The history of the GameWave started in 2003, when Richard Fast, a Toronto toy inventor had the idea of launching a new video game console. Partnering with a few Toronto businessman, Richard launched ZapIt Games, a company dedicated to create, manufactured and distributed a new video game console. Richard had no prior video game experience, but, in this mind, that was not a problem as he wasn’t trying to create a console to compete against the PlayStation 2, the Xbox or the GameCube. Instead of targeting hardcore games, he wanted to launch a system that would target families and casual gamer. The initial goal was to create a multimedia system that could be both DVDs and video games for around $50CAD.
As the companies had no prior experience in videogames, ZapIt had to reach out to partner with many international companies such as National Semiconductor, Panasonic, Marcovision and Altera to create the Game Wave Family Entertainment System. For the console design, ZapIt turned to Nytric Limited, an Ontario-based R&D companies that had a pristine reputation.
By October 2004, Nytric Limited already had delivered their first prototype. ZapIt started to develop games, but with no prior experience, development was going slow. It is at this time that ZapIt finally realized that they needed experienced staff and finally onboarded a few key players with past experience in the video game industry such as Justin Kwok. As the main objective was to create an adorable system, Nytric Limited settled on the Mediamatic 6811 processor as the core of the Game Wave. While the Mediamatic 6811 was a excellent processor for video playback, it lacked power and features needed to develop video games that could compete against the current generation of hardware. Although, it had never been the goal to compete with PlayStation 2 for example, the lack of power was very limiting for game development. By the time this became an issue, the hardware development was already completed and it was too late to go back. The developer had to make the best of what they had.
In October 2005, the Game Wave was finally released in Toys’R’Us Canada and the Mastermind Toy store, another Canadian toy chain. Some units were even available for rental at selected Canadian Blockbuster. Jeff Hurst, Vice President Sales and Marketing, managed to sing a deal for the U.S. distribution with Toys’R’Us U.S.A and QVC, and American free-to-air television network specializing in televised home shopping. Released as a price tag of $100CAD, a price doubled their intended target, the Game Wave was still a very cheap multimedia center. With the capacity to play both DVD and games, the console was set to become a bestseller.
But with almost no marketing done for the console, the Game Wave failed to become the blockbuster ZapIt was hoping for. In 2006, Hari Venkatacharya, a well-respected business man from Toronto who was acting as a consultant for Nytric Limited, convinced ZapIt Games that, with his contact, he could manage to make the console successful. He then became CEO of ZapIt games and started to look at the different option to make the Game Wave a success. The goal was to find new avenues to sell the console. The first idea was to repurpose the console to restaurants and bar so that customers could use it to order their food and play games while they were waiting. Although and interesting avenues, this required a bit of re-engineering. ZapIt finally settled on selling the console as a Christian video game console. The bible belt in the U.S. was an untapped market as many Christians were against video games as they feel it promotes violence. As all ZapIt titles were non-violent, this seems to be a perfect fit. The game was then repackaged to include 4 Degrees: The Arc of Trivia, Vol 1. The company decided to create a new game called 4 Degrees: The Arc of Trivia, Bible Edition to entice this community into buying the Game Wave. ZapIt also signed a deal with Veggie Tales, a popular American Christian franchise of children’s computer-animated series, to create a game on the Game Wave. The future was bright once again.
Sadly, the GameWave didn’t catch on in the Christian community and ZapIt was once again in trouble. The Veggie Tales game took a year to complete and during that time, ZapIt was unable to market the Game Wave to the Christian properly. In December 2007, Veggie Tales: Veg-Out! Family Tournament was finally out. Veggie Tales started advertising the Game Wave on their site and even selling it. ZapIt was really hoping that the Veggie Tales franchise would spur the sales of the Game Wave. To this end, they even changed the pack-in title to Veggie Tales. Sadly, even with this mastodon of the Christian children cartoon, the Game Wave didn’t generate enough interest in the Christian community to be financially viable.
In a last ditch effort, ZapIt did a soft relaunch of the console to the general public, but it was too little too late. Even at the reduced price of $79.99 CAD, the Game Wave was just not selling enough. By 2009. the company had invested 25 million in the Game Wave project and was out of cash. They tried briefly their chance in mobile gaming before having to declare bankruptcy. A few years later, Hari Venkatacharya was accused of $3 million frauds against multiple companies.
Only 13 games were released for the console. All titles were sold $24.99 except Veggie Tales: Veg-Out! Family Tournament which retails for $26.99.
Additional Information: Game Wave: Canada’s Game Console | The Art of Failure