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Tiger Telematics' note  sole attempt at entering the lucrative handheld gaming market, the Gizmondo is one of the more interesting failures in video game history, lasting only 11 months on the market (March 2005 - February 2006) and boasting a parent company with a bizarre history of its own.

Tiger Telematics began life in 2000 as a Swedish electronics company called Eagle Eye Scandinavian (headed by Carl Freer) known for distributing GPS devices until it was bought out by, of all things, an American carpeting and flooring company. The merger, the brainchild of Freer's friend Stefan Erikson and meant to take advantage of the carpet company's interesting financial setup, resulted in Tiger Telematics, which had the goal of creating a child-tracking GPS device for parents. Due to both the legal grey area of such a product, and the fact that no child would keep a plain old GPS on them at all times, the company decided to adjust course in 2003. They would keep the child-tracking GPS idea, but deliver it in a more appealing form factor. Enter the Gametrac handheld game console, renamed Gizmondo by the time of its 2004 CES showing due to trademark disputes in the United Kingdom.

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The handheld had potential, as it supported a variety of features which were surprisingly ahead of its time. In addition to the fully-functional GPS, the system could handle real-time 3D graphics along with 2D sprites, Bluetooth wireless support, the ability to send text messages and emails (which was still a novelty for mobile devices in general), and a 1.3 megapixel camera. There were even plans to make it capable of playing movies and music on the go. But despite all of these features and all the excitement that Tiger Telematics attempted to stir up for their entry into the market, the Gizmondo ultimately crashed and burned with both critics and consumers, for a bevy of reasons:

  1. Finding the thing in a store was next to impossible. It was only reliably available for purchase from the Gizmondo website or from the Gizmondo shop in London's Regent Street, as well as a few mall kiosks if you were lucky. By the by, that dedicated Gizmondo store chewed up a ton of the parent company's money and only helped to accelerate their early demise.
  2. The price. The mainline Gizmondo came with a very expensive price tag of $400, far above the price of its competitors, especially the newly released Nintendo DS. There was a second "Smart Ads" model that shipped for $230, but as the name implies, it came with the added catch that it forced you to sit through commercials while playing. This was actually the better option, as the ad server never went online, but consumers who could even find a Gizmondo in general would have no way of knowing at the time.
  3. A screen that was impractically small at only 2 inches. Perfectly fine for your average cell phone at the time, but inadequate for gaming. note  This, plus a battery life of 90 minutes, made for a poor gaming experience.
  4. Speaking of games, first and third party support for the handheld was nonexistent. Tiger Telematics boasted that the system would come with 100+ games when it was early in development, but when it came time for the system's CES showing, the company only had three to show off. Ultimately, only 14 games were released for the system in the United Kingdom, with only eight of these being released in the United States. These titles include peculiarities like Sticky Balls and the unreleased Momma Can I Mow the Lawn?. Gizmondo developed half of the available library themselves and only managed to get one third party developer on board, Fathammer Games. 39 more titles were planned for the system, including support from other third parties like Sega, but all of them were cancelled. And of the 14 games that did see release, all of them were trashed critically.
  5. And to add insult to injury, the aforementioned GPS software that was one of the system's biggest selling points ended up being nonexistant in the US, and was only briefly available for a week or two on the British website.
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Needless to say, the Gizmondo was dead on arrival — it sold less than an abysmal 25,000 units, making it the second worst-selling system in video game history, and the worst selling handheld game system of all time. note  Combined with an avalanche of lawsuits from sponsors, advertising agencies, and television networks over Tiger Telematics failing to hold up their financial agreements, the company found themselves with a debt of $382.5 million and forced to go into bankruptcy in January 2006. A revival attempt was planned circa 2008 by Freer under a new company called Media Power alongside a new partner, Mikael Ljungman. But this was largely overshadowed by the fact that Erikson had recently crashed a rare Ferrari Enzo after speeding against a Ford GT... leading into him being arrested on drug and illegal firearm possession charges and the discovery that he was involved in the Swedish Mafia, alongside many other weird twists. Ljungman also ended up being arrested and convicted on charges of serious fraud, separate from the Erikson situation. Alone, Freer attempted to continue towards a Gizmondo 2 (now re-envisioned as a smartphone), but any chance of the brand making any kind of comeback was now dead by 2009.

On a side note, the handheld made the top of ScrewAttack's "Top 10 Worst Video Game Busts" list. Lazy Game Reviews has also done a video on the system.


Technical specifications

  • 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 triangles 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
  • SMS
  • MMS receive and send
  • WAP 2.0
  • Polyphonic ring tones
  • Flight mode

Games:

  • Classic Compendium
  • Classic Compendium 2
  • Fathammer Classics Pack: Not released in the US.
  • FIFA Soccer 2005: Not released in the US.
  • Gizmondo Motocross 2005
  • Hockey Rage 2005: Not released in the US.
  • Interstellar Flames 2: Not released in the US.
  • Pocket Pingpong 2005: Not released in the US.
  • Point of Destruction
  • Richard Burns Rally
  • SSX 3: Not released in the US.
  • Sticky Balls
  • Toy Golf
  • Trailblazer: The handheld's launch title in the UK.

Cancelled Games:


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