Game.com

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Game.com
Tiger Game Com Logo.png
Tiger-Game-Com-FL.jpg
The original Game.com system
ManufacturerTiger Electronics[1]
TypeHandheld game console
GenerationFifth generation[2]
Release dateGame.com
August 1997 (US)
Late 1997 (UK)
Game.com Pocket Pro
May/June 1999 (US)
Lifespan1997–2000
Introductory price$69.95 (original model)
$29.99 (Pocket Pro)
Discontinued2000[3]
Units soldLess than 300,000
MediaROM cartridge
CPUSharp SM8521
ConnectivityCompete.com serial cable, 14.4 kbit/s modem
Power4 × AA batteries or optional AC adapter (original model)
2 x AA batteries (Pocket Pro)

The Game.com[a] is a fifth-generation handheld game console released by Tiger Electronics in August 1997.[4][5] A smaller version, the Game.com Pocket Pro, was released in mid-1999. The first version of the Game.com can be connected to a 14.4 kbit/s modem for Internet connectivity,[6] hence its name referencing the top level domain .com.[7] It was the first video game console to include a touchscreen and the first handheld console to include Internet connectivity. The Game.com sold less than 300,000 units and was discontinued in 2000 because of poor sales.

History[edit]

Tiger Electronics had previously introduced its R-Zone game console in 1995 – as a competitor to Nintendo's Virtual Boy – but the system was a failure. Prior to the R-Zone, Tiger had also manufactured handheld games consisting of LCD screens with imprinted graphics.[8][9]

Original version[edit]

By February 1997, Tiger was planning to release a new game console, the handheld "game.com", as a direct competitor to Nintendo's portable Game Boy console.[10] Prior to its release, Tiger Electronics stated that the Game.com would "change the gaming world as we know it," while a spokesperson stated that it would be "one of this summer's hits."[11] The Game.com, the only new game console of the year, was on display at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in May 1997, with sales expected to begin in July.[12] Dennis Lynch of the Chicago Tribune considered the Game.com to be the "most interesting hand-held device" on display at E3, describing it as a "sort of Game Boy for adults".[13]

The Lights Out cartridge which came bundled with the console

The Game.com was released in the United States in August 1997, with a retail price of $69.95,[4][5] while an Internet-access cartridge was scheduled for release in October.[14][15] Lights Out was included with the console as a pack-in game and Solitaire was built into the handheld itself.[6][16] The console's release marked Tiger's largest product launch ever. Tiger also launched a website for the system at the domain "game.com".[17] The Game.com was marketed with a television commercial in which a spokesperson insults gamers who ask questions about the console, while stating that it "plays more games than you idiots have brain cells";[9][18] GamesRadar stated that the advertisement "probably didn't help matters much".[9] By the end of 1997, the console had been released in the United Kingdom, at a retail price of £79.99.[19]

The back of the original Game.com console

The Game.com came in a black-and-white color,[20] and featured a design similar to Sega's Game Gear console.[11][5] The screen is larger than the Game Boy's and has higher resolution.[5][21] The Game.com included a phone directory, a calculator, and a calendar,[4][7] and had an older target audience with its PDA features. Tiger designed the console's features to be simple and cheap.[15] The device was powered by four AA batteries,[14] and an optional AC adapter was also available.[7] One of the major peripherals that Tiger produced for the system was the compete.com serial cable,[6] allowing players to connect their consoles to play multiplayer games.[22] The console includes two game cartridge slots.[6] In addition to reducing the need to swap out cartridges, this enabled Game.com games to include online elements, since both a game cartridge and the modem cartridge could be inserted at the same time.[16]

The Game.com was the first video game console to feature a touchscreen and also the first handheld video game console to have Internet connectivity.[23] The Game.com's black-and-white[14] monochrome touchscreen measures approximately one and a half inches by two inches, and is divided into square zones that are imprinted onto the screen itself, to aid players in determining where to apply the stylus.[7] The touchscreen lacks a backlight.[16] The Game.com was also the first handheld gaming console to have internal memory, which is used to save information such as high scores and contact information.[16]

Game.com Pocket Pro[edit]

