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|Type||Handheld game console|
|Retail availability||September 1997|
|Units sold||Fewer than 300,000|
|Online services||14.4 kbit/s modem|
|Best-selling game||Lights Out (pack-in)|
The Game.com (styled as "game.com" but pronounced "game com", not "game dot com") is a handheld game console released by Tiger Electronics in September 1997. It featured many new ideas for handheld consoles and was aimed at an older target audience, having PDA-style features and functions such as a touchscreen and stylus. A second version of the console was released as the Game.com Pocket Pro in September 1998, followed by the Game.com Pocket. The first game.com console included two slots for game cartridges and could be connected to a 14.4 kbit/s modem, making it the first handheld console to include Internet connectivity, hence its name referencing the domain name .com. The second and last revision of the game.com reverted to a single cartridge slot.
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The game.com was released in September 1997. By the end of the month, several games had been released for the console: Henry, Indy 500, Quiz Wiz, Wheel of Fortune, and Williams Arcade Classics. Lights Out was also released as a pack-in game and Solitaire was built into the console. The console was powered by four AA batteries. Tiger produced equivalents to many Game Boy peripherals, such as the compete.com serial cable, allowing players to connect their consoles to play multiplayer games or exchange high scores. Branded items such as an AC adapter, earphones, and a carry-case were also made available.
The game.com's monochrome touchscreen measures approximately one and a half inches by two inches, and is divided into square zones that are imprinted on the screen itself, to aid players in determining where to apply the stylus. The game.com touchscreen had a fairly low sensor resolution along with no back-light, so it lacked precision and made it hard to see the on-screen controls. As with most portable devices in the 1990s, data storage was entirely dependent on a backup battery, and its failure would erase high scores or any other information stored within the console.
Tiger failed to sell the game.com to an older audience. While they were able to obtain game licenses like Wheel of Fortune, Sonic the Hedgehog, Mortal Kombat, Duke Nukem, and Resident Evil, none of these games sold in great numbers.
Development of games, including licensed ones, were done in-house, with the exception of Centipede. SDKs were not known to be widely available, and third-party development (essential to the success of most gaming systems) was absent.
At the time, the platform was almost completely ignored by the gaming press. Tiger ran two television commercials promoting the game.com. The first, targeted towards casual gamers, depicts several angels complaining about how boring Heaven is, until a fallen angel appears to tempt them with game.com. The second, targeted more towards a hardcore gaming audience, satirizes Sega of America's aggressive commercials of the time, showing a mock marketing spokesman for the game.com insulting a crowd of gamers until they overwhelm him in an angry mob.
In an effort to revitalize their low sales, Tiger released the Game.com Pocket Pro in September 1998. This was a smaller version of the game.com which had the same specifications as the original except that it had a single cartridge slot, and required only two AA batteries. The initial version of the Pocket Pro featured a front-lit screen (although advertised as back-lit) and is distinguished by its rough-textured black case. A subsequent re-release, dubbed as the Game.com Pocket, omitted the front light and came in four translucent colors: green, blue, pink, and purple.
Both re-releases shared very limited success, and the console would be canceled in 2000, along with its exclusive internet service. Most of the console's problems were due to a small line-up of only 20 games, poor quality of some games, lack of third-party support, poor distribution and marketing. Unlike the original Game Boy, its screen suffered from very slow screen updates (known as "ghosting"), which makes fast moving objects blur and particularly hurt the fast-moving games Tiger sought licenses for. The Game.com Pocket Pro had a slightly better display than the first model — on par with the Game Boy Pocket's — with less of a "ghosting" problem.
Although the game.com was a commercial failure, similar features were later used successfully in the Nintendo DS. The game.com was the first to include basic PDA-functions, the first to allow two game cartridges to be inserted at once, and the first handheld to allow Internet access.
To access the Internet, users had to connect an external dial-up modem to the game.com via a serial cable and dial into a game.com-exclusive ISP. From there, users could upload saved high scores to the game.com database (games do not feature online play functionalities), or check e-mail and access the web (text-only) if they had the Internet cartridge (sold separately from the modem). The game.com also supported other ISPs, although set up was a matter of trial-and-error. Both Tiger's now-defunct website and the included manual gave incorrect instructions for setting up a game.com for Internet access. Later, single-cartridge re-releases of the game.com could not access the web nor check e-mail.
