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Consoles M.I.A. 62

1up is running a piece looking at four game consoles missing in America. These pieces of consumer technology historia just never made it to the states, for one reason or another. Usually, good reasons. From the article: "The Xbox was not Microsoft's first console venture. Nor was Dreamcast's WinCe operating system. No, Mr. Gates' first foray into the console arena happened more than 20 years ago, hand-in-hand with current nemesis Sony. Sounds like madness? It's not. The MSX wasn't precisely a console, either...it was more like a computer that could play cartridge-based games ... So why didn't MSX make it to the U.S.? Though the standard was conceived by a Microsoft executive, it was a Japanese initiative. In America, the company supported the IBM PC standard." Reminds me of our TI computer. Hunt the Wumpus indeed; the MSX got Castlevania (Vampire Killer).
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Consoles M.I.A.

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  • Link (Score:4, Funny)

    by Gogo0 ( 877020 ) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @06:04PM (#16601452)
    Good thing there isn't a link, I almost read the article!
    A slashdot first, I'm sure.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Gogo0 ( 877020 )
      Ah, NOW there is a link.
      Good thing my work's proxy blocked it, I almost read the article!
  • Castlevania? pfft! (Score:3, Informative)

    by PygmySurfer ( 442860 ) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @06:04PM (#16601454)
    Reminds me of our TI computer

    Yeah, but we (I had a TI 99/4A) got great games like Parsec, Munch Man, and Tombstone City!
    • Now that was a great game, and also made great use of the voice synth long before voice synth really worked well.

    • by jbdigriz ( 8030 )
      Yeah, and thenwe got the Myarc Geneve, too, which used the V9938 MSX2 video chip. Ironic you can run Tomy Tutor games on the Geneve, since it has the same CPU, using the 9918A modes of the V9938. Now if I can find the time for a Z80 emulator for the 9995...

  • Nor was Dreamcast's WinCe operating system.

    So if Microsoft was behind the Dreamcast's OS, was that why the Dreamcast ran so hot?
    • by juuri ( 7678 ) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @06:23PM (#16601724) Homepage
      The Dreamcast had a port of CE specialized to allow PC game makers to easily host and throw up content on Sega's box.

      The bulk of Dreamcast games did not run the CE varient.
      • by MBCook ( 132727 )

        I only ever remember hearing about a single game that actually used WinCE (other than the networking stack, which I think most games used if they used the modem/ethernet). Sega Rally was supposed to use it when it was released in Japan. The game had framerate issues and didn't look very good at all. By the time the game got to the US it had been rewritten to be completely native fixing the issues.

        I don't think the DC was fast enough for a large layer of middleware under a game like WinCE.

        • No, Sega Rally 2 was a WinCE game in the US; that was the only game I had for the Dreamcast that actually crashed on me, causing the console to reboot. I broke a controller because I had been struggling with an ice track for sooo long, and when I thought I had beaten it, suddenly I was looking at the DC spiral screen.

          I bought a *lot* of DC games and I think that, and maybe Crazy Taxi, were the only games that used WinCE. I remember also MSDN had, for awhile, a lot of info on using DirectX with WinCE specifi
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Windows CE was not used much on the Dreamcast. Basically, game developers could choose between the official Sega stack or Windows CE. Only a handful of them picked Windows CE.
  • 4 bad systems (ok the wonder swan had potential, and MSX did have metal gear). Anyone who knows a little about those systems though knows even if they came to america, they would be Jaguar/3D0 of the era, they were ok at best.

    Btw, Hunt the wumpus was freeware, (hell it was a basic game). Why don't you compare commander keen to castlevania, apogee software wins with ID backing them up :)

    • I wouldn't say they were bad, especially about the Wonderswan. The black and white one was a total piece of crap, but the engineering and design of the Wonderswan Color impressed me much more than the GBA. It ran for ~20 hours on a single AA battery, and while it also didn't have backlighting, the builtin contrast adjustment made it infinitely more playable. In addition, its graphics were on par with the GBA in my opinion.

