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Apple's Folly
June 11, 2013 2:21 PM   Subscribe

The story of the Pippin game console
posted by Artw (53 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
It just never found its corner of the sky.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:25 PM on June 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


We've got magic to do
Just for you
We've got terrible games to play
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:29 PM on June 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


I remember being excited about this, back in the day.


No wait, that was something else.
posted by mazola at 2:36 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, I thought this was about the Newton, or the Apple III.

It is a good read though, especially with all the new consoles being introduced.
posted by FJT at 2:44 PM on June 11, 2013


Hmm, I think this would my third choice (at best) of weird doomed consoles to buy off eBay today. Definitely in line behind the Atari Jaguar and Commodore CD32.
posted by substars at 3:03 PM on June 11, 2013


At first glance the controller for the Pippin looked shockingly modern to me: almost like a sleeker XBox controller. (Scroll down on this page to see what I mean).

And then I noticed the nub in the middle is a trackball, and not an analogue stick.

And the three how-the-hell-do-you-press-them buttons on the bottom.

And the two "right and left click" buttons on the back of it.

*shudder*
posted by ordinary_magnet at 3:04 PM on June 11, 2013


Hmm, I think this would my third choice (at best) of weird doomed consoles to buy off eBay today. Definitely in line behind the Atari Jaguar and Commodore CD32.

I assume you have a Vectrex already? If not, you need a Vectrex. Everybody needs a Vectrex.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:16 PM on June 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


Vector graphics are futuristic!
posted by Artw at 3:23 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Vector graphics are futuristic!

The Virtual Boy will rise again!
posted by FJT at 3:27 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not a leading player?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 3:38 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hah, Bungie's description of their involvement with the Pippin is the best metaphor ever!

"Console gaming was a whole other industry that had its own jargon, and having Apple show up with Bandai—it was sort of like meeting a girl who went to school on the other side of the tracks, but we had a mutual friend, so we went on a couple of dates. But we didn’t have an expectation we were going to get married or anything. And I guess you could say she turned out to be a drug addict that ODed, and we never hung out anymore."
posted by Arbac at 3:42 PM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the virtual boy did have 3D wireframe games, but the display was red LEDs.

You can get every Vectrex game on one cartridge from some guy in the UK.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 3:43 PM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Question: How did Apple choose the name Pippin?
Answer: Pippin is a type of apple.

I would have gone with Grimes Golden myself. The name alone evokes more of a dandy court jester than a video game system.
posted by wcfields at 4:03 PM on June 11, 2013


I have a Vectrex, and the original 3D goggles, too -- just need the light pen and I win the elite legacy console nerd trifecta, right?

Also have a multicart circa the mid-to-late 90s (American, I believe), with an actual physical pause switch wired into the cart! A friend got one for me and one for him after I gave up on my whimsical quest to custom-burn cartridges ("For Sale: Blank EPROMS, never burned").
posted by retronic at 4:04 PM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, I thought this was about the Newton, or the Apple III.

I thought the Newton was pretty cool. Certainly no eMate.
posted by Artw at 4:26 PM on June 11, 2013


I think Apple should get back into the console business with Valve and the peeps that make Unity. Apple hardware + Steam + native Unity support.

Take that shit to the bank Gaben.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:30 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I assume you have a Vectrex already? If not, you need a Vectrex. Everybody needs a Vectrex.

Damn it. Don't namecheck ephemera when I'm drunk in charge of an ebay account.
posted by Leon at 4:30 PM on June 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


And you can get the Vectrex library on iOS now, which brings us full circle.

The Pippin and the Vectrex, ironically, shared the same fundamental problem -- a lack of third-party software support. Here's the full list of Pippin software; even a few ports might've helped a little.
posted by delfin at 5:02 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Speaking of Virtual Boy, its unique 2-bit, 1x244 binocular LED display is something of a marvel. It may have gained some traction had Nintendo gone with white LEDs instead of red.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot at 5:25 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think Apple should get back into the console business with Valve and the peeps that make Unity.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahah.

