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What Happened To: The Gizmondo handheld game system

Sections: Columns, Features, Handhelds, Handhelds-Other, Nostalgia, PDA, Smartphones

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Released in 2005, the Gizmondo had promise.

The technical specs made it seem like it could’ve done pretty well. It was another handheld that seemed partially like a PDA or smart phone and partially like a handheld gaming system. It also had two separate units released. There was an ad-supported unit for $229 and an ad-free unit for $400. The ad-supported unit was part of the way that the Gizmondo company tried to put a bit more of the financial support for the handheld onto the consumer.

Unfortunately for Tiger Telematics, the handheld actually less than 25,000 units sold. It had 14 games that were on a “to-be-released” list from launch.

Even worse, all was not well with the Gizmondo company. This one’s a bit of a long laundry list of things that could’ve gone wrong for a handheld, which is why the start of this installment is so short. So…

What Happened?

gizmondo handheld game system image photo

Well, as stated earlier, the Gizmondo and its company was quite a piece of work with a laundry list of problems. Oddly enough, most of the problems were company based rather than device based. The biggest problem with the handheld system’s hardware was that it was just very average in a rather ugly frame. The widescreen (bottom unit in the picture), which was never released, at least looked like something to game with. The GSM tri-band capability was also hit or miss depending almost everything that might have affected it. The Bluetooth capability for multiplayer possibilities was pretty much a failure due to the fact that very few people bought the handheld.

Of the the 14 launch games a little more than half were released in the US with the rest released only in Europe (primarily after the March 2005 European launch).

It also was one of the first handhelds that had free GPS capabilities that weren’t all that hot due to mapping issues, then again that program was free and you do get what you paid for. Then again, the handheld was trying to do a lot, which meant that some of it would work as it should and some of it wouldn’t. In terms of the bluetooth capability, that would’ve been more worthwhile if the marketing had been done better.

The GSM capabilities meant that it was pretty much a cell/smart phone but there were complaints that it worked horribly. That could’ve been fixed with even just a month or two more of development before the release of the handheld. As for the GPS, the poor mapping could’ve been fixed even with just patches to the programming or at least a month more of development before the handheld was released.

gizmondo handheld game system widescreen version

One of the biggest problems was Stefan Erikkson. Erikkson had a bit of a history with crime before he joined together with Carl Freer to start up the Gizmondo company. Though suspicion that those ties hadn’t been cut while trying to be a legitimate businessman ended up popping up due to issues in the business dealings of Gizmondo. Wired also reported on the man’s strange story after he got into a car accident that sheared his Ferrari, with an estimated cost of $2 million, in half. In fact, the crash, partially because it was such a strange one, got more press coverage than the handheld.

Yes, there was also the fact that it was released to try to make competition for the handhelds of Nintendo and Sony. Sure, business is built on competition. Also, the PSP hadn’t completely solidified the standing it has now. But trying to topple either Nintendo or even Sony gaming handhelds with something that’s more like a PDA or smart phone, that’s kind of laughable. Sure, some things (like tablet computers, especially the iPad) might, operative word being might, have the possibility to do some damage to either if they were marketed more specifically for gaming. However, that would also likely be done with a far more established company.

Part of what killed both the company and the handheld was the fact that they announced, months after releasing the Gizmondo, that they were working on an improved Gizmondo with a larger screen, Wi-Fi (rather than just Bluetooth and GSM tri-band) capabilities and a TV-out port. So, naturally, people stopped buying while waiting for the improved handheld. This lead to the death of both the handheld and the company that had started up in 2001 ended up declaring bankruptcy and closing up shop in 2006, shortly after after the 2006 discontinuation of the Gizmondo handheld.

Oh. You’d think that the story’s done. Nope.

In 2008, Carl Freer announced that he was going to try to come out with a new Gizmondo, a Gizmondo 2. This would be released under a new company named Media Power Inc. with his then new business partner Mikael Ljundman. It was scheduled to be released in May 2008, though that was pushed back to November 2008. December 2008 rolled around and then news that the Gizmondo 2 would be in a smart phone format rolled around. There is no new news. The Media Power Inc. webpage went down and Ljundman was arrested for fraud.

No announcements have been made since Ljundman’s arrest. None are expected. If anything, the Gizmondo and it’s non-existent successor is a punchline of mediocrity and just never seeing the light of day.

Read [Gamepro] Also Read [Wired] Also Read [Copenhagen Press]

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