      Of course, it failed for
      • lackluster library of titles: Final Fantasy remakes and Gu
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cgenman ( 325138 )
      The MSX was a legendary system. We would have been well served by having that on the market. It would have beaten the pants off of a lot of what was on the market at the time. The Wonderswan would have been nice competition to the Game Boy, especially once they both went color.

      On the other hand, I'm surprised there wasn't any mention of the SuperGrafx [wikipedia.org]. Powerful little system from NEC, now super rare, with some of the best arcade ports of the time.

      Also, the GP2X [wikipedia.org] would be nice to hear about, as it isn't t
  • The MSX wasn't precisely a console, either...it was more like a computer that could play cartridge-based games

    So it wasn't a console, then. There's nothing about ROM-based media that keeps them from being used in computers. I'm pretty sure there were other computers that accepted cartridges, but my knowledge of obsolete non-x86 computers is a bit rusty so I can't name any.

    BTW, the most notable game for the MSX was definitely Metal Gear 2. The real Metal Gear 2.

    • by geekster ( 87252 )
      The Commodore 64
    • I'm pretty sure there were other computers that accepted cartridges, but my knowledge of obsolete non-x86 computers is a bit rusty so I can't name any.

      Commodore 64, for one (according to my memory, backed up by wikipedia and eBay searches).

      It was quite popular at one point :-).

      • Basically, the MSX to Japan what the Commodore 64 (and Atari 800, and Tandy CoCo, and all the other 8-bit home computers) were in the United States and Europe.

        I think 1up is a little naive in thinking that a Microsoft-backed platform could have become the gaming standard in that era; back then, MS was a much smaller company, best known for selling BASIC interpreters and licensing their disk OS to IBM. Not the monopo-lithic giant we think of today.

    • I had one.. :) .. And its predecessor - the Spectravideo SVI-318/328 [wikipedia.org]. Back then Microsoft was still a bit of a rebel against the then predominant IBM. Funny how positions change overtime.

      BTW.. On the subject of cartriges - let me remind you that the C-64 also had a cartridge slot and games delivered on cartriges.
      • My first computer was an SVI-328, with a wooping 80kB of RAM and 32kB of ROM, not to mention the powerful 3.6 (IIRC) MHz Z80 CPU, those were the times.. :)

        In a strange way I miss that old thing, it wasn't MSX compatible but close enough.


    • The Atari ST (as well as the earlier Atari computers, 800XL, etc) had Cartridge capability. I believe the Amiga did as well. I don't know if later models such as the TT or later kept the interface. All I had was a 520ST (non FM, without internal floppy). I never did get a cartridge port. I do know the Mac emulator that a lot of people had used the cart port.
    • How about the PC Jr.?
    • All the (working (presumably)) software I have for my Atari 800 XL is games on cartridge: Archon, Rescue on Fractalus, Lode Runner... some of them are labeled XE Game System [wikipedia.org].

      No, cartridge slots weren't uncommon at all. Not too sure about games, but for the Commodore 64 I have the COMAL programming language and Simons Basic, and besides these and (mostly older?) games there were floppy speeders, game hacking tools and plenty other gizmos. Same with the C 16, the Plus/4 and, I assume, the VIC-20. However,
      • by Scoth ( 879800 )
        In many cases, it was marketing. Especially when the computer market was on the downturn and the video game market was just getting going. Telling retailers you were selling a "game system" was easier than getting them to sell a "computer". So, Atari sold something designated as a Game System that just so happened to have a keyboard you could attach and make it into a computer.

        Keep in mind that we're talking about the early-mid 80's here. The idea of floppy disks and such was still fairly new to the general
        • The XEGS was launched in 1987, the C 64 GS in 1990 - well into the Amiga/Atari ST era. But I suppose associating these old machines with the console resurgence looked like the only way to sell another few of them.
    • Before I had a Commodore 64, which had a cartridge slot, I had a Radio Shack Color Computer (an okay computer that came with great manuals) there were several cartridge program modules for it. I remember having a spreadsheet program that was on one of the cartridges, then the data was saved on a casette tape. One of th ecartradges I used most often on the C64 was a programang language extension. It added a lot of commands that made programing for the C64 a lot easer.
    • The msx definitely was not a console, and never was marketed as such, it was marketed as home computer in europe and japan (yes we had msx over here in europe too). It never could take off it was way too late to the table. It was not really better than the C64 which already dominated the market at that time. There were a handful of homecomputers which could take modules btw. the most prominent probably would be the pre ST atari computers, msx being another one, and I can remember some of the german Schneid
    • by BigZee ( 769371 )
      Cartridges we often a route for expansion of one kind or another. The VIC-20 had a slot that that I used for programming with the machine code monitor as well as using as a memory expansion.

