Top 10 vapourware products of all time

By Abhimanyu Mehta | Published on 03 Nov 2016
Top 10 vapourware products of all time

Is it or is it not? We took a thorough look at the twilight zone of software or hardware that has been advertised but is not yet available to buy

Imagine a world where the PlayStation remote you are holding right now was a bit different, say more like a trackball machine like the early console developers wanted it to be? There is a reason certain innovative tech never gets its fair share of success and most often, there are multiple reasons behind it. 

So what is vapourware? The internet defines Vapourware as ‘software or hardware that has been advertised but is not yet available to buy, either because it is only a concept or because it is still being written or designed.’ Now this is about all those sweet pieces of hardware or software, that we were promised by the developers, and the hype that surrounded them built up for years and years while the product was stuck in development hell. All the ‘could haves’ and the lore that surround these releases were often built up to legendary status and most often the expectations were not met by the final product. Still, these products are as important as anything for in most cases they were a revolutionary idea which wanted to start a new conversation and succeeded in doing so, even if the execution of the idea was not good enough for commercial launch. 

So let’s take a look at the weird, whacky world of vapourware in the following list and take a look inside the great big world of the ‘what if’:

10. Sega VR (1993)

If you are a in your 20’s right now, there is a huge chance that the word ‘Sega’ means nostalgia to you. All the countless pennies spent at the arcade were totally worth it. And there was one Japanese  supergiant which was known to be ahead of it’s time in its approach towards arcade gaming. But then they took a huge leap. They stumbled upon a concept that the world was perhaps not ready for- virtual reality. The device was announced in 1991 and shook the world as it was unlike anything seen before. However, development difficulties caught up with this project and it was only in 1993 that the first working prototype was demonstrated at Winter CES where it could not gather critical acclaim. The system was to use cartridges and came with 4 game cartridges with a 200$ bundle. But SEGA could not finish this project and kept failing with its testing repeatedly. SEGA hilariously claimed that the device was ‘too realistic’ and causes motion sickness to players as well as dizziness. Due to this and many other reasons, SEGA VR never really came out for the general public and vanished from the list of release dates since 1994. But it did open a gate to future developers and today it is indeed possible to do what this piece of technology aimed to achieve way back then.

Looks like something straight out of an 80’s sci fi film doesnt it?

9. Prey 2

At a time where games like Call of Duty and Battlefield were the most successful first person shooters, Prey offered a different take on the idea and was a breath of fresh air. It was originally announced in 1995 and finally released in 2006 and instantly gained a cult following for its unique sci fi take. A sequel was much awaited but much to the dismay of the fans, Bethesda announced in 2014 that they had cancelled Prey 2 over creative differences with the developers at Human Head Studios. However in E3 this summer, much to everyone’s surprise, Bethesda announced finally the sequel to Prey called ‘Prey’. It looks quite different but does retain the spooky sci fi feel to it. Some are disappointed that the game wasn’t made according to Human Head direction. Time shall tell if this truly is the sequel the original Prey deserves.

The game had a creepy dark space feel to it

8. Xenix

This is the software that gave birth to the term ‘vapourware’. Microsoft wanted to have their own version of a Unix operating system for various microcomputer platforms in the late 70’s. Eventually, knowing that they could not compete with Unix’s developer at AT&T, they decided to abandon Xenix altogether and focus on Windows NT instead. However it seemed that Microsoft didn’t want to let go of the project that easily. They  signed an agreement with IBM to develop a OS/2 and the Xenix team along with some of the best developers from MS DOS team were assigned to the project. However, Xenix failed to provide any competition to Unix and was sold to SCO (Santa Cruz Operation) by Microsoft in 1987. SCO eventually ended up superseding it with SCO Unix which is now known as SCO OpenServer. Sounds like Xenix was bad luck right from the start.

Perhaps Microsoft went a little over ambitious with this one

7. Fin

It was the 15 minutes of fame for a young 23 year old Rohildev N whose Kochi-based startup announced ‘Fin’ back in 2014. This wearable ring seemed like something from a James Bond movie set in a distant future. Fin claimed to give users complete control of their lives just by wearing this ring and doing activities like clicking pictures, dialing someone or playing music on your Bluetooth headphones with gestures. This project gathered a lot of interest and quickly reached its online crowdfunding campaign goal. Rohildev and his team were looking for international tie-ups but a this piece of tech went unnoticed. The Fin-Ring was eventually released though, as ‘Neyya’ a sleeker, elegant version of the Fin, but it never really caught on. And so it seems, that we are yet to see such a product which delivers on these guidelines because it was a really cool idea to begin with. Something tells me this is not the last we are hearing of this concept.

Your life, at the wave of your hand

6. Bully 2

Who didn’t love this raunchy, tongue in cheek Rockstar Games release back in the PS2 days? This game was a masterpiece in terms of storyline and moreover it was an open-world game, at a time where there weren’t many non GTA games out there. This game was set up in a typically dysfunctional prep school and the players were put in the shoes of a young rebellious Jimmy Hawkins as he went around town with his shenanigans. The game featured some amazing playtime, with a cool spin on the factions concept, the factions being Jocks, Nerds, Preps etc. It was one of the better looking games on the Playstation 2. So then why didn’t we get a sequel to this much loved game? There have been speculations of a ‘senior year’ or a ‘college’ year or a spin off from the original storyline. Much to fans delight, Rockstar announced that they hadn’t forgotten about this title, but just busy with their other titles like GTA, Max Payne and L.A. Noir. There is news about a bigger better sequel in 2016. We can’t wait...

