A flop or product failure is a product that doesn't reach expectations of success, failing to come even close. A major flop goes one step further and is recognized for its almost complete lack of success.

However, most of the items listed below are ones that had high expectations, large amounts of money or widespread publicity, but fell far short of success. Obviously, due to the subjective nature of "success" and "meeting expectations", there can be disagreement about what constitutes a "major flop".

Two examples: David McReynolds ran for President of the United States in 1980 and 2000 on the socialist ticket, but came nowhere near winning. However, he would never characterize his campaign as a flop because he ran for president in order to get his causes recognized, without any hope of being elected. But the creation of New Coke is generally regarded indisputably a "major flop".

Table of contents
1 Entertainment
2 Commercial Flops
3 Flops in science and engineering
4 Political flops
5 See also


Musical comebacks gone horribly awry

Flops in sports

Flops in television

Turkeys (Flops in theatre)

  • 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (1976) Lyrics by Alan J. Lerner, of "My Fair Lady" and "Brigadoon" fame; music by Leonard Bernstein, with important Broadway successes such as "On the Town," "Candide," and, most notably "West Side Story" to his credit. Closed after only seven performances. There was no cast recording made. An attempt was made to revive it in London in 1997. A reviewer commented "As exhumations go, this one had its bright moments."

Flops in film

A movie is most likely a flop if it doesn't perform as expected. A major movie flop might barely (or not even) make back the money it took to finance it. In extreme cases it might put the studio out of business.

A separate discussion of movie flops provides examples and rationales.

Commercial Flops

Aviation Flops

These are aircraft which were technically sound, but failed in the marketplace. For aircraft which failed to work at all see 'Flops in science and engineering'.

Automotive Flops

Computing Flops

  • The IBM 7030, also known as Stretch, was IBM's first attempt at building a supercomputer. Its actual performance was less than one third of its original specification. This resulted in IBM drastically dropping the price and losing money on every machine sold.
  • The ILLIAC IV array processor supercomputer.
  • Microsoft Windows 1.0 was a huge flop because its sales were low, it was very slow, needed a lot of memory for the time, and practically no software was ever written for it.
  • Microsoft Bob.
  • Apple has had flops, notably the Apple III, Apple Lisa, and arguably the Apple Newton.
  • IBM had the IBM PS/2 and the IBM PCjr.
  • IBM's 4" diameter floppy disk drive, introduced at about the same time as Seagate's 3" floppy, Hitachi's 3.25" floppy, and Sony's 3.5" floppy. (All but Sony's flopped).
  • The Commodore Amiga was a flop in the United States (but was successful in Europe).
  • Amiga CDTV - This early multimedia computer was overpriced and suffered from using the obsolete AmigaOS 1.3, when version 2.0 was already available.
  • Data Play CD replacement disk technology. Cited by Jim Louderbeck as one of the "eight biggest tech flops ever".
  • Go (pen computing corporation), cited by Jim Louderbeck as one of the "eight biggest tech flops ever".
  • Intel expected the Itanium processor (referred to by detractors as "the Itanic") to revolutionize the microprocessor industry, but after 7 years of development and billions of dollars spent the first Itanium chip proved an utter technical and commercial failure. However the project still goes on, and Itanium 2 is an improvement.
  • Iomega Clik! drive. Cited by Jim Louderbeck as one of the "eight biggest tech flops ever".
  • Magic Cap, PDA... or something. Cited by Jim Louderbeck as one of the "eight biggest tech flops ever".
  • In the 1980s, Commodore International became the first company to sell a million home computers. Hoping to repeat the success of its multimillion-selling VIC-20 and C-64 computers, it released the Commodore Plus/4 in 1984. It flopped. Commodore tried--and mostly failed--for 10 years to duplicate the C-64's success and went bankrupt in 1994.
  • The INMOS Transputer, a brave attempt at a different way of computing - but now largely forgotten.
  • WebTV. Internet delivery via television set and set-top box. Cited by Jim Louderbeck as one of the "eight biggest tech flops ever".
  • The Sinclair QL an unsuccessful attempt by Sinclair Research to make a 16 bit computer in the mid 1980s

