The Pippin had a short but fascinating history, starting as a way for Apple to expand into the multimedia market and ending as a failed gaming console created by Bandai.
Let’s jump back to the early ’90s, a few years after Steve Jobs was ousted and during a particularly tough phase in Apple’s history. Looking to expand into more households, Apple created an open hardware platform based on the Macintosh operating system. It was described at the time as a “trimmed-down Macintosh” running classic Mac OS and powered by a PowerPC processor. This was not a retail product, but a platform Apple intended to license out to different companies that could make it their own with modifications. It could be used for education, as a home PC, or as a multimedia hub.
Leading toy maker and game developer Bandai stepped up to the plate, evolving Apple’s “Pippin Power Player” prototype into the Pippin Atmark game console in Japan and Pippin @World in the US. Running on a PowerPC 603 32-bit processor with 6MB of RAM , the Pippin Atmark/@World wasn’t the most powerful system, but it did have some innovative features, including an NTSC/PAL switch, a boomerang-shaped controller, games that could be run on a Mac desktop, and support for a full-size keyboard.
The console flopped, and apart from a small license deal with Norweigan company Katz, Apple found no other suitors. There were three main reasons why the Pippin failed: it launched at $600 (more than $1,000 today!), there were few compelling games to play (especially in the US), and Sony, Sega, and Nintendo already had a stranglehold on the market.