Because of poor sales with the original Game.com, Tiger developed an updated version known as the Game.com.pocket.pro.[20][24][25] The console was shown at the American International Toy Fair in February 1999,[26] and was later shown along with several future games at E3 in May 1999.[27] The Game.com Pocket Pro had been released by June 1999,[28] with a retail price of $29.99.[28][20] The new console was available in five different colors: green, orange, pink, purple, and teal.[28][20]

The Pocket Pro was the only handheld console at that time to have a backlit screen,[20] although it lacked color like its predecessor.[20][25] The Pocket Pro was reduced in size from its predecessor to be equivalent to the Game Boy Pocket.[20] The screen size was also reduced, and the new console featured only one cartridge slot.[6] Unlike the original Game.com, the Pocket Pro required only two AA batteries.[28][29] The Game.com Pocket Pro included a phone directory, a calendar and a calculator, but lacked Internet capabilities.[24][30]

The Game.com Pocket Pro's primary competitor was the Game Boy Color.[9] Despite several games based on popular franchises, the Game.com console line failed to sell in large numbers,[9][31] and was discontinued in 2000 because of poor sales.[3] The Game.com was a commercial failure,[32] with less than 300,000 units sold, although the idea of a touchscreen would later be used successfully in the Nintendo DS, released in 2004.[33][34][35]

Internet features[edit]

Game.com modem

Accessing the Internet required the use of an Internet cartridge and a modem, neither of which were included with the console.[36][37] Email messages could be read and sent on the Game.com using the Internet cartridge,[36][37][33] and the Game.com supported text-only web browsing through Internet service providers. Email messages could not be saved to the Game.com's internal memory.[16] In addition to a Game.com-branded 14.4 kbit/s modem, Tiger also offered an Internet service provider through Delphi that was made to work specifically with the Game.com.[6][37]

Tiger subsequently released the Web Link cartridge, allowing players to connect their system to a desktop computer. Using the Web Link cartridge, players could upload their high scores to the Game.com website for a chance to be listed on a webpage featuring the top high scores.[6] None of the console's games made use of the Internet feature.[3]

Technical specifications[edit]

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,[16] Original: 3.5 in. / Pocket Pro: 2.8 in.
Touchscreen 12 x 10 grid-based touchscreen
Color system Black and White, with 4 gray levels[16]
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.[38]
Power source 4 AA batteries[16] (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 Pro)

Buttons Power (On/Off);

Action (A, B, C, D); 3 Function (Menu, Sound, Pause); 1 Eight-way Directional Pad; Volume; Contrast; Reset (On system's underside)

Games[edit]

Several games were available for the Game.com at the time of its 1997 launch,[15][14] in comparison to hundreds of games available for the Game Boy.[15] Tiger planned to have a dozen games available by the end of 1997,[15][39] and hoped to have as many as 50 games available in 1998, with all of them to be produced or adapted internally by Tiger.[15] Tiger secured licenses for several popular game series, including Duke Nukem, Resident Evil, and Mortal Kombat Trilogy.[9][31][19] Game prices initially ranged between $19 and $29.[37]

At the time of the Pocket Pro's 1999 release, the Game.com library consisted primarily of games intended for an older audience.[40] Some games that were planned for release in 1999 would be exclusive to Game.com consoles. Game prices at that time ranged from $14 to $30.[20] Twenty games were ultimately released for the Game.com,[41] most of them developed internally by Tiger.[9]

Reception[edit]

At the time of the Game.com's launch in 1997, Chris Johnston of VideoGameSpot believed that the console would have difficulty competing against the Game Boy. Johnston also believed that text-based Internet and email would attract only limited appeal, stating that such features were outdated. Johnston concluded that the Game.com "is a decent system, but Nintendo is just way too powerful in the industry."[15] Chip and Jonathan Carter wrote that the console did not play action games as well as it did with other games, although they praised the console's various options and wrote, "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."[14]

Wisconsin State Journal stated that the Game.com offered "some serious" advantages over the Game Boy, including its touchscreen. It was also stated that in comparison to the Game Boy, the Game.com's 8-bit processor provided "marginal improvements" in the quality of speed and graphics. The newspaper noted that the Game.com had a "tiny, somewhat blurry screen."[36] The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a negative review of the Game.com, particularly criticizing Internet connectivity issues. Also criticized was the system's lack of a backlit screen, as the use of exterior lighting could cause difficulty in viewing the screen, which was highly reflective.[37]

Steven L. Kent, writing for the Chicago Tribune, wrote 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."[42] 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."[7]

