An ultra-rare Phantom console prototype is heading to auction

Retro gaming bidding now encompasses items that never even worked in the first place.

Heritage Auctions

Vintage video game auctions have become extremely hot events over the past year — so much so that many in the industry are growing increasingly suspicious of the market — and the latest offering does little to assuage that skepticism. Up next on the absurdly pricey bidding block? An extremely rare prototype of a failed, relatively obscure console system from the mid-2000s. Allow us to reintroduce you all to the Phantom:

Phantom? Never heard of ‘em — This, perplexed readers, is one of only two known existing Phantom units, a console teased for years by the now-defunct Infinium Entertainment. First revealed in 2002, the Phantom promised a bit more than it could actually deliver at the time (something that never happens in the gaming industry, obviously). Instead of the era’s standard game cartridges and discs, Infinium touted the Phantom’s reliance on actually downloading games onto its onboard memory via high-speed internet connections, something that was pretty revolutionary at the time, and which of course is now totally standard.

Of course, realizing the tech in 2002 was much easier advertised than actually done, and after years of delays and false starts, the Phantom just... well, lived up to its name, we guess. Those interested in owning a piece of vaporware history can place their bids now, however, if that’s the sort of thing they’re into popping on the mantlepiece.

Retro games that still work are available — Of course, you could also opt to buy retro gaming options that, y’know, actually work just fine. Take, for instance, this mini port of the classic Commodore Amiga 500, or these many handheld retro gaming emulators. There are even multiplayer online options getting a lot of attention these days, so you don’t even necessarily need expensive hardware to get your fix.

We’re sure there are people out there who’d love to get their hands on this assuredly inoperable Phantom console... they just aren’t us, we’re sorry to say.