      All of the early Atari computers also had cart slots.

    • by amavida ( 898618 )
      "So it wasn't a console, then."

      Yes Rob, thats right they were fully fledged microcomputers.

      The ones I saw were just like todays machines, keyboard, screen sitting on a desktop case. Picture a tandy or PC, only MUCH cheaper, more in the range of a commodore or TI.

      They were big in Japan & solved the problem of having to be a dos guru to get a game to run, just plug a cartridge in to the MSX & play.

      Microcomputers should have gone in a direction but Stupidity at Commodore killed that, market ignorance/r
  • by green pizza ( 159161 ) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @06:37PM (#16601914) Homepage
    Very few games, such as Saga Rally 2, actually used WinCE + DirectX 6. Most games used Sega's own OS and graphics libraries, which ran much faster.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      >Very few games, such as Saga Rally 2, actually used WinCE + DirectX 6.

      DirectX 5, actually.

      >Most games used Sega's own OS and graphics libraries,...


      >...which ran much faster.

      False. That was spread by certain parties within Sega who had a vested interest in boosting their own SDK. There was some overhead in running an OS versus writing to the bare metal, as Sega's SDK did, but even then, the WinCE SDK came out ahead in certain respects.
      • by dknj ( 441802 )
        False. That was spread by certain parties within Sega who had a vested interest in boosting their own SDK. There was some overhead in running an OS versus writing to the bare metal, as Sega's SDK did, but even then, the WinCE SDK came out ahead in certain respects.

        it was more because it was not easy to port games written on wince/directx to the playstation or n64.
  • Summarization of missing out on these MIA devices: We didn't miss out on much. Just early releases, cool devices, and things that would add to the madness of holiday shopping.
  • I just want to go on record as saying that the TI-99/4a version of Hunt the Wumpus was amazing. I just wish I could find a decent version for Palm.
    • You can download a PC version of "Hunt the Wumpus", written by a 99'er who modeled it after the TI version. It's quite fun, actually.

      He's also working on a PC/Java version of Tunnels of Doom...

      http://www.dreamcodex.com/ [dreamcodex.com]
    • by amavida ( 898618 )
      The TI-99/4a got great reviews, lot's of people in Oz wanted to get their hands on them but they sold out quickly in the large retail stores & were never stocked again. (Probably due to ignorance of purchasing staff in big retailers who treated them like toasters)
  • MSX (Score:3, Informative)

    by amavida ( 898618 ) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @08:58PM (#16603368)
    I'm old enough to remember the MSX machines.
    They promised to standardise games & software, giving a capable microcomputer kinda like an IBM PC but much cheaper.

    At that time IBM PC's were hideously expensive, the average joe could only afford a Commodore 64/128, Ti etc but they had no interoperability of software at all.

    Here in OZ importers/wholesalers advertised them a fair bit in computer magazines but not the main stream press.
    Retailers did'nt pick up the ball.
    Consumers could'nt find the games or software for them.
    They fizzled out. The end.
  • Seriously. Check out the Wikipedia entry:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MSX [wikipedia.org]

    The specs on the graphics hardware were simply INCREDIBLE for that time. The MSX 2, especially, was easily more powerful than the Amiga was (for games, anyway).

    Do Google search for some screenshots of some of those games, especially the Konami tiles (Salamander, Vampire Killer, Metal Gear). The MSX machines were unrivaled gaming machines until the SNES was released.

