The year has seen many exciting releases, from electronics to video games and consumer goods. And while most of them seemed to take well to the market, some companies managed to get on the wrong side of their customers.
So, in no particular order, our list of the top tech flops from this year:
Research in Motion
While the Blackberry handsets are as popular as ever, Research in Motion announced something special in the beginning of the year. But when the Blackberry Playbook finally made it onto the shelves, users where less than impressed with its performance. The tablet suffered from a lack of computing power in terms of functionality and the app store was virtually non-existent.
To make matters worse for RIM in 2011, they suffered a massive Blackberry Internet Service outage, leaving its customers with no way to communicate with each other through the internet. It no doubt damaged the company’s reputation.
Just like Research in Motion, Sony Interactive also managed to get on the wrong side of its customers when the PlayStation Store got hacked.
Sony remained quiet for about a week before it sent out a statement saying the service was breached. Millions of irate users weren’t able to play online for about a month and also had their credit card details exposed to criminals.
The electronics makers had a spectacular crash-and-burn in their top position, as they appointed Leo Apotheker to succeed former CEO Mark Hurd. With little over a couple of month on the job, Apotheker decided that HP needed to discontinue its webOS mobile and tablet devices. HP’s stock dropped about 40% while he was there, ultimately being replaced by ex-CEO of eBay, Meg Whitman eleven months after taking on the job as CEO.
The world’s largest social networking site announced earlier this year that their new mail service would make things a lot easier for their customers – it didn’t. The new feature allows users to send emails to their friends through a (whoever)@facebook.com address. In a world where almost everyone has either a Gmail or a Yahoo! account, the use of a second email address is just redundant. The service hasn’t really received a lot of attention, as Facebook users are too busy to chat and send direct messages instead.
While the 3DS isn’t technically a flop, the latest handheld console from Nintendo didn’t do as well as expected. It’s the only handheld console with a 3D screen, but that seemed to be the biggest problem – many people complained that the screen hurt their eyes, and with a steep price point, at first sales dwindled. Noticing that something might be wrong, Nintendo decided to drop the price from $250 to $170, resulting in a 12% reduction in Nintendo stock price.
While South Africa only received the Motorola Xoom much later than the US, the Android-powered tablet failed to live up to its iPad-killer reputation created by the media. The tablet saw a massive advertising campaign, with Motorola manufacturing between 500 000 and 800 000 Honeycomb units. In reality, only 5% to 15% of those manufactured were sold. It’s a solid tablet, but Apple sold 9 million iPads in the second quarter alone.
Duke Nukem Forever
No tech list is complete without looking at some of the biggest flops in gaming – of which Duke Nukem Forever was monumental. The game played on the memories of fans from a by-gone era, reliving the days when The King was the baddest and most foul-mouthed in town. While Duke still lived in that era, the video gaming community moved on, making Duke’s jokes seem lame and old. The graphics also didn’t do the game justice and with a thin plot, the title ended with a Metacritic score of only 49%.
Rugby World Cup 2011
The titles isn’t on the list because South Africa didn’t qualify for the finals, but rather for the fact that the game wasn’t really exciting. While it had multiplayer modes, the entire World Cup could have been completed with about two hours of play, leaving no real replay value. The graphics also left a lot to be desired, and while the controls were semi-alright, the players’ likeness lifted a few eyebrows. The critics agreed, with a Metacritic score of 55%. With that said, Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge didn’t fare much better.
Need for Speed: The Run
One of the biggest surprises this year was the poor showing of Need For Speed. While the franchise has traditionally been excellent, Electronic Arts missed the finish line with The Run. While the graphics were great and sounds on par with other racing titles, the game’s mechanics hampered any real fun. The single player campaign is only about two hours long (without cut scenes and loading), but luckily there is a multiplayer element as well. Failing to produce the rubber-burning effect, the title only managed to scrape together 67% on Metacritic.
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor