Gizmondo (2005 - 2006): The Short Sad Story of The Gizmondo Handheld Gaming Console

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It has been a while since I last reviewed a retro game. I had an interesting day today. I finally tried Gizmondo for two days this week, and this article is the product of the nostalgia I felt. Well, it was branded the worst console in the world. Grossing at only 25,000 units sold worldwide, honestly, it was the worst-selling gaming console. But where did the creators go wrong?

This all boils down to timing. At the time the first Gizmondo was released, many other “big names” in the video game world were being released. Gamers were split for choice between Nintendo, Playstation, Gameboy and other big bros in the industry. This really didn’t give the Gizmondo a chance to shine.

Honestly, there are very many good things about Gizmondo, that we never got to enjoy because they discontinued its production. I look back and wonder, how many handheld gaming consoles had cameras back then? Better still, how many have cameras now? Even the big names in the handheld gaming world haven’t found a reason to incorporate a camera in their consoles.
This got the thinking that Gizmondo was way ahead of the game, it is just that they lacked visionaries to keep the dream alive. Having played a game on the gadget recently, I am convinced that this would be the next big thing should it have held onto the game much longer. Despite being the worst-selling and having the saddest and shortest story in the history of gaming, the gadget still packs a punch to this day. I actually enjoyed play ping pong on it, just like I did back in the early 2000s.

But where did the developers of the Gizmondo gaming console go wrong?

This is the big question to this date. Despite the fact that retrogamers can still get a gadget or two around, the console had the shortest shelf life. This is sad because had it been revived; it had the potential of acing out many of the gadgets available in the market today.

Just think about it. How comes the less sophisticated, monochromatic, highly pixelated Brick Game console has survived in the market for many decades while this marvellous piece failed. It all boils down to the strategies that were used to bring the Gizmondo to the market.

All You Need to Know About Gizmondo.

Let take a trip back in time and try to retrace the footsteps of the Gizmondo gaming console to see where they went wrong. Back in 2005, the gaming world was just catching up. The Silicon Valley geniuses were coming up with technology products literally every single day. The social media was just catching up with myriads of high-tech connectivity gizmos being released.
Ardent retrogamers like me will agree with me that the gaming industry was much more interesting then than now. Even if the games were not as sophisticated as they are today. I love the fact that games back then were simple, clean, with little or no fluff. Yes, today games are more engaging with VR and online gaming, the experience is more “universal” unlike back in the ‘90s through to the 2000s. But I would still vouch for the fun times we had back then with extremely stripped-down gadgets.

Whether you were playing a monochrome gadget or a “coloured” console back then, the experience was awesome. We would play with friends all weekend without getting tired. We would have meetups, real meetups and gaming weekends. Today, that has been sadly replaced with online gaming and virtual reality. Which is still exciting but it lacks the kind of interaction we had back in the ‘90s.

The History of the Gizmondo Handheld Console

By the beginning of the new millennium, the appeal of handheld gaming had been apparent. Since the release of the original Game Boy in 1989, Nintendo has dominated the gaming market with hardware sales totalling over 118.69 million copies, and the Game Boy Advance would carry the flame.

Large corporations wanted a piece of the action. A startup would arrive in the lull in activity, promising a brand-new experience.

You Should Experience Gizmondo At Least Once in Your Lifetime and Here's Why.

Let us get deeper into the story of the Gizmondo handheld console. But honestly, if you didn’t have a chance to experience this handheld console back in the day, you still have a chance today to try your hand at it. Surprisingly, some retro shops still have their ins stock. They may cost a fortune, but some shops allow you to have the experience of playing them without necessarily buying them.
I have seen some on Craigslist being sold at quite an affordable price. You should get there and try it out for yourself to have the look and the feel of the 90s. This is one of the long lost retro games that we will forever wish we had a chance to play again. Looking back in the early 2000s, I don’t regret it, because I had an interaction with this gadget a few times. Although I never owned one. I would say Nintendo and GameBoy had taken the lion share of the market already. Gizmondo didn’t stand a chance from the word go.

All You Need to Know about The Gizmondo Handheld Console

I have tried out playing the gadget recently after almost two decades. Yes, the rubber finish of the console is still a bummer! It actually melts on your hand. We had to wipe it out. But underneath the rubber sheath, there is a robust metal case that still feels good on the hand when playing the game.

Carl Freer, a Swedish entrepreneur founded the Eagle Eye Scandinavian, an electronic distributor in 2000, which was acquired two years later by Floor Décor, a Florida-based flooring company. Tiger Telematics Inc. would be formed as a result of this. Carl Freer was so shaken by the 2002 Soham killings that he devised a child tracker that could use GPS technology to allow parents to locate their kids at any time.

Tiger Telematics’ projected product would have to be something that youngsters wouldn’t mind carrying around with them, therefore it would be a handheld gaming console as well as a GPS device. Nokia’s N-Gage, a similar sort of multifunctional device, was released in October 2003 to a lukewarm reception by gamers. Unfazed, Tiger Telematics made the rounds at trade exhibitions in 2004 to generate interest in their product. According to the system’s technical director, Steve Carroll, the device was supposed to be affordably priced, pocket-sized, and incredibly gorgeous.

Well, I guess they achieved those because the Gizmondo handheld console looks great to me. I actually feel it sites better on the palms compared to the Nintendo at the time. Although the Gameboy and Nintendo have really improved the ergonomics of their devices over the years. The latest model years of the Nintendo and Gameboy have a nice feeling on the hands and offer a great gaming experience.

Then Tiger Telematics took a controlling position in Isis, a modelling agency based in London, in 200t to supply event hostesses. The organization signed a whopping $334,000 lease for a Regent Street outlet. This signified that something significant was on the horizon.