How much we would want to get into the shoes of the rebellious Jimmy Hawkins

Vapourware that did finally come out

1. Duke Nukem Forever

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the decade. This beloved retro shooter got a next gen successor, But was instantly regretted for killing the legacy of the initial releases. The game failed to live up to the greatness of the series and is arguably one of the worst games ever.

2. Freedom 251

The 251 rupees phone. The miracle. The Scam? Little is known about how this product was planned to be implemented. And after shameful refunds and failures to deliver, The creators at Ringing Bell claim they are now ready to ship these phones. However, that is another story.

3. L.A. Noir

This game took around 8 years to be made. The facial feature recognition technology used in the game is a delight but took millions of dollars and hours under development to be finished. The game finally did come out and was received well by gamers and critics alike worldwide. Rockstar always gets it right somehow.

5. LiFi

While this isn’t exactly vapourware, the sheer implications of the release of such technology to the public makes us think why isn’t this a thing already?

It started with a TED talk back in 2011 given by Prof. Herald Hass, when he demonstrated how the LED lights can be used for signal transmission. Research and testing began and Scientists in Oxford were available to achieve connectivity even in a real world scenario. The original creator of LiFi even has a working prototype of this tech. LiFi boasts a gigantic 224GB per second speed and could revolutionize the way communication takes place all over the world. In fact there are talks of Apple having LiFi connectivity on their future iPhones.

4. Infinium Phantom

Ask any consolehead if the term ‘phantom’ means anything to them, and he shall smirk and tell you a thing or two about false promises. Back in 2002, when PS2 and Xbox 360 dominated the masses, a new console was announced that would eliminate the need for having a physical game media to play a game. The game would simply be downloaded from an online marketplace (much like Steam) and would give better processing results than other consoles. It also had a ‘lapboard’ for the console which would give a PC gaming like experience. This announcement captured worldwide interest as the idea of not having to use a disc was really amazing. However, Project Phantom had a rocky future up ahead. Infinium failed to make any apparent progress and Phantom never saw the light of day, even though it had an impressive design. It sure did pave the way for Steam though. 

Imagine what implications the release of this would have had on the PC Master Race

3. Red Dead Redemption

Rockstar announced a couple of days back that they are working on ‘something big’. And being a RDR fan, I’m almost certain this is the sequel to this amazing game from 2010. Rockstar is known to ace their open world games. However, this classic wild wild west, open worlded, shoot em up adventure was in a league of its own with amazing storyline and gorgeous graphics. It has had several added DLC’s too which have been greeted by the gaming community. However, now that the games have changed and we live in an ultra FPS world, we would like to see a follow up to this classic with even better graphics and new features. Could we be finally getting RDR 2? Fingers crossed Rockstar! You’ve never let us down and we sure hope it’s the same this time too!

Who doesn’t want to be a badass cowboy shooting Wild West fiends

2. Ovation

This was the product that invented the concept of ‘development hell’. In 1983, a time where office-software development was in its formative years and software like WordStar, Microsoft Word were just among a few must haves for word processing and more, Ovation Technologies announced an integrated package that promised to include word processing, spreadsheet and database manipulation and communication, all rolled up into one. This idea was far fetched for the time to say the least and the team is said to have gone through 2 years of development hell, burning around 7 million dollars without any working prototype or release.

The company finally declared bankruptcy in 1984, and was never heard from again.

Never bite off more than you can chew

1. Half Life 3

What else did you expect to see at number one? If you are love games like we do, there is a chance you are in the same wait boat with us on this one. This is one of the most beloved and arguably one of the most important video game series. Some claim that Half Life 2: Episode 2 is the greatest game ever made. As a sequel to this great title, an episode 3 was set to release in winter 2007, however, it has been 9 uneventful years ever since and the release of Half Life 3 has become more of a legend. Valve came out with a spin off series in the same universe called ‘Portal’ and it was very well received by the gaming community. There are even talks for VR versions. However, after a long wait all we can really hope for is the return of this series with the third title. Whenever it happens, its gonna break the internet. In the meantime, we can only hope that lord Gabe Newell answers our prayers. 

Maybe one day we will finally get to know how this series ends

This article was first published in September 2016 issue of Digit magazine. To read Digit's articles first, subscribe here or download the Digit e-magazine app for Android and iOS. You could also buy Digit's previous issues here.

Abhimanyu Mehta

Digit caters to the largest community of tech buyers, users and enthusiasts in India. The all new Digit in continues the legacy of as one of the largest portals in India committed to technology users and buyers. Digit is also one of the most trusted names when it comes to technology reviews and buying advice and is home to the Digit Test Lab, India's most proficient center for testing and reviewing technology products.

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