The digiBLAST is a Dutch handheld that was released in 2005. The device was initially developed by the Grey Innovation a commercialisation technology company based in Australia.
For the European release, Grey Innovation partnered with Nikko, a Dutch company located in the city of Breda that primarily manufactures radio-control toy cars. The digiBLAST finally launched in November 2005 simultaneously in the Netherlands, France, Italy, Turkey, Spain and Luxembourg, just in time for the holiday. Grey Innovation and Nikko were confident that the handheld would sell around 200,000 units around Christmas.
The handheld had no operating system of its own, but a Linux based operating system was stored, together with games or tv-shows, on cartridges. The digiblast had a price tag of just 79.95 euros and was thereby relatively cheap compared to other handhelds like the Game Boy Advance. Besides that, it had in theory enough features to distinct itself from its competitors. Especially for a younger audience. The console had an interesting game line-up at launch, such as Atari Classics, Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc, Spider-Man: Mysterious’s Menace, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 and X2: Wolverine’s Revenge. The console that was marketed as a portable media player also could play episodes from various kid shows such as Sonic X, SpongeBob SquarePants, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc. The episodes came on a game cartridge. Each cartridge cost €9.95 and contained 3 episodes for a total playtime of 75 minutes. The game cartridges were priced at €14.95 which was again pretty cheap in comparison to software from its competitors.
The console also could be connected to a television through an additional TV-out cable. Another accessory called the MP3 Player could also be purchased at the price of €29.95. The MP3 Player was a special cartridge that would allow transferring up to 256 Mb of music from a computer. The company had also planned to release a digital camera attachment, but never had the chance to go forward with the idea.
The handheld was advertised as followed: ‘Once every few years, technological progress is responsible for a total turnaround in the toy industry. Now, it’s digiBLAST’s turn. A personal and mobile multimedia platform for children. In hand size and entirely in Dutch. This puts the mobile technology of the adult world attainable kids. All in one device; safe, sturdy and impact-resistant.’
In practice, none of these claims were true. The digiBLAST had a slow processor that probably came close to the Game Boy Advance, but certainly could not compete with the just released Nintendo DS. In addition, the sound quality of the speakers was particularly mediocre and clock in game sound tinkered and with little depth. But the biggest flaw was the LCD screen. This was of abominable quality, so that even in low light the images had little contrast and looked dull. The build quality was also bad. The device was built entirely of cheap plastic, and its poor thought-out ergonomics made it practically impossible to sustain long play sessions.
Although a heavy marketing campaign, praising the multimedia capacity of the device, the digiBLAST was unable to create any buzz around its release. The digiblast made the same mistake as Philips with their CD-i by not wanting to sell the digiblast as a pure game console, but as a personal media centre. An unattractive fact for the young audience that the digiblast aimed at. The final nail in the coffin was a shortage of chips around the time of the release, making the console and the games hard to obtain.
Following the failed Christmas launch, digiBLAST stayed in selected stores and was relaunched for Christmas 2006, but failed again to generate any interest. The digiblast became a sales fiasco and in 2008 Nikko pulled the plug on the product. Nevertheless, several Dutch developers, such as Engine Software, continued to develop games for the digiblast.
Many parents that bought the digiblast for their spouse complained that there were almost no games and accessories available in stores. The console ultimately sold only 100,000 units over its lifespan.
|Nikko Entertainment B.V.