And Then Gizmondo Was Born

And as they say, the rest was history! Around March 2005, Tiger Telematics handle console dubbed Gizmondo was launched at the Regent Street store. Thousands of gamers and admirers flocked to the street to witness celebrities and other people visit the shop and purchase the Gizmondo gaming console.
The store’s announcement that all products had been sold in a single day added to the mood of confidence of the gamers. The Gizmondo premiere party was held that evening at Piccadilly’s Park Lane Hotel, featuring performances by artists including Sting, Pharell, Jamiroquai, and Busta Rhymes. Partygoers danced until the early hours of the morning.

Experts were less enthralled by the console. They complained about the $400 launch price tag at the time. This was twice the price of a Nintendo DS. The lack of game support, and the device’s misplaced ambition to be a music player, a GPS thingy, video player, camera, and even a message device all in one.

This is where Gizmondo went wrong. They tried to put loads of features on the little gadget than it could handle. This made it more unstable and prone to faults than the dedicated gaming device.

The Shocking Revelation of the Gizmondo handheld Console

Tiger Telematics believed there was an opportunity for other handheld consoles in the market. Nonetheless, one important issue was a scarcity of titles to play on the Gizmondo. As the months passed after the introduction, only 14 games were added to the Gizmondo, with Sticky Ball being the most popular. The company’s hopes were still placed on the planned October 2005 launch in the United States.
Prior to the shift in attention to the American Market, the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet published a story about Gizmondo Europe director Stefan Eriksson’s life as the head of the Uppsala Mafia. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Swedish criminal business was well-known for counterfeiting, kidnap cases, fraud, and violent intimidation. Ericksson was convicted in 1993 of attempting to defraud the bank of Giro Central of 22 million krona.

He was released in 2000 after serving a little over six years of his ten-year sentence. Carl Freer, an old friend of Eriksson’s, would bring him into Tiger Telematics fold, stating his friend would be in charge of strategic introductions. Stefan Eriksson would appoint people from his Uppsala Mafia days after joining: Johan Enander who was previously convicted for grand theft and extortion was made the head of security for Gizmondo functions, and Peter Uf who was previously convicted of fraud convictions was made a director.

The Disastrous Turn of Events at Gizmondo

As the story spread around the world, Freer and Eriksson resigned before the US launch. And that is when a difficult battle for supremacy began. Tiger Telematics presented a new Gizmondo model with a widescreen and Wi-Fi connectivity, however, this caused American buyers to delay purchasing the original one on the market. Although there was a buy discount option, the product did not build a following by agreeing to have adverts beamed on the gadget via cellphone networks.

Later on, in 2006, Gizmondo Europe declared bankruptcy after only selling approximately 25,000 devices. As a result, it was one of the least popular portable consoles of all time. It was ranked one of the worst-selling handheld consoles in the world. After travelling around 194 miles per hour on a straightaway on California’s Pacific Coast Highway, Stefan Ericksson slammed his Ferrari Enzo into a wooden power pole on 21 February 2006. He walked away with only a broken lip, but the media attention around the accident drew greater attention to him.

Erikson was arrested in April 2006 after sheriffs in Los Angeles were notified that he had purchased an airline ticket to the United Kingdom. Over in Europe, financial investigators untangled the full magnitude of Tiger Telematics’ peril, revealing that the business had suffered losses of more than $380 million during Freer and Eriksson’s 45-month tenure. According to Paul Davis, a partner at Begbies Traynor, the accounting firm tasked with following the money flows.

It was revealed that funds were allocated, transferred, and spent under a variety of different identifies. They used layers upon layers of firms that were involved in extremely intricate transactions.

Extravagant spending, such as paying over $150,000 for the Dorchester hotel’s deluxe suite alone was a characteristic of the company’s finances. Another way the company lost money was through similar party transactions, in which Freer and Eriksson brokered arrangements between Gizmondo and other businesses in which they had shared, benefiting themselves.

The Lessons Learned from The Gizmondo Story

The life of the Gizmondo handheld gaming console was short but full of lessons on how corporates should handle their companies. It is also a story of how founders can mess up what they establish through blood and sweat. This story reminds me of Steve Jobs and Apple Inc. Fortunately, Steve Jobs admitted that he was a jerk sometimes. He said this in his autobiography.
Unfortunately for Freer, it was too later to turn things around for Gizmondo because the competitors were on high octane to take up the market share of the gaming world. All the gamers wanted at the time was an excellent gaming experience and new games for the console. Constant improvements and upgrades on the console are some of the things that hook gamers to certain consoles and make them snob others.

The Gizmondo was a colossal flop on multiple fronts. For one thing, the console's motto “ I Can Do Anything”, hinted at one of its fundamental flaws: its ambition outstripped its capability. Because it included so many functions, it priced itself out of reach for a huge number of gamers, and without a large selection of video games. The price seemed even less enticing, especially when compared to the more affordable options like the Nintendo DS and the Sony’s PSP. Tiger Telematics’ dubious business operations accelerated the fall even further behind closed doors.

Final Thoughts

The major lesson from the Gizmondo sad and short story is that, if you are a founder of a great idea and it gains traction, you should either find a way of engaging with the business professionally or staying away from it by employing experts to manage the critical elements of the business.

However, I think the Gizmondo was a nice gadget that had the potential to be one of the best and top-grossing handhelds in the world. If its production was to continue, it would have competed favourably with the existing gadgets because it had more features that could either be scaled or made relevant to the gamers. This is because some of the features on the Gizmondo are merely dead weight.

What is your take on the Gizmondo Handheld Console?

Did you get a chance to play it back in the day? What is your take on its revival?