|Type||Handheld game console|
|Generation||Seventh generation era|
|Release date||March 19, 2005|
|Discontinued||February 6, 2006|
|Units sold||Fewer than 25,000|
|CPU||ARM9 S3C2440 processor at 400 MHz|
|Best-selling game||Sticky Balls|
The Gizmondo is a handheld gaming console developed by Tiger Telematics. It was released in the UK, Sweden and the U.S. starting in March 2005. Its first-party games were developed in studios in Helsingborg, Sweden, and Manchester, England. Gizmondo Europe, Ltd. was based in London, England, and was a subsidiary of Florida-based Tiger Telematics, whose chairman Carl Freer led Gizmondo's development.
Before its launch the Gizmondo had high expectations by some journalists due to its extensive feature set, and it was aimed to compete against Nintendo and Sony; however, it ended up as a major sales failure. The company extravagantly spent millions on promotions such as a celebrity party at London's Park Lane Hotel, and taking part at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, despite never making a profit. Its American debut was delayed several times, and a widescreen version was announced shortly before its release - resulting in low sales. With fewer than 25,000 units sold, the Gizmondo was named by GamePro as the worst selling handheld console in history.
The Gizmondo was further overshadowed when Swedish press revealed criminal pasts of several executives, causing their resignations including Tiger CEO Carl Freer. Director of Gizmondo Europe Stefan Eriksson was involved in a Swedish criminal organisation, the "Uppsalamaffian" (the Uppsala mafia). By February 2006, the company was forced into bankruptcy after amassing US$300 million debt, and the Gizmondo stopped production. Weeks thereafter Eriksson crashed a rare Ferrari Enzo driving at 162 mph in California, and was later jailed for the crash and his criminal offenses.
The Gizmondo device was originally called Gametrac. Tiger Telematics first published on their website in October 2003 about the device being developed. This came in response to Nokia's N-Gage. During December that year, Gizmondo made its debut as a concept product at the Las Vegas CES show in January 2004, and later appeared at the German CeBIT show in March 2004. The company and the console were renamed Gizmondo around August 2004.
British Formula One driver Jenson Button appeared on magazine adverts for the Gizmondo, and also had his own licensed video game for the device, Chicane, though it never released due to a dispute with Tiger Telematics and the developer of the game. In London's Regent Street, Tiger Telematics threw a party with several celebrities invited to promote the device. Busta Rhymes, Jodie Kidd and Pharrell Williams were among the celebs invited, of whom some performed. There were also two television adverts that aired after release. Also, in an attempt to promote the console, Gizmondo's executive Stefan Eriksson took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race of 2005 in a Gizmondo-sponsored Ferrari 360 Modena GTC.
The Gizmondo's problems were compounded by the involvement of Eriksson in Swedish organized crime, and later for crashing a Ferrari Enzo in Malibu, California, which was apparently owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland. He pleaded guilty to numerous criminal charges which led him to 2 years in jail.
Tiger Telematics announced a new Gizmondo model for release in Q2 2006. It was intended to have a larger, 4" widescreen screen and upgrades like Wi-Fi, TV-out support, an improved 480 × 272 pixel resolution, a 2-megapixel camera, and a 500 MHz processor. It also included tri-band GSM technology, effectively making it a mobile phone too. It also featured new icons on the buttons. The widescreen Gizmondo was announced just a few weeks before the U.S. launch of the Gizmondo, possibly prompting some potential customers to not buy the Gizmondo, and instead wait for the improved model, in an example of the Osborne effect. Tiger Telematics promised to show the device at CES 2006 in January, however it never appeared there. Shortly thereafter Tiger went bankrupt, and thus the new Gizmondo was never released.
Gizmondo was released in the United Kingdom on 19 March 2005, initially priced at £229. Units enabled with "Smart Adds" had a reduced RRP of £129. The Gizmondo was available from the Gizmondo flagship store on London's Regent Street, via Gizmondo's online shop, and other high-street and online retailers such as Argos, Dixons, Currys, John Lewis, although it was never clear how many units were actually introduced into those retail channels.