The monthly fee, two extra peripherals, and setup which required users to remain close to a phone line to connect the console to the modem meant that only a small percentage of owners had a subscription to the game.com Internet service.
|Dimensions (L x W x D)||Original: 190 x 108 x 19 mm / Pocket Pro: 140 x 86 x 28 mm|
|Processor Chip||Sharp SM8521 8-Bit CPU|
|Display Resolution||200 x 160, Original: 3.5 in. / Pocket Pro: 2.8 in.|
|Touch Screen||12 x 10 grid-based touch screen|
|Color System||Black and White, with 4 gray levels|
|Audio||Monaural. Total of four audio channels: two 4-bit waveform generators (each with its own frequency and volume control, but sharing the same waveform data), one noise generator, and one direct 8-bit PCM output channel.|
|Power Source||4 AA batteries (Pocket and Pocket Pro: 2 AA batteries) or AC adapter|
|Ports||Serial Comm Port for the compete.com cable, internet cable and weblink cable;
3.5 mm Audio Out Jack for headphones; DC9 V in (AC Adapter); 2 Cartridge Slots (1 on the Pocket and Pocket Pro)
Action (A, B, C, D); 3 Function (Menu, Sound, Pause); 1 Eight-way Directional Pad; Volume; Contrast; Reset (On system's underside)
- Batman & Robin
- Duke Nukem 3D
- Fighters Megamix
- Indy 500
- Lights Out
- The Lost World: Jurassic Park
- Mortal Kombat Trilogy
- Quiz Wiz: Cyber Trivia
- Resident Evil 2
- Sonic Jam
- Tiger Casino
- Wheel of Fortune
- Wheel of Fortune 2
- Williams Arcade Classics
- A Bug's Life
- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert
- The Legend of the Lost Creator
- Metal Gear Solid
- NBA Hangtime
- Shadow Madness
- WCW Whiplash
At the time of its release in 1997, Chip and Jonathan Carter of the Chicago Tribune wrote about the console, "Our early take is that game.com doesn't handle action games as well as other titles. The Indy 500 game, for instance, is nowhere near as smooth as a Game Boy title. But it's loaded with options, including a stylus for direct screen interface. Graphically, we'd have to say this has the potential to perform better than Game Boy. As for sound, game.com delivers better than any other hand-held on the market."
Steven L. Kent, also writing for the Chicago Tribune, wrote a year later that the console had an elegant design, as well as better sound and a higher-definition screen than the Game Boy: "Elegant design, however, has not translated into ideal game play. Though Tiger has produced fighting, racing and shooting games for game.com, the games have noticeably slow frame rates. The racing game looks like a flickering silent picture show." In 2004, Kent included the modem and "some PDA functionality" as the console's strengths, while listing its "Slow processor" and "lackluster library of games" as weaknesses.
Brett Alan Weiss of AllGame wrote, "The game.com, the little system that (almost) could, constantly amazes me with the strength and scope of its sound effects. [...] It's astounding what power comes out of such a tiny little speaker." Cameron Davis of VideoGames.com wrote, "Sure, this is no Game Boy Color-killer, but the Game.Com was never meant to be. To deride it by comparing it with more powerful and established formats would be a bit unfair". Davis also wrote, "The touch screen is pretty sensitive, but it works well - you won't need more than a few seconds to get used to it." However, he criticized the screen's squared zones: "more often than not it proves distracting when you are playing games that don't require it."
- Blake Snow (2007-07-30). "The 10 Worst-Selling Handhelds of All Time". GamePro.com. Archived from the original on 2007-10-12. Retrieved 2008-01-17.
- Beuscher, Dave. "game.com Biography". AllGame. Archived from the original on November 14, 2014.
- Davis, Cameron. "A Closer Look at the Game.com". VideoGames.com. pp. 1–4. Archived from the original on July 9, 2001. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
- Carter, Chip; Carter, Jonathan (September 25, 1997). "New Hand-held Game Has A Tiger By The Tail". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
- "Games for the game.com". AllGame. Archived from the original on November 14, 2014.
- http://www.wrestlecrap.com/icfyt/someone-bought-this-wcw-whiplash-for-the-game-com-we-almost-got-it/ 3/24/2015
- Kent, Steven L. (August 6, 1998). "Are You Game?". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
- Kent, Steven L. (January 31, 2004). "Nintendo's got game for newest challenge". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
- Weiss, Brett Alan. "Indy 500 - Review (game.com)". AllGame. Archived from the original on November 15, 2014.
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