A Children’s History of Bad Game Console Names

We’re all adults here at Nitrobeard; I think we can take the harsh realities of life without the saccharine coating need to placate the fanboys and console partisans.  

The PlayStation Vita (or PSVita as the Playstation Portable’s successor will apparently be called) is a stupid, stupid name.

Try to pronounce PSVita. I don’t know about you, the reader, but I see “PSVita” and in my head it merges one sound, like a bumblebee trying to fart and take off at the same time. Pffssita. That’s the name. The Sony Pffssita.

It doesn’t sound like a videogame console; it sounds like a sound a person makes during a particularly satisfying pee, or possibly a member of nobility from Jacqueline Carey’s fine line of Renaissance-era smut. Duke Pffssita of Absurdly Oversized Handhelds.

So the real question isn’t is the PSVita a dumb name (because it totally is) but where its awful, awful name ranks in trerms of historically bad console names; and if this horrible abomination of phonetics will ultimately impact the PSVita’s success.

I think we can all agree that the Pffssita is in the top ten of awful console names, but where does it rank, exactly, and does an awful console name ultimately have much to do with its success or failure? Let’s investigate.

 


 

10: Wonder Swan/Wonder Swan Color

 

I’ll admit that I don’t know as much about current Japanese culture as I should. It is feasible that I’m out on the joke the swan is the ideal creature to associate with a handheld electronic device owing to sort of Japanese mythological connection. Or perhaps it is simply that the swan is a symbol of beauty and grace, but it is hard to imagine Bandai would want to associate the majestic, elegant swan with... this. Thing:

 

Or maybe swans are inexplicably badass creatures in Japanese culture; akin to eagles to Americans. The Wonder Eagle. That sounds good. I’d buy the Wonder Eagle. I’d buy the shit out of the Wonder Eagle.

None of this matters as the silly thing never came to America despite doing reasonably well against the GameBoy Color in Japan. It was mainly a vehicle by which to produce limited edition consoles for various Japanese franchises, and at least we wound up with stuff like this:

 

Which is admittedly much more swan-like.

 


 

9: Dreamcast

 

I remain unreasonably annoyed at the Dreamcast name based upon the badass project names given before the official unveil. Just imagine being a dejected Sega fanboy following Bernie Stolar stuffing a pillow over the face of the Saturn and told of the upcoming Sega projects:

The Sega Katana!

The Sega Blackbelt!

The Sega Shark!

The Sega Guppy The Sega Dural!

And ultimately be presented with the... the.

The Dreamcast.

 

The Dream. Cast.

WHAT THE FUCK DOES DREAM CAST EVEN MEAN? I didn’t know back in 1998 and I’m still mystified today. Admittedly time and nostalgia have served to merge the “Dream Cast” moniker into one word that I can say fast enough and ponder the meaning of, but it is still silly and I am convinced was one of the leading causes that prevented the mainstream public from taking the thing seriously. Well that and EA’s abandonment. But mainly the stupid name.

 


 

8: GamePark/Gamepark Holdings GP32/GP2x

 

The GP32/GPx is guilty of a lot of things I consider to be grave crimes when naming a videogame system. Not only does it flaunt an arbitrary bit count (something that stopped having any meaning the moment the Atari Jaguar was billed as a “64-bit system”), they also rely upon a rather generic sounding numeric system that only confuse matters. After all, if you had no prior knowledge that GamePark/GamePark Holding’s built a minor media empire upon outright software piracy, you’d have no idea which system to look for on ebay.

The GP32 sounds like it should be the latter system, right? GP2x is merely 2x.... something. We’re not told what.

Nope, this is the GP32:

 

Kinda dumpy, round, very early 2000’s. Meanwhile the GP2x

 

Looks like something you would not be embarrassed to whip out today, provided you were caught in an alternate reality where widescreen aspect ratios were never invented. Indeed, the GP2x was released some five years after the GP32, but you’d never know that from the name.

 


 

 

7: Coleco Vision

 

This footnote to the Pre-Crash era sounds innocent enough until you understand exactly what the term “Coleco” stands for.

COnnecticut LEather COmpany.

The Connecticut Leather Company Vision.

 

And that’s horrifying.

