Special Report

50 Worst Product Flops of All Time

Source: Tim.Reckmann / Wikimedia Commons

1. Google Glass
> Company: Google
> Year introduced: 2013
> What it was: Wearable technology

Google first announced Google Glass — an eyeglasses shaped head-mounted display with smartphone capabilities — to the public in 2012. The announcement began with a statement of principle: “We think technology should work for you — to be there when you need it and get out of your way when you don’t.” After two years of disappointing sales, it was clear consumers did not need Google Glass. Google stuck to its principle, and in 2015 discontinued the product’s development. Privacy concerns, reported bugs, low battery life, bans from public spaces, and an inability to live up to the hype all stymied public adoption of the technology.

Source: Rama and Musee Bolo / Wikimedia Commons

2. The Newton
> Company: Apple
> Year introduced: 1993
> What it was: Personal digital assistant

While the personal digital assistant would become a popular consumer electronics product in the late 1990s, the first PDA was one of the biggest product flops of all time. One year after Apple CEO John Sculley coined the term “PDA” in 1992, the company released the Newton MessagePad. While the device incorporated innovative technology such as a pen-based touch screen and the ability to sync with software on a personal computer, Apple sold only 50,000 units of the product in its first four months on the market. The Newton product line was discontinued in 1998.

Source: Atari Inc. / Wikimedia Commons

3. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
> Company: Atari
> Year introduced: 1982
> What it was: Video game

Several video games have failed over the years, but arguably none as spectacularly as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. The video game was developed shortly after the release of Steven Spielberg’s classic film. With only five weeks spent in development — games typically take months, if not years, to program — the game was notoriously difficult and sold miserably. Atari spent $21 million to purchase the rights to the franchise and $5 million on promotion of the game. The company made 4 million copies of the game, but sold only 1.5 million. Atari buried the leftover copies in a landfill.

Source: Mike Mozart / Flickr

4. Satisfries
> Company: Burger King
> Year introduced: 2013
> What it was: French fries

In 2013, Burger King introduced a new menu item advertised as a healthy alternative to their traditional french fries. Satisfries used a less porous batter, which caused the fry to absorb less oil than regular fries during cooking. While Satisfries were made with a healthier recipe, Burger King failed to convey the difference to customers. The fries were also more expensive than Burger King’s regular french fries, and failed to gain traction with consumers. The company discontinued the fries in 2014, less than a year after they were introduced.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

5. Premier smokeless cigarettes
> Company: RJ Reynolds
> Year introduced: 1988
> What it was: Cigarette

R.J. Reynolds, the second largest U.S. tobacco company, began marketing in 1988 a smokeless tobacco product that was intended to be a safer way to use a cigarette. In addition to concerns over the product’s actual safety, smokers missed the familiar elements of traditional cigarettes — the smoke, the burn, and the flick. Another issue was the widely-reported unpleasant chemical taste, which one user described as resembling “burning plastic.” Reynolds sunk close to $1 billion into the product before pulling it off the market within a year.

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