5 gaming accessories that failed in the mass market – Interesting Engineering

February 2, 2022 by No Comments

The history of video games started in the 1950s and the 1960s with several primitive computer games developed in the BASIC programming language. Spacewar!, created in 1962 by MIT programmer Steve Russell, was the most influential one.

But it wasn’t until the next decade that the first commercial coin-operated arcade video game, Computer Space (1971), and the first commercial home video game console, the Magnavox Odyssey (1972), marked the beginning of the gaming industry. 

The Magnavox Odyssey in the 2007 Midwest Gaming Classic convention. Source: Martin Goldberg & Electronic Entertainment Museum/Wikimedia Commons. 

A great deal of water has flowed under the bridge since then. Today, we have many kinds of home consoles and gaming platforms to choose from, as well as tons of gaming accessories to enrich our experience of video games in various ways.

In fact, accessories have always been part of the gaming industry, with joysticks as the first and most common ones. New types of controllers appeared as gaming technology advanced —from old shooting series light guns to steering wheels and pedals for racing games, motion-based controllers like the Wiimote for Nintendo Wii,  dance pads for rhythm games, and virtual reality headsets. 

NES Zapper, 1984/1985. Source: Sic/Wikimedia Commons

However, there are many other gaming accessories that couldn’t be successful enough to be publicly known, so you are much less likely to have heard of these. In other words, there are various gaming-related patents or inventions that never made it into the mass market. 

Here are some of them:

1. Screen Divider 

Patented in 1994 (patent US5435557A), the screen divider by Timothy M. Coffey was meant to prevent anyone from looking across the screen and cheating when playing split-screen. In order to do this, this opaque panel had would be attached to the edge of a TV or computer monitor with suction cups. When the two arms are separated, the opaque material is drawn tight to stretch across different screen sizes.

This made it possible for one player to hide information from the other player and avoid cheating, especially in card games and other multiplayer games that relied on secrecy. Coffey expected that some games could be developed specifically to be played with the screen divider. 

Screen divider 3D visualization. Source: Crucial.com


The invention had to be built with opaque materials like wood, plastic, fabric, metal, or black-colored polyurethane foam (which was the cheaper option at the time). The material had to be lightweight for the suction cups to keep the divider in place, and it also had to be adaptable for different sizes of screens. But it couldn’t be too thick (Coffey calculated a maximum of 1.5 cm) or it would hide too much.

Unfortunately for those with overly competitive friends or siblings, the design never made it to market. We don’t know why this invention never made it into the mass market, but today, the screen divider wouldn’t be necessary as the split-screen mode isn’t even that popular anymore: it’s been surpassed by online multiplayer modes, which allow much more than just two players at once and does not …….

Source: https://interestingengineering.com/5-gaming-accessories-that-failed-in-the-mass-market


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