Here's a few game systems that were designed and (mostly) devoloped, but for various reasons, never got to see the light of day. Let's take a look shall we?
One of the most difficult console prototypes to get information on. This system was developed in joint-venture between JSB (owner of the Japanese satellite TV channel Wowow), the coin-op company Taito and the Japanese software editor ASCII and was presented in 1992 at the Tokyo Game Show.
The console would have been a 16-bit CD-based machine built around Taito’s arcade circuitry. The Wowow would have been able to produce near perfect Taito arcade game translations. A similar goal that another former 3rd Party arcade software developer accomplished (SNK and Neo Geo).
The most innovative idea was the system could receive games via a satellite antenna (transmitted like a TV or radio station). The white card visible from the front of the console would most likely be the method of payment. Perhaps similar to the use of phone cards. Each card would authorize a specific length of game time.
The console was never released to the public, but the idea of transmitting games via satellite was later used by Nintendo with the Satellaview (BS-X).
Two years after the release of 3DO, the company began working on it's successor codenamed "Bull Dog" (model FZ-DR21)At first, M2 began as 64-bit add-on for 3DO systems. The concept was initially developed by the same people responsible for the first 3DO system (called Opera).
Later around 1995, 3DO sold the technology to Matsushita and left the hardware market. The Japanese electronic giant worked on the base of the system to produce a better technology called M2. At first this technology was to be sold as a videogame system in June of 1998, but Matsushita felt the market was not ready for another videogame console, and changed their game plan.
Matsushita / Panasonic finally released M2 later on that same year. The technology was remade into a TV-based interactive multimedia player that was geared towards corporate businesses for use in Public Information and Display Terminals, Sales Promotion and Exhibit Presentations, 3-D Viewing, Educational and Training Kiosks, etc.
The Panasonic M2 Interactive Media player came in two versions. The FZ-21s was a more sleek and compact version that featured a 4X CD-ROM (Plays M2-CD's, as well as VideoCD 2.0) and a PCMCIA Type III slot for use with modem, Ethernet, memory, hard drive or other compatible PC card devices.
The FZ-35s is the more high end featured model that features a DVD-ROM drive for increased content storage capability, as well as expanded input/output device connectivity, expanded SRAM, a built-in Infrared Receiver, LS-120 SuperDisk, Flash Memory, Modem, or LAN card.
It would have been interesting to see what the M2 could have done videogame wise. Sadly, it remained a multimedia device.
Prototype game screens:
A start-up company called Indrema promised to release a new gaming console in 2001. Using a Linux operating system, the Indrema L600 would have played games, DVDs, and CDs, and even record TV shows on its hard drive.
A man by the name of John Gildred decided to found a consumer electronics start-up. Gildred was a fan of Open Source software. Apparently he thought it would be great if people could design and improve their own video games, and maybe download them off the Web. So Gildred, backed by a few friends and generous investors, plus the credit line of his charge cards and the content of his savings account, went out to perform in the marketplace. He started his new company, and focused on it’s product called Indrema. It was going to be an "Open Source" system designed to be a game machine, DVD player, Internet appliance and digital video recorder.
The Indrema Entertainment System (a.k.a. L600) was to be based on common hardware (x86-style CPU, DVD drive, hard disk drive, nVidia graphics chip, USB ports and Ethernet connector), and the Open Source operating system, DV Linux. DV Linux is an Open Source distribution of the Linux operating system specifically designed for consumer electronics or digital multimedia applications targeted at the television as the default view port. Indrema partnered up with Red Hat to initially manage the development of the DV Linux Distribution.
The first Indrema console, the L600, was planned to initially ship in Spring 2001. It was to cost approximately $300. The Indrema Entertainment System would have also been the first modern game console to allow free software to be developed for it, and made available widely via Internet. However, this impressive machine never saw the light of day. The company ran out of money and was unable to secure additional financing in a capital market that seemed to have grown hostile to Linux-related business. The demands of the hardware market took their toll on the small California based company as it had done to even bigger companies such as Sega (Sega left the hardware market after the Dreamcast). Nvidia sought more prosperous grounds with the Microsoft Xbox. Being an "Open Source" system most likely contributed to the consoles demise. If software could be distributed for free then there could be no money made by the company with licensing fees. The units would be sold at a loss. Software developers would have difficulty selling software since users would prefer freely distributed games. Without strong software developer support, they had no hopes of competing with the established Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft companies.
In 2002, Indrema closed it’s doors to the hardware market. It’s founder, John Gildred, still pursues the dream of making the console a reality. For now it remains a dream.
The Mirai is apparently an enigma to many since there is really no information about it. There are many who feel that the Atari Mirai may have been meant as a console conversion of Atari’s ST line of computers. This may be since it so closely resembles the Atari XEGS, which is a console conversion of Atari’s 65XE line of computers. Such a guess is understandable since both units share the same pastel like color scheme. However, Atari never produced cartridge software for their ST computers. The Atari Mirai clearly displays a cartridge port (an enormous port as you may be able to tell).
Another guess was that the Mirai was another mock-up for the Atari Panther, but many disagree since the design does not appear to match (Particularly for a console in the 1990’s. It is believed the mock-up appeared in the 1980’s).
Possibly the most interesting guess is that Atari Mirai may have been meant as home port of SNK’s MVS arcade system. There are a few facts that seem to point in that direction. For example, look at the cartridge port. This port can easily handle the MVS / Neo Geo sized cartridges. In the late 1980’s, Atari and SNK were corporate neighbors both residing across the street from one another in Sunnyvale California. Both companies were no strangers to each other. Both collaborated to port SNK’s arcade hit Ikari Warriors, and other undocumented items were also reported. Also look at the name Atari Mirai. “Mirai” is the Japanese word for “Future”. Why would Atari use a Japanese name? Atari’s other consoles either used numerical names, used wife names for developing units, or felines (In the case of Panther and Jaguar). The Neo Geo was released in 1990. It may have very well been that SNK thought to partner up with Atari in order to insure a successful home market launch. Such a concept may seem far fetched, but hey…Nintendo almost had Atari release the Famicom…
All in all the Mirai remains a mystery. An interesting console enigma.