 


 

6: TurboGrafx-16

 

Let me count the ways in which the Turbo-Graphix-16 annoys me:

1: It wasn’t sixteen bit

2: It wouldn't have mattered even if it was; the only reason this ever became an issue to fanboys is because Hudson forced the argument (sort of like if Rick “Santorum” Santorum legally changed his name to Rick Stopsayinganalfroth)

3: The term “Graphix” isn’t even a fucking word

4: It is the rare and perhaps unique case of the Japanese version had a better name:

 

The PC Engine. It also looked better.

The TurboGraphix-16 is the sort of name that sounds cool when you’re 14 years old and first picking out your online handle. but immediately regretted the moment you see your name on a Modern Warfare leaderboard. It just needs an “~xXXx~” in front of and following to complete the effect. And a clan name. And perhaps a Vegeta.

Hudson seemingly realized their mistake, referring to the system as simply the “TG-16” in advertising and ultimately dropping it entirely in favor of the “TurboDuo” once the stand-alone CD console was released. No one ever took the TG-16 seriously, and was soundly drubbed by systems that did not possess an insecurity complex.


 

5: Game.com

 

In the late 90’s adding the term “dot com” to the end of a word didn’t just sound cool, it was sound business strategy. It was a time when you could add the term “dot com” to the word “Pets” and raise a third of a billion dollars. Only this wasn’t the Game Dot Com:

 

It was the Game Com. Seriously.

 

Game Com. It’s a silent dot.

The Game Dot Com represents a marketing research team too clever for its own good, which is symptomatic of the device itself. It had a touchscreen, a modem, and two cartridge slots, yet Tiger Dot Com failed to secure the hardware necessary to produce games for the time period. Imagine Duke Nukem Dot Com on a Gameboy Dot Com screen and you can begin to understand the frustration inherent dot com.

 


 

4: Psspiita

 

Stupid name yes, but Sony’s new handheld will have its own host of problems to overcome, notwithstanding the part where Sony manged to release a hardware revision increasing the overall size of the prior device. This thing is going to cost four hundred bucks and Sony has to convince people not to buy an iPad instead. Crazy.

 


 

3: Atari 2600/5200/7800

 

The Atari 2600 was the sort of thing you could get away with in the late 70’s and no one cared that household electronics sometimes had names that doubled as the listed BTU rating of a water heater. But by the time the 5200 came out everyone should have known better (and really, was being “twice the arbitrary number of the woefully underpowered 2600 something you want to advertise?) and with the 7800 it was clear Atari’s console nomenclature was a matter of corporate entropy and not marketing strategy.

 

Three times! Three times! Three times! the power of the 2600!

Which is disappointing. Transputer Workstation and the Atari XEGS proved Atari could still conjure up imagery that hearkened back to when the company epitomized early 80’s cool. The 2600/5200/7800 marketing strategy was lazy and dumb, sort of like the people running Atari itself.

 


 

2: N-Gage

The term “engage” is an actual word with meaning and imagery behind it. The Nokia Engage! Engage with Nokia! Engage with these awful games! Meanwhile “N-Gage”, while more trademarkable, means nothing. It sort of sounds like it might be something, but not anything associated with videogames -- It sounds more like a model railroad enthusiast term.  It's sort of like a Penny Arcade comic that writes itself:

Model Railroad Enthusiast: “Pardon me young man, but do you have the Bachmann N 63559 GP-40 Diesel Chessie System in the N Gauge?

Gamestop Employee:No, but Perhaps you’d like to preorder Requiem of Hell instead.

Model Railroad Enthusiast:I will now go home and drink heavily and ruminate on the wreckage that is my adult life. Good day

Actually let’s see:

 

 

Nope, theirs was better. Clearly at least CAD-level, though.

 


 

1: The Nintendo Wii

 

Clearly the worst videogame system name of all time, yet the Wii story is good news for Sony fans in that it is clear evidence that a videogame system’s name has little to do with the success of that system.

To put this in perspective: Nintendo knowingly released a system who’s name doubles as a colloquial term for a small penis (or worse, a child’s euphemism for urine) and still managed to sell 86 million units. And yes, I understand the logical arguments for the Wii name, the fact that it’s supposed to sound like “We” and even the little “ii” represents the Wiimote itself, but c’mon.

 

Wii.