While watching the TechnoBuffalo live show the other day, a called asked our own Jon Rettinger if he thought Apple would ever come out with a gaming console. Jon said he didn’t think so because they had already tried it one with the Pippen.
… Wow, I had totally erased that disaster from my mind.
As you can see from the promotional video, it was spoken about in the usual “Apple hushed tones” (I really should trademark that saying) that imply this is something completely revolutionary. What it really was that Apple had come up with a system that was named Pippen, and they were then licensing that out to other companies, the best known of which was Bandai of Japan.
The Pippen launched in Japan in 1995, and in the United States in 1996. To say it flopped would be an understatement. At the high end, estimates are that 100,000 units were produced, and at the low end sources say only 42,000 were sold. It is also said that it was such a disaster that there were actually more modems built for it than actual consoles were built.
Why it flopped ins’t very clean cut. It launched during the height of the first generation PlayStation, the Sega Saturn and the Nintendo 64, so the the market was already pretty well saturated. It also wasn’t just a console, it was also envisioned as an educational tool and an Internet browsing device. Those three consoles were pretty well entrenched by the time this came out, and PC prices were dropping like a rock, so there just wasn’t a whole lot of need for this thing.
One other company ended up licensing the Pippen technology, and that was Katz Media Productions which went on to produce an unknown number of KMP 2000 units in Europe. Its focus was more on the Internet side of the technology, but it also didn’t meet with great success.
Even though Nintendo may see Apple as “the enemy of the future” when it comes to portable gaming, it seems that Sony and Microsoft probably don’t have a lot to worry about in the console market.