R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy for NES)
ROB, we loved you. The way you moved discs from one pile to another in order to help me beat the only two games ever designed to use you was awesome. Yup, both Gyromite and Stack-Up comprised the entire "Robot Series" from Nintendo. There have actually been more cameos in Nintendo games for later consoles than he ever supported which proves that even a failure at Nintendo is seen as a success by them because they love to acknowledge the little guy. In addition to the limited use of the infrared-eyed pivot robot was the way he was marketed. Just like the other peripherals and add-ons on this list, kids were led to believe this device did a million-times more stuff through commercials and magazine ads. R.O.B. single-handedly turned a generation of gamers against the concept of “early adoption” with electronics.
Atari Jaguar CD (Atari Jaguar 64-bit)
This add-on cost a fortune when it debuted with a pack-in demo of Myst, a poor CD port of a Lynx game, and a puzzle disc featuring music videos. On top of adding very little to the Jaguar console besides bad FMV games and broken promises, the thing was literally shaped like a toilet down to the toilet seat lid. The CD peripheral was Atari’s last-ditch effort to regain some ground in the video game world before going under and being sold to a HDD manufacturer (before Hasbro and Infogrames). Despite being a complete failure, there were so few made that it’s nearly impossible to find one for sale at a reasonable price. So while offering no value while the Jaguar was at retail, the device is better than gold to collectors.
Sega Activator (Sega Genesis / Mega Drive)
This octagonal peripheral offered all kinds of amusement to people who hate themselves and get off on not having fun. Much like Project Natal, the Activator was intended to “do away with standard controllers” and “give your thumbs a break from all the work”. Among the biggest problems with this epic fail was the fact you had to re-calibrate the device every single time you started up your Genesis or if you even changed games (since back then you turned it off to swap carts). Much like the Power Glove, the interactivity offered was greatly overstated and pretty much just mapped the controller buttons to one of the eight panels (which you assembled yourself). Picture punching right for anything requiring button A. So if A in the game was kick, you stuck your arm out to the right to kick and hoped the ring noticed you did it.
Tony Hawk Ride Skateboard (PS3, Wii, Xbox 360)
This brutal failure of a peripheral is shaped just like an actual skateboard. The device is equipped with a ton of infrared sensors intended to detect the user’s motions and of course relay them on-screen. Turning, leaning, ollies, and all traditional skating actions are supposed to be performed in RIDE via this board. Unfortunately the board pretty much just performs tricks non-stop regardless of the user’s inputs. It’s as if anyone who played the game was an instant expert, but no one could figure out how. Needless to say, the unresponsive controls helped make this title one of the bigger flops last year. Sadly Tony Hawk was left defending the game and add-on to any publication that would listen. Meanwhile EA’s sKate rode this board’s failure to the bank.
Nintendo Power Glove (Nintendo Entertainment System)
The Power Glove is still loved by a confused few who likely also loved the two-hour long NES commercial starring Fred Savage called The Wizard. Like a lot of kids back in the NES days I had to have a Power Glove because the commercials made it seem so “RAD”! What the commercial didn’t show was the limited abilities of the device. Most kids, myself included, let the commercials build images of Wii Boxing in our little heads. Unfortunately the combination of the Power Glove and Mike Tyson’s Punch Out didn’t quite live up to the commercials and we were all left with props for our cyborg and future robot costumes for Halloween.