Imagine you're a TV manufacturer and you want to spice things up. What's left to add to your product? Built-in speakers? Check. Color display? Check. TV remote? Check. How about a video game console? It seems only natural, so yes, let's pack one into there and call it a day.
But for whatever reasons (too expensive, impractical, limiting, prone to obsolescence, heavy, gimmicky—okay, there are a lot of reasons), these console-display hybrids never took off. But that didn't stop companies from trying the idea over and over again between 1976 and 2010.
Below, we'll take a look at a handful of interesting video game console/TV hybrids. Each one of these includes a fully functioning video game console integrated into a TV set or other display. Most launched only in Japan, but a few made it to the US. They were never a great idea, and yet somehow I want all of them.
1 Magnavox Odyssey 300
Built into the Magnavox Model 4305 (ca. 1976)
Magnavox, the firm that launched the first-ever commercial video game console in 1972, the Odyssey, also pioneered what was probably the first-ever TV with an integrated video game. Unlike the other entries on this list, the Model 4305 TV set doesn't include a game system, per se, since it's just one game—video tennis—but that is no less interesting. The TV shipped with two wired paddles for head-to-head gameplay.
The "console" built into this TV set was similar to the standalone Odyssey 300, which played variations of video tennis—most popularly known from Atari's breakout hit Pong at the time. Before you call it a Pong clone, did you know Pong was actually inspired by the Odyssey? I dug into that history back in 2007.
2 Nintendo Super Famicom
Built into the Sharp Naizou TV SF1 (1990)
Sharp has a history of building gadgets into other gadgets in Japan. Two video game hybrids (the Twin Famicom and X1 Twin, for those taking notes) and at least two integrated TV-console products come to mind.
The firm first experimented with Nintendo Famicom/TV integration (which we'll see ahead) in the 1980s, and then released a TV with a Super Famicom (the Japanese Super NES) built-in. The result is the SF1, seen here, which came in both 14-inch and 21-inch models, but only in Japan. Their sleek design with good video quality makes them desirable collectables today.
(Photo: Tamio Okuda)
3 Philips CD-i
Built into the Philips 21TCDI30 (1994)
Intended for educational and business presentation use, the 21TCDI30 packed a CD-i multimedia player into a 21-inch color TV set. There was only one problem: it included a CD-i, which ended up being known for its horrible quality software. It's no surprise, then, that this TV remains very rare today—especially since it was likely only released in Europe.
4 NEC PC Engine
Built into the NEC PC-KD863G (1988)
Technically, the NEC PC-KD863G shouldn't be on this list. That's because it is a cross between the NEC PC Engine game console (known as the TurboGrafx-16 in the US) and a RGB computer monitor, not a TV set. But this rare gaming device is too neat not to include, since it allowed a raw RGB connection between console and display (unusual for the time), and included integrated stereo speakers. It's truly a gaming enthusiast's machine—too bad it cost somewhere around $2,500 at launch.
5 Sony PlayStation 2
Built into the Sony Bravia KDL-22PX300 (2010)
Way back in the year 2010, Sony released a TV with an integrated console first launched 10 years earlier—way back in 2000. The roughly $300 Sony Bravia KDL-22PX300 shipped as 22-inch LCD TV set with a built-in DVD player and internet video functionality. And if you plugged a Dual Shock 2 controller into the front and popped in a game, it also doubled as a PlayStation 2 gaming console. No word on why exactly Sony thought this was a good idea in the year 2010, but I still want one.
6 Nintendo NES
In 1989, Sharp released the aptly titled Nintendo Television, which included an integrated NES console, here in the US. This followed a similar TV (albeit with radically different styling) Sharp released for the Japanese version of the NES, the Famicom.
I saw this TV model sitting in a K-Mart for a single day around 1989, then it disappeared. For years I thought I was going insane because everyone I asked about it said it never existed. I even got my mom to call the store to ask about it, and they had no idea. So if there is a redeeming quality to the internet, it's that I have now proven I wasn't losing my mind at the tender age of 8.
7 Sega Dreamcast
Built into the Fuji Divers 2000 Series CX-1 (2000)
Last but not least, we have probably the quirkiest console-TV hybrid on the list—the Fuji Divers 2000 Series CX-1—and it just so happens to include one of the quirkiest consoles of all time, the Sega Dreamcast. This snail/iMac shaped TV included a custom black keyboard, DreamEye digital camera, and controller for around $830. It never came to the US, and it's now a very sought-after collectable among Dreamcast aficionados.
We've looked at the history of TV-console hybrids, but where are we today? With modern app-enabled smart TVs, it seems as if almost every TV can be a (generally lackluster) game console as well if you squint hard enough. I prefer a discrete console box, but I'll always be willing to drool over these neat gadget hybrids, even if they always remain impractical.