|Type||Handheld game console|
|Generation||Seventh generation era|
|Release date||March 19, 2005|
|Discontinued||February 6, 2006|
|Units sold||Fewer than 25,000|
|CPU||ARM9 S3C2440 processor at 400 MHz|
|Best-selling game||Sticky Balls|
The Gizmondo is a handheld gaming console developed by Tiger Telematics. It was released in the UK, Sweden and the U.S. starting March 2005. The electronics design was undertaken by Plextek Limited and the industrial design by Rick Dickinson. From the beginning, the project was managed by the Swedish co-founder of Tiger Telematics, Carl Freer. Its first-party games were developed in studios in Helsingborg, Sweden, and Manchester, England. Gizmondo Europe, Ltd. was based in London, England, and was a subsidiary of Florida-based Tiger Telematics.
The device was cutting-edge for its time, with its capabilities such as Bluetooth, a 1.3-megapixel camera, SMS & MMS, GPS and GPRS. All these were lacked by Sony's PSP and the Nintendo DS. The device ran on Windows CE 4.2 with .NET Framework. The Gizmondo was expected by some journalists to be a commercial success; however, it never met its momentum. The company extravagantly spent millions on promotions such as a celebrity party at London's Park Lane Hotel, and taking part at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, despite never making a profit.
The Gizmondo was overshadowed by executive Stefan Eriksson's involvement in a Swedish criminal organisation, the "Uppsalamaffian" (the Uppsala mafia). Its American debut was delayed several times, and a widescreen version was announced before its release, resulting in low sales. With fewer than 25,000 units sold, the Gizmondo was named by GamePro as the worst selling handheld console in history. By 6 February 2006, the company was forced into bankruptcy after amassing US$300 million debt, and the Gizmondo stopped production. Weeks thereafter, Eriksson crashed a rare Ferrari Enzo after driving at 162 mph in California, and was later jailed for the crash and his criminal offenses.
The Gizmondo device was originally called Gametrac. Tiger Telematics first published on their website in October 2003 about the device being developed. This came in response to Nokia's N-Gage. Gizmondo came in the press during December that year, and made its debut as a concept product at the Las Vegas CES show in January 2004, and later appeared at the German CeBIT show in March 2004. The company and the console were renamed Gizmondo around August 2004.
British Formula One driver Jenson Button appeared on magazine adverts for the Gizmondo, and also had his own licensed video game for the device, Chicane, though it never released due to a dispute with Tiger Telematics and the developer of the game. In London's Regent Street, Tiger Telematics opened a party with several celebrities invited to promote the device. Busta Rhymes, Jodie Kidd and Pharrell Williams were among the celebs invited, of whom some performed. There were also two television adverts that aired after release. Also, in an attempt to promote the console, Gizmondo's executive Stefan Eriksson took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race of 2005 in a Gizmondo-sponsored Ferrari 360 Modena GTC.
But the Gizmondo was overshadowed by the involvement of Eriksson in a Swedish mafia, and later for crashing a Ferrari Enzo in Malibu, California, which was apparently owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland. He pleaded guilty to numerous criminal charges which led him to 2 years in jail.
In 2007, GameTrailers named it "the worst console of all time." In a 2012 interview, Carl Freer said that the negative view of the device was a "slap in the face" for the development team, who he said obscured the vision and hard work they invested in the product. He also claimed that the Gizmondo was developed at a third the price Nokia spent on the N-Gage, and therefore even less than Sony and Nintendo.
Tiger Telematics announced a new Gizmondo model for release in Q2 2006. It was intended to have a larger, 4" widescreen screen and upgrades like Wi-Fi, TV-out support, an improved 480 × 272 pixel resolution, a 2-megapixel camera, and a 500 MHz processor. It also included tri-band GSM technology, effectively making it a mobile phone too. It also featured new icons on the buttons. The widescreen Gizmondo was announced just a few weeks before the U.S. launch of the Gizmondo, possibly prompting some potential customers to not buy the Gizmondo, and instead wait for the improved model, in an example of the Osborne effect. Tiger Telematics promised to show the device at CES 2006 in January, however it never appeared there. Shortly thereafter Tiger went bankrupt, and thus the new Gizmondo was never released.
In November 2004, before the Gizmondo's debut, Tiger Telematics announced plans to create a smartphone or PDA, as an enterprise-focused Gizmondo, dubbed the 'Bizmondo'. Before the announcement Tiger purchased a British corporate-oriented software developer, Integra SP. However the Bizmondo never saw the light of day. The second generation, widescreen Gizmondo that was announced in September 2005 added mobile telephony capabilities, that made it function as a smartphone already.
Gizmondo was released in the United Kingdom on 19 March 2005, initially priced at £229. Units enabled with "Smart Adds" had a reduced RRP of £129. The Gizmondo was available from the Gizmondo flagship store on London's Regent Street, via Gizmondo's online shop, and other high-street and online retailers such as Argos, Dixons, Currys, John Lewis, although it was never clear how many units were actually introduced into those retail channels.