No wait, really?

Hahahahahaahahahahaah.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 5:43 PM on June 11, 2013


It may have gained some traction had Nintendo gone with white LEDs instead of red.

They didn't exist yet. Your LED choices back then were red, yellow, and green, and red LEDs were still somewhat cheaper than the other options.
posted by Mars Saxman at 5:59 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well maybe they don't really need Valve or Unity. They could just use their own app store and iOS is already a Unity build target.If they have valve "curate" the games they could get bit more gamer cred and if they could get some of the big Unity titles that don't run on iOS, like Scrolls and Kentucky Route Zero. But really, price it right and they could sell a console on the strength of Angry Birds and PvZ alone.

Fucking Scrolls is going to Make Notch another hundred million.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:03 PM on June 11, 2013


I think Apple should get back into the console business with Valve and the peeps that make Unity. Apple hardware + Steam + native Unity support.

Not sure why this is such a funny idea. I'm surprised they haven't pushed out an apple tv with optional controllers and app store access. Unity is being used by some very serious game companies now so that's not crazy either.

It'll happen at some point. Valve is already doing their steam box, but the price point is too high for it to be a mass success imo.
posted by meta87 at 6:15 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


$499 for the base Steam Box so it is comparable to the Xbone, but more than ps4. I wonder if Apple, with their supply chain know how can make it cheaper.

Yeah, pretty dumb idea I guess.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:31 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Apple TV already runs iOS, and there are already a ton of iOS games (although they use the touch screen, not a controller)
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 6:33 PM on June 11, 2013


People laugh, and point at the non-ergo controller, but when you look at the @World concept--combining a game console with a so-simple-your-granny-could-plug-it-in internet appliance--and compare it to the XBox, it's more prescient than anything else. Apple was already trying to branch out into the digital consumer gadget market, even if most of those toys (such as the QuickTake camera or their CD player) were overpriced or underpowered or both. And imagine having games that could run on both a desktop and a console.

The main problem was that Michael Spindler seemed to be even less charismatic and connected to the computer market than John Sculley, who similarly thought that a single gadget that was a little ahead of the curve--the Newton--would be the Hail Mary pass that made his reputation. I remember seeing plenty of ads for the Newton during its lifetime, but none for the Pippin. (Has anyone else?)
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:44 PM on June 11, 2013


Blue LEDs were around in 1995, but they weren't cheap and they weren't bright - the first high intensity blue LED had been demonstrated in 1994. White came some time later - about a decade to production, I think. Given that LEDs had been red, green or yellow, and not very bright, for around thirty years previously, the rate of change caused by Shuji Nakamura was - is - astounding.

(The first blue LED I bought was in 1996; I fitted it to a pair of promotional powered speakers Microsoft had given me to push Windows Chicago. Speakers weren't so hot, but a blue LED? Wowzers!)
posted by Devonian at 6:45 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


$499 for the base Steam Box so it is comparable to the Xbone, but more than ps4.

Ahh I'd seen $999, not realizing that was the top tier. $499 is not so bad.


Apple TV already runs iOS, and there are already a ton of iOS games (although they use the touch screen, not a controller)

Apple mentioned MFI Game Controllers at WWDC which is built into ios 7, so universal controller support is coming.

http://www.idownloadblog.com/2013/06/11/new-in-ios-7-game-controls/
posted by meta87 at 6:49 PM on June 11, 2013


Oh, hey, and here's a page of some of the many Japanese games and other media stuff (such as nude photos) that were available for the Pippin. If part of the problem was that there weren't enough games for the Pippin on launch (I was a huge Marathon fan, but I can accept that not everyone feels the same), then what about some of these?
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:52 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was a huge Marathon fan, but I can accept that not everyone feels the same

Non-Marathon fans, you are wrong.
posted by Artw at 7:00 PM on June 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


No source, but I thought I read that the reason the Virtual Boy used red LEDs had something to do with red light being easier on the eyes in that kind of dark, enclosed (goggle-ish) environment.
posted by xedrik at 7:05 PM on June 11, 2013


Apple doesn't need to make a game console. What they need is this, perhaps combined with a simpler way to get the iPad to wirelessly display on a TV. Voila; a console for around the price of a controller.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:41 PM on June 11, 2013


Non-Marathon fans, you are wrong.