The SMS service of the Gizmondo enabled people to send messages by pre-pay Vodafone accounts bundled in with the device.
The Gizmondo was supposed to sell 4,500 units within an hour of launch. Instead, it managed 1,000. In April, just a month after release, the console had a £100 price cut.
Gizmondo was launched in Sweden in the late Summer of 2005, with both "Smart Adds" and normal units available. Rather than opening flagship stores, the manufacturer relied on established retailers such as Webhallen. Fewer than 100 units were sold in Sweden. "Smart Adds" were never enabled for the Swedish market, even though the technology "was there".
In the United States, the Gizmondo launched on October 22, 2005. Retail price was $400 for a unit without "Smart Ads", or $229 for a "Smart Ads" enabled device. It was available only at one of several kiosks located in shopping malls throughout the U.S. (operated by National Kiosk, LLC located in western corner of North Carolina). However, only 8 of the planned 14 games were ever released in the U.S., along with no CoPilot GPS software, though the software was sold on the British site for a week or two. There was little to no advertising, and some of their advertising was even put in magazines of Nintendo Power (Nintendo's official magazine). Plans to distribute the handheld through other retailers never materialized.
The Gizmondo launched in the United Kingdom with only one game, Trailblazer. The console launched in the United States with a line-up of eight titles, including Trailblazer. In addition to these eight, six others were released in Europe only. A further 30 titles were known to have been in development for the system, but all were canceled before their release due to Tiger Telematics' bankruptcy. Also all games released in North America were effectively launch titles.
Certain games were claimed to be capable of using "augmented reality", most notably the unreleased game Colors. It was intended to be the first GPS video game, with the ability to track a user's real world movements in real time. Additionally several games including Motocross 2005, Hockey Rage 2005, and Sticky Balls had bluetooth multiplayer features. The accessibility to purchase Gizmondo games was limited. In the United States, games were only available through a small numbers of kiosks located in shopping malls across the country. After Tiger Telematic's bankruptcy, the Gizmondo and its games were left without any proper marketing or distribution.
The "Smart Adds" system was intended as a way for consumers to subsidize part of the cost of the unit. The apparent misspelling of the name was intentional and a trademark and company name were registered in the UK as "Smart Adds", though even Tiger Telematics occasionally slipped up and referred to it as Smart Ads in their publicity material. A "Smart Adds"-enabled Gizmondo cost less (£129/$229), but would display advertisements on the Gizmondo's screen at random intervals when the user entered the home screen. These advertisements would be downloaded via the device's GPRS data connection, and would be targeted based on data inputted to the device. A maximum of three ads would be shown per day. Some ads would include special offers in the form of vouchers or barcodes, and some would utilize the device's GPS system to direct users to the nearest store carrying the advertised product.
Former Gizmondo director Carl Freer announced to a Swedish newspaper in November 2007 his intentions for a new Gizmondo, and said there were already 35 games in place, a manufacturing base in Shenzhen, China, and that he hoped the handheld would retail at US$99.
The original planned launch date was May 2008, but this was quickly pushed back to November 2008, along with details of a new company, Media Power, behind the launch, headed by Carl Freer and his Swedish partner Mikael Ljungman, with development apparently proceeding according to the new schedule at least until September. By December 2008, the console had still not appeared, which Freer blamed on the difficult economic conditions. The device was delayed to 2009 as a result. The latest design prototype turned it into a smartphone running both Windows CE or Google Android.
However, since then the Media Power website went offline. Co-founder Mikael Ljungman was later arrested, extradited to Denmark and convicted of serious fraud due to his activities at IT Factory. Nothing more has been announced about the device by Freer, effectively confirming its cancellation.
A reference to the Gizmondo is made in the British movie Goal!, when a meeting takes place in a Gizmondo store.
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