Video game consoles are an exceptionally common gift, but many of them are also signposts for the future of innovative, ergonomic technology, which includes the touch screen that so many of us are familiar with.
At present, the Nintendo Switch is a console that relies on touch screen fingertips to easily control and operate it alongside its versatile Joy-Con controllers. However, to find the very first console with touchscreen functionality, we need to look further back than you might expect.
Whilst the first successful touch screen console was 2005’s Nintendo DS, the first touchscreen console to ever release was the Tiger Electronics Game.com, released in September 1997.
Intended to compete with the Game Boy, a handheld console that was still the best-selling system of its type even eight years into its shelf life, Tiger decided to innovate as much as it could, but avoid the price problem the Sega Game Gear and Atari Lynx struggled with.
It was the first games system to include a touchscreen, albeit an old-generation resistive one that tended to require the use of an included stylus to function properly. It had a grid to help with touching the system, but only two games (Lights Out and Solitaire) ultimately supported it.
It was even the first handheld console to include the ability to connect to the internet, albeit through the use of two separate cartridges, one of which had a port for a modem cable to fit in. It also featured internal memory to save high scores, telephone numbers and the clock.
It initially seemed to catch people’s attention, but the first major mistake of the console was its aggressive marketing pitch with an infamous advert that calls its target market slackers and says the system has more games than the “idiots” watching have brain cells.
Whilst a typical part of 1990s marketing, it created an unnecessarily adversarial relationship between the audience and the system itself, and the system sold very badly, selling less than 300,000 units despite a second version of the system retailing at a third of its initial price.