Mars Needs Women will always be the high point in my network gaming memories.
posted by verb at 7:51 PM on June 11, 2013


Artw: "I was a huge Marathon fan, but I can accept that not everyone feels the same

Non-Marathon fans, you are wrong
"

Marathon was good stuff. I've always had problems reconciling that with the fact that Bungie went on to make Halo, though.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:55 PM on June 11, 2013


Marathon was the best, man. I often wonder how different the world would be if Marathon, rather than Doom, had been the big hit FPS.

"Organic beings are constantly fighting for life. Every breath, every motion brings you one instant closer to your death. With that kind of heritage and destiny, how can you deny yourself? How can you expect yourself to give up violence?
It is your nature.
Do you feel free?
You should go to this location and retrieve a device that the S'pht have provided for us.
It will allow you to slay more Pfhor.
Does that make you happy?"
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:11 PM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Marathon was good stuff. I've always had problems reconciling that with the fact that Bungie went on to make Halo, though.

Yeah, I have no idea what is up with the success of Halo. It just seems so... generic. Maybe that IS it's secret.
posted by Artw at 8:46 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pedant alert:

Bungie had released Marathon, a hit first-person shooter, exclusively on the Mac—a rare triumph for Mac gaming at a time when computer game makers were focused on Windows.

Doom 95 was released in late 1996, Diablo on December 31, 1996, and WinQuake in March 1997. Back in 1994, on the PC, you played DOS games.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 8:48 PM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I worked at a company that got a prerelease Pippin so we could port a raft of Director-based home and lifestyle licensed-content CD-ROMs, some apparently for bundled inclusion in the shipping units. Pretty much all our content development work was on Macs so we all hopefully examined it and were tremendously disappointed by how underpowered it was.

O/T the game that we played obsessively on the company LAN was the still-impressive Descent. The first weekend that demo released about six of us stayed at work until the sun came up chasing each other through that mine. The best pilot was a guy that randomly tried using his wacom tablet as his primary input device at first and figured out how to map quicklook macros to various areas of the tablet, so he'd orient the ship, lift the stylus, and tap the edges of the sensor area to do various things. I think that may have been the first time I realised how important it was to have multiple UI devices concurrently available - iirc he had a mouse and a trackball on the machine too.
posted by mwhybark at 9:39 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I always thought Apple should pair up with Nintendo, since both of them appreciate the same (lack of) color scheme.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:17 AM on June 12, 2013


The pippin was doomed. I mean, for a few hundred dollars more you could have a 3DO instead - no brainer, right?
posted by davemee at 12:53 AM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Apple was spending more on research and development than almost any other tech company—$600 million in 1992 alone—yet this investment wasn’t producing successful products.

HA HA I bet they wish they had that 600 large now! ormaybenot
posted by dhartung at 2:37 AM on June 12, 2013


Marathon was good stuff. I've always had problems reconciling that with the fact that Bungie went on to make Halo, though.

Yeah, I have no idea what is up with the success of Halo. It just seems so... generic. Maybe that IS it's secret.
Marathon was always underrated as an FPS because so few people got to play it, being Mac only. But yeah, it's perhaps the second or third best FPS from the Doom-era (After Doom and perhaps Duke Nukem 3D). It actually had a proper story as well, didn't it?

