The Game.com (1997-2000) was one of the many failed competitors to the Game Boy, and it failed for the usual reasons. It didn't have a very good library of games, it didn't have a very good battery life, it was marketed poorly, and the company responsible for it tried to use some poorly-implemented extra features as a selling point. Tiger was able to line up some surprising licenses, like Resident Evil, Sonic, Mortal Kombat, and Duke Nukem 3D, but these were, by and large, attached to utterly horrible "ports" of these popular games. At the very least, the Game.com will go down in gaming history for the fact that it was the first handheld dedicated gaming system with internet access (by way of an exclusive ISP and a modem peripheral), however poorly implemented.
"It plays more games than you slackers have brain cells!"
The Game.com was a handheld gaming system released by Tiger Electronics in 1997, with the hopes of overcoming Nintendo's Game Boy. Its target audience was more mature (it had licenses for video games such as Duke Nukem 3D and Resident Evil), and it sported functions similar to electronic organizers and a touch screen with stylus. It even sported some odd-ball features like two slots for game cartridges and a 14.4K modem peripheral. Launch titles included such titles as Indy 500, Duke Nukem 3D, and Mortal Kombat Trilogy, and sometime after the launch Lights Out was included with the hardware as a pack-in game. (Lights Out was never sold separately.) Like the Game Boy, Tiger released the usual set of normal peripherals. There was the compete.com serial cable, which allowed players to connect their handhelds to exchange high scores or play multiplayer games. The usual AC adapter, earphones, carrying cases, etc. were also available.
Unfortunately, many of these exclusive features didn't work too well. The touch screen didn't allow for very high-resolution input, so it was hard to use it for precise input in games. The PDA functions were mildly useful, but, at the time, few people were interested in keeping phone numbers or addresses on their game system. In practice, the only useful function was the included solitaire.
Using the Game.com with the modem was a mess. You had to insert the Game.com modem in a cartridge slot, connected it to a phone jack, and dial into the Game.com-exclusive (and fairly expensive) ISP. From there, you could upload your saved high scores, or check e-mail and view the web if you had the (sold separately from the modem) Internet cartridge. Web access was text-only, and if you had the later, single-cartridge versions of the Game.com, you couldn't access the web or e-mail at all. (Note that no games had actual online play with other people, only high score uploads.) This process would end up being a matter of trial-and-error; both Tiger's (now-defunct) website and the included manual described completely-incorrect processes for setting up your Game.com for internet access. The monthly fee, two extra peripherals, and exceedingly confusing setup required meant that only a small percentage of the admittedly few Game.com owners had a subscription to the Game.com internet service, which would barely survive until the cancellation of the handheld itself.
Tiger mostly botched the job of marketing the Game.com to an older audience. While they were able to line up licenses like Mortal Kombat, Duke Nukem, and Resident Evil, few of these portable adaptations were developed by their original creators, or even very true to the original games. (At the time, they were completely ignored by the enthusiast gaming press, and rightly so.) It didn't help that Tiger had extremely insulting marketing, including ill-considered slogans like "It plays more games than you slackers have brain cells."
In an effort to revitalize their ailing system, Tiger would later release the Game.com Pocket Pro, a slimmer version of the Game.com hardware. This was made from kid-friendly translucent plastic (available in green, blue, black, pink, and purple), featured a backlight, and only required two AA batteries (as compared to the original's four), but dropped the extra game cartridge slot. A later revision, known as the Game.com Pocket, was identical to the Pocket Pro except for the removal of the backlight.
This rerelease wasn't much of a success, and the console would be cancelled in 2000, along with its exclusive ISP. Most of its problems were due to a small lineup (only 20 games), poor distribution, and poor marketing. Notably, its display, like the original Game Boy's, suffered from very slow screen updates (known as "ghosting"), which particularly hurt the fast-paced, generally more mature games Tiger sought licenses for.
- Original System Size: 7.5”L x 4.25”W x .75"D
- Processor Chip: Sharp 8-Bit CPU
- Screen Specs: 3.9 square inches, 13 x 10 grid based touch screen. 200 x 160 resolution
- Color System: Black and White, with 4 gray levels
- Sound/Music: Mono, single speaker, located in the upper left corner
- Power Source: 4 AA Batteries (2 AA batteries in Pocket and Pocket Pro) or AC Adapter
- Ports: Serial Comm Port for the Compete.com cable, 3.5mm Audio In Jack for headphones; DC9V in (AC Adapter); 2 Cartridge Slots (1 on the Pocket and Pocket Pro)
- Buttons: Power (On/Off);
Action (A, B, C, D);
3 Function (Menu, Sound, Pause);
1 Eight-way Directional Pad;
Reset (On system’s underside)
Additional titles cancelled over the lifetime of the device include A Bug's Life, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Command and Conquer: Red Alert, Deer Hunter, Furbyland, GigaPets Deluxe, Godzilla, Holyfield Boxing, Madden Football '99, Metal Gear Solid, Mulligan's Golf Challenge, Mutoids, Name That Tune, NASCAR Racing, NBA Hangtime, NBA Live '99, Rugrats, Small Soldiers, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, WCW Wresting, and The X-Files.
As this began as an edit of the Wikipedia Game.com article (and rapidly turned into a complete rewrite, as the original article wasn't very good), it's released under one of those wacky copyleft licenses.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License, version 1.2. It uses material from Wikipedia article "Game.com", available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game.com.