GamePro criticized the Pocket Pro's lack of screen color and its difficult controls, but considered its two best qualities to be its cheap price and a game library of titles exclusive to the console.[20] The Philadelphia Inquirer also criticized the Pocket Pro's lack of a color screen, as well as "frustrating" gameplay caused by the "unresponsive" controls, including the stylus. The newspaper stated that, "Even at $29.99, the pocket.pro is no bargain."[40]

Legacy[edit]

Brett Alan Weiss of the website 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."[43] 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.[44] In 2006, Engadget stated that "You can't fault Tiger Electronics for their ambition," but wrote that the Game.com "didn't do any one thing particularly well", criticizing its text-only Internet access and stating that its "disappointing games were made even worse" by the "outdated" screen.[45]

In 2009, PC World ranked the Game.com at number nine on its list of the 10 worst video game systems ever released, criticizing its Internet aspect, its game library, its low-resolution touchscreen, and its "Silly name that attempted to capitalize on Internet mania." However, PC World positively noted its "primitive" PDA features and its solitaire game, considered by the magazine to be the system's best game.[23] In 2011, Mikel Reparaz of GamesRadar ranked the Game.com at number 3 on a list of 7 failed handheld consoles, writing that while the Game.com had several licensed games, it "doesn't actually mean much when they all look like cruddy, poorly animated Game Boy ports." Raparaz also stated that the Game.com "looked dated even by Game Boy standards," noting that the Game Boy Pocket had a sharper display screen. Reparaz stated that the Game.com's continuation into 2000 was a "pretty significant achievement" considering its competition from the Game Boy Color.[9]

