Special Report

50 Worst Product Flops of All Time

Source: Courtesy of Smith & Wesson

41. S&W Mountain Bikes
> Company: Smith & Wesson
> Year introduced: 2002
> What it was: Mountain bike

Gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson has been making police bicycles for about 20 years. The company also attempted to sell mountain bikes to the general public in 2002. Like many other products on this list, the company’s consumer bike segment likely failed because bicycles were too far beyond the scope of the Smith & Wesson brand and what most Americans associate with it.

Source: Creative Commons / Wikimedia Commons

42. Lisa
> Company: Apple
> Year introduced: 1983
> What it was: Personal computer

Before Apple hit its stride in the 2000s and became the most profitable corporation in history, the company was responsible for some of the worst product flops of all time. Designed as a high-end personal computer with a graphical user interface for business customers, the Apple Lisa took three years and $50 million to develop before its release in 1983. However, the computer’s $9,995 price tag, which is equivalent to roughly $25,000 today, was too high for many consumers. After selling just 100,000 units in two years Apple discontinued the Lisa in 1985.

Source: Bettenburg / Wikimedia Commons

43. Betamax
> Company: Sony
> Year introduced: 1975
> What it was: Video cassette format

In the early 1970s, videotapes were still a novel technology, and the VHS tape had yet to become the standard video cassette format. Sony introduced the Betamax format in 1975, one year before JVC introduced the VHS tape. While Betamax tapes had superior resolution and sound quality, Sony refrained from licensing its technology to other manufacturers, in turn limiting the variety of movies available on the format. Meanwhile, JVC licensed its VHS technology to any interested manufacturer. The Betamax’s share of the VCR market fell from 100% in 1975 to 10% in 1988, and continued to dwindle in the following years.

Source: Courtesy of Microsoft Studios

44. Too Human
> Company: Silicon Knights
> Year introduced: 2008
> What it was: Video game

Released in 2008 after years of costly development delays, “Too Human” failed to live up to expectation and became one of the worst flops in video game history. A legal ruling eventually removed the game from the marketplace and pushed Silicon Knights, the game’s developer, into bankruptcy. The game’s production budget skyrocketed to an estimated $100 million after the game engine developer, Epic Games, failed to deliver the engine on time, forcing Silicon Knights to build it own game engine. When Silicon Knights sued Epic Games for missing the deadline, the latter counter-sued, which resulted in a court order forcing the developer to destroy all unsold copies of the game.

Source: Courtesy of ESPN

45. Mobile ESPN
> Company: ESPN
> Year introduced: 2006
> What it was: Mobile phone service

In 2006, ESPN attempted to capitalize on the desire of sports fan to have access to sports stats, scores, and video on the go. Mobile ESPN required users to buy a specific phone, which would include access to ESPN content as part of the subscription. However, the only phone Mobile ESPN offered, a Sanyo, cost $400, and the service was $40 per month, too rich for many sports fans. The service shut down within a year. Disney, ESPN’s parent company, spent $150 million on the failed venture.

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