So we all know about the big 4 that duked it out during the early 2000s: Sega’s Dreamcast, Sony’s PlayStation 2, Nintendo’s Gamecube and newcomer Microsoft’s Xbox.
But did you know there were 2 other systems that also tried to enter the ring at that time? I figured I’d put them both in the same thread because they interest the hell out of me!
The first is probably more well known. The 3DO company planned to get a headstart on the competition by releasing their next console early, they planned to release what is now known as the “M2” in 1996. Originally the 3DO company themselves were going to do, then pitch the idea to Sega until eventually falling into the hands of Panasonic.
However, it never released, but several arcade games used the board, as well as kiosk units being made that used the hardware and can even play the software that’s out there for it, and has a controller port to play them with!
Video Game Esoterica is a channel dedicated to the M2, and has shown every bit of hardware and software that exists for the thing! Here’s a comparison between the M2 and the N64 and Dreamcast console-wise:
You can see that the M2 is between the 2 and likely would have struggled to catch up to the other the other then-next-gen systems had it come out. That probably played a role in it’s cancellation.
The other system I want to talk about was apparently the reason the PS2 has a DVD player.
The story goes that Sony were initially reluctant to add it, in fear of it taking sales away from their standalone players, until Ken Kuturagi saw competition they thought would dominate if their next console didn’t do something to compete with it, and that console wasn’t the M2 or the Dreamcast.
It was an upcoming system called “Project X” (Original title, I know!), and the idea was that it was to be incorporated into certain DVD players, and specs wise was said to match what Sony planned for their system (More or less, it’s a little complicated)
The system was developed by the same team that worked on the Atari Jaguar, who left Atari after that console flopped, and formed “VM Labs”. So it was in a way a Jaguar 2.
The system was planned for release in 1998, but problem after problem arose, and they had to delay it.
The system eventually came out as the “Nuon” in late 2000, after the Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 already hit the market, had more 3rd party support, were easier to program for and most importantly, far cheaper.
And so the Nuon flopped hard, with only 8 games being released in it’s lifetime, 2 of which were pack-in games, 1 being recalled because of compatibility issues, and 1 only being released in South Korea. VM Labs declared bankruptcy in mid-2001.
Did it actually square up to it’s competition, though? It’s hard to say, the console was apparently very hard to program on (Making even the Jaguar look easy!). The system also had no GPU, but it had a very powerful quad-core CPU.
Most games were like N64 but with a higher polygon count, and the only game that showed the Nuon had any sort of amazing next-gen power was Tempest 3000. (Warning: Flashing Lights)
I got 2 Nuon units (A Toshiba Unit and Samsung N-501), and I really think they’re cool. The system has no copy protection, so you can give those trying to sell the games for 3 figures the middle finger!
On top of Tempest 3000 looking super trippy, it’s actually a really fun game! Easily the best on the system and in my top 5 of the era as a whole!
The thing that interests me the most about these 2 systems is that SDKs are readily available for both! VM Labs actually released an SDK themselves as a last ditch attempt to give the Nuon some relevancy. There also exists an SDK for the M2 available to download on the Internet Archive, but I haven’t tried it yet.
I’ve had a look and played about with Nuon demos, and I think I can totally make something with it, maybe something with N64-like graphics. (And the SDK is limited compared to assembly and actual dev kits!)
So have you guys heard of either system? You have any experience from the time? What are your thoughts?