The SMS service of the Gizmondo enabled people to send messages by pre-pay Vodafone accounts bundled in with the device.
The Gizmondo was supposed to sell 4,500 units within an hour of launch. Instead, it managed 1,000. In April, just a month after release, the console had a £100 price cut.
Gizmondo was launched in Sweden in the late Summer of 2005, with both "Smart Adds" and normal units available. Rather than opening flagship stores, the manufacturer relied on established retailers such as Webhallen. Fewer than 100 units were sold in Sweden. "Smart Adds" were never enabled for the Swedish market, even though the technology "was there".
In the United States, the Gizmondo launched on October 22, 2005. Retail price was $400 for a unit without "Smart Ads", or $229 for a "Smart Ads" enabled device. It was available only at one of several kiosks located in shopping malls throughout the US (operated by National Kiosk, LLC located in western corner of North Carolina). However, only 8 of the planned 14 games were ever released in the U.S., along with no CoPilot GPS software, though the software was sold on the British site for a week or two. There was little to no advertising, and some of their advertising was even put in magazines of Nintendo Power (Nintendo's official magazine). Plans to distribute the handheld through other retailers never materialized.
The Gizmondo launched in the United Kingdom with only one game, Trailblazer. The console launched in the United States with a line-up of eight titles, including Trailblazer. In addition to these eight, six others were released in Europe only. A further 30 titles were known to have been in development for the system, but all were canceled before their release due to Tiger Telematics' bankruptcy. Also all games released in North America were effectively launch titles.
Certain games were capable of using augmented reality, most notably the unreleased game Colors. It was intended to be the first GPS video game, with the ability to track a user's real world movements in real time. Additionally several games including Motocross 2005, Hockey Rage 2005, and Sticky Balls had bluetooth multiplayer features. The accessibility to purchase Gizmondo games was limited. In the United States, games were only available through a small numbers of kiosks located in shopping malls across the country. After Tiger Telematic's bankruptcy, the Gizmondo and its games were left without any proper marketing or distribution.
The "Smart Adds" system was intended as a way for consumers to subsidize part of the cost of the unit. The apparent misspelling of the name was intentional and a trademark and company name were registered in the UK as "Smart Adds", though even Tiger Telematics occasionally slipped up and referred to it as Smart Ads in their publicity material. A "Smart Adds"-enabled Gizmondo cost less (£129/$229), but would display advertisements on the Gizmondo's screen at random intervals when the user entered the home screen on the device. These advertisements would be downloaded via the device's GPRS data connection, and would be targeted based on data inputted to the device. A maximum of three ads would be shown per day. Some ads would include special offers in the form of vouchers or barcodes, and some would utilize the device's GPS system to direct users to the nearest store carrying the advertised product.
However, the "Smart Adds" service was never activated, and users who paid the reduced price for a "Smart Adds"-enabled device did not receive any advertisements through their device.
- Display: 72 mm (2.8 inch) TFT screen
- Resolution: 320 × 240 pixels
- CPU: Samsung ARM9 processor running at 400 MHz
- Graphics: Nvidia GoForce 3D 4500
- Graphics RAM: 1.2 MB 128-bit SRAM
- Graphics Performance: 1,000,000 polygons per second
- RAM: 128 MB 16-bit DDR
- ROM: 64 MB
- Sound: Built-in speaker
- Communication: Bluetooth class 2 for multiplayer gaming, GSM tri-band
- Ports: Stereo headset socket, Mini-USB client, SD flash card reader
- Power: Removable battery
- Temperature Range: 32 °F to 130 °F (0 °C to 55 °C)
- Multimedia: MPEG 4 video playback, ability to play back MP3, WAV and MIDI files via Windows Media Player 9
- JPEG camera
- Removable SIM card
- GPS tracking application
- GPRS mapping application
- GPRS Class 10
- MMS receive and send
- WAP 2.0
- Polyphonic ring tones
- Flight mode
Former Gizmondo director Carl Freer announced to a Swedish newspaper in November 2007 his intentions for a new Gizmondo, and said there were already 35 games in place, a manufacturing base in Shenzhen, China, and that he hoped the handheld to retail at US$99.
The original planned launch date was May 2008, but this was quickly pushed back to November 2008, along with details of a new company, Media Power, behind the launch, headed by Carl Freer and his Swedish partner Mikael Ljungman, with development apparently proceeding according to the new schedule at least until September. By December 2008, the console had still not appeared, which Freer blamed on the difficult economic conditions. The device was delayed to 2009 as a result. The latest design prototype turned it into a smartphone running both Windows CE or Google Android.
However, since then the Media Power website went offline. Co-founder Mikael Ljungman was later arrested, extradited to Denmark and convicted of serious fraud due to his activities at IT Factory. Nothing more has been announced about the device by Freer, effectively confirming its cancellation.
In popular culture
A reference to the Gizmondo is made in the British movie Goal! (2005), when a meeting takes place in a Gizmondo store.
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-  Archived January 31, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
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