Game.com

Game.com
Tiger's Game.com
Manufacturer Tiger Electronics
Generation Fifth generation
Retail availability September 1997
Units sold less than 300,000[1]
Media cartridge
CPU Sharp SM8521
Online services 14.4 kbit/s modem
Best-selling game Tiger Casino (pack-in)

The Game.com (styled as game.com but pronounced as "game com," not "game dot com") is a handheld game console released by Tiger Electronics in September 1997. It featured many new ideas for handheld consoles and was aimed at an older target audience, sporting PDA-style features and functions such as a touch screen and stylus. Unlike other handheld game consoles, the first Game.com consoles included two slots for game cartridges and could be connected to a 14.4 kbit/s modem. Later models reverted to a single cartridge slot.

Contents

History

Titles released at Game.com's launch included Indy 500, Duke Nukem 3D, Lights Out, and Mortal Kombat Trilogy, along with Tiger Casino which came packaged with the system, and Solitaire built in the system ROM. Tiger also produced equivalents to many Game Boy peripherals, such as the compete.com serial cable allowing players to connect their consoles to play multiplayer games or exchange high scores. Branded items such as an AC adapter, earphones, and a carry-case were also made available.

Game.com's main menu screen

Many of the Game.com's extra features had only limited functionality compared to later portable devices such as the Nintendo DS. The touch screen had a fairly low sensor resolution along with no backlight, so it lacked precision and made it hard to see the on-screen controls. Entering phone numbers, addresses or the like was cumbersome. As with most portable devices from the 1990s, data storage was entirely dependent on a button battery, and failure of this backup battery would erase any high scores or information stored on the console.

The Lights Out cart which came bundled with the console

Tiger failed to sell the Game.com to an older audience. While they were able to obtain game licenses like Wheel of Fortune, Sonic the Hedgehog, Mortal Kombat, Duke Nukem, and Resident Evil, none of the games sold in great numbers.

All game development, even on licensed games, was done in-house. SDKs were not known to be widely available, and third party development (essential to the success of most gaming systems) was absent.

At the time, the platform was almost completely ignored by the gaming press. Tiger used provocative and potentially insulting marketing, satirizing the condescending commercials of other gaming platforms with a video of a mock marketing spokesman bellowing "It plays more games than you idiots have brain cells!", which may have lost supporters instead of gaining them. Not only was the satirical nature of the commercial lost on the target audience, but most gamers assumed that it was a video of an actual Tiger press conference, despite the fact that the commercial ends with the marketing spokesman being overwhelmed by a mob of angry gamers.

In an effort to revitalize their low sales, Tiger would later release the Game.com Pocket Pro. This was a smaller version of the game.com which had the same specifications as the original except that it had a single cartridge slot and required only two AA batteries. The initial version of the Pocket Pro featured a frontlit screen (advertised as backlit) and is distinguished by its rough-textured black case. A subsequent re-release omitted the frontlight and came in four translucent colors (green, blue, pink, and purple).

This re-release enjoyed very limited success, and the console would be canceled in 2000, along with its exclusive internet service. Most of the console's problems were due to a small lineup (only 19 games), poor quality of some games, lack of third party support, poor distribution, and poor marketing. Moreover, its display, like the original Game Boy's, suffered from very slow screen updates (known as "ghosting"), which makes fast moving objects blur and particularly hurt the fast-moving games Tiger sought licenses for. The Game.com Pocket Pro had a slightly better display than the first model — on par with the Game Boy Pocket's — with less of a ghosting problem.

While the Game.com was a commercial failure, similar features were later used with great success by Nintendo in their DS handheld console. The Game.com was the first console to use a touchscreen, the first to include basic PDA-functions, the first to allow two game carts to be inserted at once, and the first handheld to allow internet access.

Internet features

Game.com modem and internet cartridges

To access the Internet, the user had to connect an external dial-up modem to the Game.com via a serial cable and dial into the Game.com-exclusive ISP. From there, the user could upload saved high scores, or check e-mail and view the web if they had the Internet cartridge (sold separately from the modem). The Game.com also supported other ISPs, although accessing them via text with the touch screen and stylus was far from user friendly. This process would end up being a matter of trial-and-error; both Tiger's now-defunct website and the included manual gave incorrect instructions for setting up a Game.com for internet access.

Web access was text-only, and the later, single-cartridge versions of the Game.com could not access the web or send e-mail at all. None of the games had actual online play with other people, only high score uploads. The monthly fee, two extra peripherals, and clumsy and confusing setup which required users to remain close to a phone line to connect the console to the modem meant that only a small percentage of Game.com owners had a subscription to the Game.com internet service.

Technical specifications

System Size (LxWxD) Original: 190 x 108 x 19 mm / Pocket Pro: 140 x 86 x 28 mm
Processor Chip Sharp SM8521 8-Bit CPU
Screen Specs 200 x 160 resolution, 12 x 10 grid based touch screen, 3.5 in. diagonal (Original) / 2,8 in. diagonal (Pocket Pro)
Color System Black and White, with 4 gray levels
Sound/Music Monoaural, with 8-bit PCM and FM-synthesis, through a 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, internet cable and weblink cable;

3.5 mm Audio Out Jack for headphones; DC9 V 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; Volume; Contrast;

Reset (On system’s underside)

Games

Released

Internet connection accessories for the Game.com were also released, including "Game.com Internet" and "Tiger Web Link" carts.

Canceled titles

An unnamed (and unannounced) RPG title can be seen in one of the game.com television commercials. It was later discovered that this was to be a game.com version of the PlayStation role-playing video game Shadow Madness.[citation needed]

Community

A Game.com enthusiast with Usenet access created the newsgroup alt.games.video.tiger.game-com (Google Groups link below) shortly after the handheld's release in 1997. This group served as a focus point for Game.com owners, with often-heated discussion about the handheld's future and merits relative to other systems; as well as reviews of existing games and speculation about future releases. Tiger representatives sometimes posted using the now-defunct America Online account "TigerGcom". At one point, a gameplay video of the never-released Metal Gear Solid was distributed among group members. Most of the information about unreleased games herein was gleaned from postings to alt.games.video.tiger.game-com.

Hacking and homebrew development

In early 2005, a group called game.commies was formed with hopes of hacking the Game.com hardware and creating new homebrew video games.

In 2006 they announced a working game.com emulator was in their possession, but denied a public release of it was forthcoming. This emulator was originally distributed to Game.com developers, in the same vein as Ensata.

A preliminary driver for the Game.com hardware was added to the MESS emulator in 2006.

In October 2011, the official Game.com emulator for developers was released on the internet.

References

  1. ^ Blake Snow (2007-07-30). "The 10 Worst-Selling Handhelds of All Time". GamePro.com. http://www.gamepro.com/gamepro/domestic/games/features/125748.shtml. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  2. ^ "Metal Gear Solid - GAMECOM - IGN". Gameboy.ign.com. http://gameboy.ign.com/objects/016/016124.html. Retrieved 2011-09-27. 

External links

Portal icon United States portal
Portal icon Video games portal

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