles that failed to launch after they were announced. Here are seven more.

Sega Neptune

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Let’s be honest, the mid-90s were not kind to Sega. After riding the wave of success from the Sega Genesis — that at one point made them leaders of the entire video game industry — a series of poor decisions made by bad management would eventually be the company’s undoing. The Sega CD’s reception was lukewarm at best, but the 32X was a straight-up flop. That didn’t stop Sega from working on the Sega Neptune: a Genesis and a 32X all in one. Planned for release in 1995, production was delayed and eventually canceled.

Atari Jaguar Duo

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If the 90s were bad for Sega, they were absolutely brutal for Atari. The once-great giant of the industry was struggling to stay relevant after the Genesis and SNES took the gaming world by storm. Their 64-bit console, the Jaguar, failed to gain any momentum, despite a fairly aggressive marketing push. That didn’t stop them from releasing a CD-ROM attachment that also failed. And that didn’t stop them from announcing the Jaguar Duo: an all-in-one console that could play both Jaguar and Jaguar CD games. Designs for the console were shown, but by that time Atari was hemorrhaging money and eventually ceased operations entirely, and the Jaguar Duo was never produced.

Nintendo Playstation

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In the late 80s, Nintendo partnered with Sony to develop a CD-ROM peripheral for their Super Nintendo system. Sony was going to build two versions of the system: one that would attach to existing SNES systems (like the Sega CD), and an all-in-one console that could play both SNES carts and SNES-CD games. At the 11th hour, Nintendo switched horses and decided to make a deal with Philips instead, much to the surprise of everyone, including Sony, who had already produced prototypes.  The entire project fizzled around 1991, but Sony didn’t forget Nintendo’s betrayal, and went on to develop a video game console of their own. You may have heard of it.

Panasonic M2

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The M2 started as an add-on unit for the Panasonic 3DO that would have boosted the system’s performance. It later became a standalone console that was to be the successor to the 3DO, and was even shown off at E3 in 1996. Initially, the M2 boasted impressive specs and was intended to follow the same model of the 3DO: a technology platform that would be licensed out to other companies who could then produce their own version. After spending years in development at 3DO, the M2 technology was sold to Matsushita for a whopping $100 million. But once it became clear that the system had been outpaced by the Playstation and Nintendo 64, the M2 was canceled in 1997. Some of its technology still lives on today in the form of ATM operating systems.

Indrema L600

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Other consoles on this list were backed by companies with long histories in the video game industry, but the L600 was started from scratch by startup Indrema in 1999. The goal was to create an open-source, Linux-based console that could play existing PC games; it would also act as a DVD player and Tivo-like DVR system. The company received a lot of attention, and was covered by EGM and Next Generation Magazine (Next Gen went so far as to say the L600 prototype is what the Xbox should have looked like). But the company was not able to raise enough money to begin production, and the project was closed in 2001.

Phantom

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Like Indrema, Infinium Labs was a startup tech company that planned to create a new video game console that could play existing PC games. Unlike the Indrema L600, the Phantom would not play CD-ROMS, but would instead download PC games optimized for the system via the internet through a special monthly subscription service — a revolutionary concept in 2003. A prototype was debuted at E3 in 2004, but after millions of dollars in development, the console failed to materialize and was later quietly canceled. A few years later, the company released a wireless keyboard for PC that had been designed for the Phantom console.

ApeXtreme

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Like the Indrema and Phantom consoles, the ApeXtreme (Apex Extreme) was designed to be a video game console that could play existing PC games as well as DVDs. It debuted at the 2004 Consumer Electronics Show with the intention of releasing later that year, and like the Indrema and Phantom, it failed to deliver. Apex Digital, the company behind the ApeXtreme, was best known for manufacturing ugly, cheap DVD players in the early 2000s. The company went bankrupt in 2010.

Article by contributor WatershipDownSyndrome.

5 thoughts on “7 Infamous Vaporware Consoles

  1. Man, I remember being so stoked over the idea of SNES games on CD. I couldn’t wait and was so disappointed when it didn’t happen. So disappointed, in fact, that I ended up buying a 3DO when it came out because I knew CD-ROM games were the future.

    I also remember reading press on the Indrema and Phantom and knowing there was no way these things would ever see the light of day.

    Great article!

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