Video Game Flops

Miscellaneous commercial flops

  • The 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee
  • The Betamax VCR system - after some initial sucess it was soundly beaten in the marketplace by VHS. Betamax failed in part because it was not an open standard.
  • The Digital Compact Cassette - a format introduced by Philips, which lost out to Minidisc and CD-R
  • DIVX, a take-off on DVD that required users to pay per viewing. Retail electronics giant and DIVX backer Circuit City lost about $200m over the fiasco.
  • eBook devices. Between 1999 and 2002, a number of companies, notably Gemstar, jockeyed for control of this supposedly vast, lucrative market, believing that consumers would pay hardcover prices for a severely limited number of book titles in DRM-encrypted formats that tied each electronic copy to a unique serialized hardware device. In 2002 the "eBooks are dead" meme became widespread. In 2003, Gemstar pulled the plug on its servers and Barnes and Noble and Amazon ceased offering eBook content of any kind.
  • The Elcaset audio format - an attempt at a higher-quality replacement for the compact cassette by Sony.
  • Lymeswold cheese (UK)
  • The Millennium Dome - a commercial and public relations disaster, it now lies empty in Greenwich, England.
  • New Coke. The Coca-Cola company changed the formula and taste of its flagship product, a universally successful drink whose name was almost synonymous with soft drinks. It was a marketing and public relations debacle, and the company had to backtrack and return to the older formula. However, when they went back to the original formula, demand for the classic taste grew to a greater extent than before New Coke, propelling Coca-Cola to a market lead over rival Pepsi - making the situation an unintentional success for Coca-Cola.
  • The Tanganyika groundnut scheme, a plan by Clement Attlee's British government, financed by British tax-payers, to cultivate tracts of what is now Tanzania with peanuts.

Flops in science and engineering

A scientific flop may be something that took years of man-hours and a lot of money to complete (or perhaps never completed) and ended in failure.

  • The Brewster Buffalo - this World War II fighter aircraft turned out to be no match for Axis fighters
  • The Bristol Brabazon airliner - overweight, underpowered and prone to metal fatigue
  • The Chauchat light machine gun - the French weapon of WWI was notorious for its unreliability, prone to jamming and lack of precision manufacturing.
  • Cold fusion - after much hype, claims of success proved false. (Research into cold fusion continues.)
  • The Europa rocket failed five times, without a single successful launch
  • The German Maus tank was so heavy (188 tons) that it was unusable
  • Project Mohole was a 1950s proposal to drill through Earth's crust and sample the material below, but it was never implemented because in the mid-1960s the planners realized it was impossible.
  • The British SA80 rifle was notoriously unreliable.
  • Most reusable space vehicles: Shuttle Buran, HOTOL, various NASA space planes, arguably the Space Shuttle.
  • The Spruce Goose flying boat, Howard Hughes' white elephant.
  • The Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed due to resonance in a gale force wind.
  • Project Vanguard (1958), the first attempt by the United States to put a satellite into orbit. The project managers insisted on using a new, civilian-designed, purpose-built rocket. There were repeated embarrassing crashes. After Sputnik, it was quickly decided to use proven military missile designs as the base for future space attempts.

Political flops

USA Presidential campaigns

French elections

  • Lionel Jospin's 2002 presidential campaign was such a flop he retired from politics.
  • The unnecessary dissolution of a favourable parliament (Assemblée nationale) in 1997 by President Jacques Chirac should have presaged an easy win for his partisans. They lost, yielding power to the opposition.

Canadian elections

  • Kim Campbell led the governing Conservatives in the 1993 election campaign and succeeded in winning only two seats in the legislature.

UK elections

See also