Halo did so well because it was the first shooter to be actually playable on a console [save for Goldeneyes of course), offering much of what PC players had been doing for years and it got a massive push from Microsoft as the X-box's "killer app".
posted by MartinWisse at 4:11 AM on June 12, 2013


I remember seeing plenty of ads for the Newton during its lifetime, but none for the Pippin. (Has anyone else?)

Not me.

Ahh, the Newton. Actually, in the later revs, an amazing device for its time. The Newton 2000 was actually kind of sweet. But for many, the handwriting recognition never worked, and the technology was crippled by power and size.

The reason Palm Pilot utterly destroyed the newton was that it fit in your pocket and ran on two AAA batteries, as opposed to taking up your whole and needing (IIRC), four AA.

But the Newton was one of the few Jobless ideas that actually was trying to be something new, rather than Apple's take on something else. And I think it served one really valuable role for Apple, a decade after it was gone.

The moment the first iPhone prototypes started in Apple, everybody would have said "Oh, not the fucking Newton again!" And they made sure that, when you could finally buy one, you would never say "Not the fucking Newton again!"
posted by eriko at 5:07 AM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


/pours one out for Psion.
posted by Artw at 5:33 AM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Slightly off topic here, but... Marathon was great. Myth was even better. As for Halo...

You know, the first Halo was really, really good. The characters were charming (Guilty Spark FTW!), the systems were clever (restricting you to two guns was a brilliant imposition of strategy), the story was smart, and the finale was one of the best ever. Where everything started to go wrong was with the later Halo games; it went from being a sci-fi shooter to a military shooter, and lost its sense of humor along the way. My personal suspicion- was that it had to do with all the trips Bungie's devs made to military bases, where they started feeling more of an obligation to include fan service for young people who were literally playing their games in breaks between killing and dying. The devs have said that made them feel more responsible to their audience, and responsibility is generaly the enemy of creativity.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:39 AM on June 12, 2013


It actually had a proper story as well, didn't it?

Yes
posted by permafrost at 6:25 AM on June 12, 2013


Marathon was awesome. I vaguely recall that the aliens trotted along like malefic Gallimimus.

Never played Halo.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:32 AM on June 12, 2013


I always assumed it was because the mid 90s was the last time in my life when I had hours upon hours to waste on gaming but Marathon was awesome. I would gladly ignore my children and job to play an updated version on the never-used Xbox in the basement.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:19 AM on June 12, 2013


Devonian: "The first blue LED I bought was in 1996; I fitted it to a pair of promotional powered speakers Microsoft had given me to push Windows Chicago. Speakers weren't so hot, but a blue LED? Wowzers!"

.. yeah, that novelty wore off really quickly when EVERYTHING had to have a bedroom illuminating blue LED.
posted by wcfields at 9:32 AM on June 12, 2013


You know, Marathon fans, the whole set of games have been ported to iOS, opensourced, and also rebuilt on the Unreal Engine, although that release, Marathon: Resurrection, may be no longer available (the Bungie domain links are 404).
posted by mwhybark at 9:51 AM on June 12, 2013


... and this says there may be versions available for Xbox, but you whippersnappers with your consoles these days are beyond my wizened knowledge.
posted by mwhybark at 9:54 AM on June 12, 2013


Blue LEDs were around in 1995, but they weren't cheap and they weren't bright - the first high intensity blue LED had been demonstrated in 1994.

Sure, they had been demonstrated, but you couldn't actually buy them until some time after the Virtual Boy project would already have been cancelled, and even then they were expensive as all hell... but whatever, we are both agreed that Nakamura's invention is one of the great technological increments of our time. A generation from now, nobody will talk about "LEDs" anymore - they will just talk about "lights", and will marvel that we ever lit our homes with technology so primitive as a hot wire in a glass bubble.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:08 AM on June 12, 2013


Apple mentioned MFI Game Controllers at WWDC which is built into ios 7, so universal controller support is coming.

The Surest Sign Yet That Apple TV Will Be a Gaming Console
posted by homunculus at 4:53 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


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