In 2013, Jeff Dunn of GamesRadar criticized the Game.com for its "blurry" and "imprecise" touchscreen, as well as its "limited and unwieldy" Internet and email interfaces. Dunn also criticized the "painful" Internet setup process, and stated that all of the console's available games were "ugly and horrible." Dunn noted, however, that the Game.com's Internet aspect was a "smart" feature.[8] In 2016, Motherboard stated that the Game.com was "perhaps one of the worst consoles of all time," due largely to its low screen quality.[18] In 2018, Nadia Oxford of USgamer noted the Game.com's "paper-thin" library of games and stated that the console "died in record time because it was poorly-made, to say the least."[46]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Styled as "game.com", but pronounced "game com" rather than "game dot com".[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Computerworld". 31 (51). IDG Enterprise: 63. ISSN 0010-4841.
  2. ^ Fox, Matt (2013). The Video Games Guide: 1,000+ Arcade, Console and Computer Games, 1962–2012 (2nd, illustrated ed.). McFarland. p. 355. ISBN 9781476600673.
  3. ^ a b c d Zigterman, Ben (December 16, 2013). "The 10 worst video game consoles of all time". bgr.com.
  4. ^ a b c Simross, Lynn (August 12, 1997). "Play, Then Get Serious". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d "Game-player plus". Philadelphia Daily News. August 21, 1997. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Beuscher, Dave. "Game.com Biography". AllGame. Archived from the original on November 14, 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d e 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.
  8. ^ a b Dunn, Jeff (July 15, 2013). "Chasing Phantoms - The history of failed consoles". GamesRadar. Retrieved September 18, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Reparaz, Mikel (March 29, 2011). "The Top 7... failingest handhelds". GamesRadar. Retrieved September 18, 2018.
  10. ^ Beck, Rachel (February 10, 1997). "New toys linked to movies". Battle Creek Enquirer. Associated Press. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
  11. ^ a b "Playthings take their cues from movies, TV shows, auto racing". The Morning Call. March 6, 1997. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
  12. ^ Johnston, Chris (June 23, 1997). "Game.com Enters Portable Market". GameSpot. Archived from the original on October 12, 1999.
  13. ^ Lynch, Dennis (June 26, 1997). "Future market". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
  14. ^ a b c d e Carter, Chip; Carter, Jonathan (September 26, 1997). "Versatile Game.com Leapfrogs Game Boy". Arizona Republic. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g Tanner, Mike (September 17, 1997). "Tiger Electronics Enters Handheld Killing Field". Wired. Retrieved September 18, 2018.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h "New Handheld Roars into Portable Market". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 94. Ziff Davis. May 1997. p. 19.
  17. ^ Johnston, Chris (September 12, 1997). "Tiger's Game.com Pounces". GameSpot. Archived from the original on October 13, 1999.
  18. ^ a b Smith, Ernie (August 25, 2016). "Tiger Electronics Took on the Game Boy with Devices as Powerful as Calculators". Motherboard. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
  19. ^ a b "Tiger Shining Bright For Sega Titles". Saturn Power. United Kingdom. December 1997. p. 10. Retrieved September 8, 2018.
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Tiger Roars". GamePro. July 1999. p. 42. Retrieved September 8, 2018.
  21. ^ "First Hands-On Test of Game.com". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 96. Ziff Davis. July 1997. p. 20.
  22. ^ Schneider, Peer (July 19, 1999). "Jeopardy (Game.com)". IGN. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
  23. ^ a b Edwards, Benj (July 14, 2009). "The 10 Worst Video Game Systems of All Time". PC World. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
  24. ^ a b "Tiger unleashes Game.com Pocket Pro". Florida Today. July 14, 1999. Retrieved September 8, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. (Subscription required (help)).
  25. ^ a b "Finally, a serious player prepares to go head-to-head with Game Boy". The Journal News. July 8, 1999. Retrieved September 8, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. (Subscription required (help)).
  26. ^ Lockwood Tooher, Nora (February 14, 1999). "Hasbro celebrates". Providence Journal. Retrieved September 14, 2018 – via NewsLibrary. (Subscription required (help)).
  27. ^ Kennedy, Sam (May 24, 1999). "Tiger Shows New Game.com Lineup". GameSpot. Archived from the original on January 29, 2001.
  28. ^ a b c d O'Neal, Denise I. (June 11, 1999). "Toys hold kids' interest indoors". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved September 14, 2018 – via NewsLibrary. (Subscription required (help)).
  29. ^ "Game.com Pocket Pro user guide". Archive.org. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
  30. ^ "Game.com, Bloody Roar get A ratings". Tampa Bay Times. August 16, 1999. Retrieved September 8, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. (Subscription required (help)).
  31. ^ a b "Tiger Electronics returns with new gaming hardware". Siliconera. September 11, 2007. Retrieved September 18, 2018.
  32. ^ Mulkerin, Tim (August 8, 2016). "13 video game consoles you've probably never heard of". Business Insider. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
  33. ^ a b Kohler, Chris (October 8, 2010). "Failure in My Pocket: Gaming's Tortured History of Handheld Convergence". Wired. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
  34. ^ Vore, Brian (December 23, 2011). "What The 3DS Circle Pad Add-On Shares With History's Silliest Portable Consoles". Game Informer. Retrieved September 18, 2018.
  35. ^ Damien, McFerran (October 29, 2016). "How we got to the Switch: a brief history of Nintendo controllers". TechRadar. Retrieved September 18, 2018.
  36. ^ a b c "Game Boy Has a Rival Now". Wisconsin State Journal. September 26, 1997. Retrieved September 7, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. (Subscription required (help)).
  37. ^ a b c d e "Internet connection on Tiger's Game.com does not earn its stripes". The Philadelphia Inquirer. December 25, 1997. Retrieved September 7, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. (Subscription required (help)).
  38. ^ http://www.sharp.co.jp/ic/datasheet/micon/pdf/sm8521.pdf
  39. ^ "The Game.com". GamePro. December 1997. p. 57. Retrieved September 8, 2018.
  40. ^ a b "Portable video games that keep the peace". The Philadelphia Inquirer. July 22, 1999. Retrieved September 14, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. (Subscription required (help)).
  41. ^ "Games for the Game.com". AllGame. Archived from the original on November 14, 2014.
  42. ^ Kent, Steven L. (August 6, 1998). "Are You Game?". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  43. ^ Weiss, Brett Alan. "Indy 500 - Review (Game.com)". AllGame. Archived from the original on November 15, 2014.
  44. ^ Kent, Steven L. (January 31, 2004). "Nintendo's got game for newest challenge". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  45. ^ Melanson, Donald (March 3, 2006). "A Brief History of Handheld Video Games". Engadget. Retrieved September 18, 2018.
  46. ^ Oxford, Nadia (August 1, 2018). "Once More, with Weirdness: 8 of the Strangest Ports in Video Game History". USgamer. Retrieved September 18, 2018.

External links[edit]