    Pretty awesome, actually.
    • So, an 8-bit computer with 128k RAM was easily more powerfull than a 32-bit computer with 512k RAM and double the clock frequency? The graphic resolution is about the same, but the Amiga had more colours.
      • by fbjon ( 692006 )
        Yeah, the MSX seems very interesting but underpowered. Comparing to the Amiga 500 again, it also had only a 3-tone + noise sound chip, apparently the same as in the Amstrad. No disk drive in the earlier models, versus built-in in the Amiga and even Amstrad.

        Seems it didn't move forward fast enough and got overrun, the last model still only has 256KB of memory as standard.

        • by quibus ( 652993 )
          The MSX had the AY-3-8910 PSG sound chip as default indeed. But since the MSX2+ (1988), the Yamaha OPLL was default. The same chip in a cartridge was also a very popular extension cartridge (called FM-PAC). Then there is the MSX-AUDIO (Yamaha Y8950) sound extension, the SCC which Konami put in some of their game cartridges and some other sound extensions. MSX users became very active on the sound department due to this. So, it's a bit simple to state what you did about the sound in MSX.

          Secondly, the disk dr
          • by fbjon ( 692006 )
            Ok, it did get upgraded a bit. But still, looking at the A500 with 512KB in 1985, and the A500+ and A1200 with 1MB and 2MB respectively in 1992, it seems that it fell behind the evolution of the industry. Indeed, the Amiga was also slowly falling behind by '92. Also, comparing screenshots, it's obvious that...

            Wait, is this a classic '90s home computer war vortex I'm spinning in?

    • The Amiga specification was not 'incredible' by Japanese standards...it was only incredible by western standards...in other words, all other home computers produced in the west at that time (Atari ST, QL, Commodore 64/128, Amstrad 464/664/6128, ZX Spectrum 48/48+/128, BBC/Acorn Electron, Atari 800 XL) sucked big time.

      Japanese computers had custom hardware for multilevel parallax scrolling, hardware sprites, hardware scaling and rotation, hardware input and other goodies. The Amiga only had a blitter, a copp
  • I didn't realise that MSX never made it to the States. You lucky, lucky people.

    I remember when those machines came out in Britain. The computer magazines were the only happy people, since it meant there was always at least one new machine a week to review and because so much of the machine's behaviour was the same they can't have needed to do so much work! Not like reviewing those computers where everything was different, such as the Jupiter Ace.

    And those MSX machines were terrible - I don't think I knew a
    • Its lovely little chiclets taught me to touch-type, its sucky Basic pushed me towards assembly, and its lack of games gave me all the inspiration I needed to write my own software .. and .. most important of all .. the Atmos is still one of the nicest looking [old-computers.com] machines, ever! [hardware.fr]

      I had an MSX for a while (Yamaha), but only for the superlative MIDI support .. now *that* was total integration .. ;)
  • Two of the four "consoles" reviewed were really general purpose computers that got popular because of games thanks to their specialized multimedia hardware. They're basically the Japanese equivalent of the Commodore 64 and the Amiga.
  • I recently did a review of MSFTs Gaming Division.. From the research that I did, the MSX was a "total failure" in the Japanese Market for a single reason - It had no 3rd party support. It's game selection was pathetic at best and as such, failed miserably.

    When the console was created it was deemed Microsoft's way of taking it to the "Japanese console manufacturers" and they lost millions on it.

    It just goes to show how important games are to the consoles that are developed - over the years every console has
  • What - no mention of the Bandai Playdia? http://www.vidgame.net/BANDAI/playdia.htm/ [vidgame.net]

    The console looked like Fisher Price designed it and the titles were nearly all anime games. It probably wouldn't have been much of a success in the US.
  • At ten years old, I had a MSX2 HBF 700F from Sony with Microsoft system and Konami games: Vampire Killer (Castlevania) and Nemesis (Gradius). With two cartridges slots that give you special stuff if you put two different games sometimes. I can program it to make my own stupid games and store them on a floppy disk. Macadam Bumper and S.E.U.C.K. where also on this machine. Games where you can create. As a consequence, I am now running a video game studio.

You will never amount to much. -- Munich Schoolmaster, to Albert Einstein, age 10