3DO Interactive Multiplayer
Panasonic FZ-1 R.E.A.L. 3DO Interactive Multiplayer
|Developer||The 3DO Company|
|Manufacturer||Panasonic, Sanyo and GoldStar (now LG Corp)|
|Type||Home video game console|
|Generation||Fifth generation era|
|Units sold||2 million[unreliable source?]|
|CPU||32-bit 12.5 MHz RISC CPU ARM60 based on ARM architecture|
|Online services||Planned but canceled|
|Best-selling game||Gex, over 1 million|
The 3DO Interactive Multiplayer (often called simply the 3DO) is a home video game console platform developed by The 3DO Company. Conceived by entrepreneur and Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins, the 3DO was not a console manufactured by the company itself, but a series of specifications, originally designed by Dave Needle and R. J. Mical of New Technologies Group, that could be licensed by third parties. Panasonic produced the first models in 1993, and further renditions of the hardware were released in 1994 by Sanyo and GoldStar (now LG Corp).
Despite a highly promoted launch (including being named Time magazine's "1993 Product of the Year") and a host of cutting-edge technologies, the 3DO's high price and an oversaturated console market prevented the system from achieving success comparable to veteran competitors Sega and Nintendo. As a result, the console was discontinued in late 1996, three years after its first release.
- 1 History
- 2 Variants
- 3 Hardware
- 4 Games
- 5 Aborted successor
- 6 Market competition
- 7 Reception
- 8 Emulation
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 External links
The 3DO Interactive Multiplayer was originally conceived by The 3DO Company, founded in 1991 by Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins. The company's objective was to create a next-generation, CD-based video game/entertainment standard which would be manufactured by various partners and licensees; 3DO would collect a royalty on each console sold and on each game manufactured. To game publishers, the low $3 royalty rate per game was a better deal than the higher royalties paid to Nintendo and Sega when making games for their consoles. The 3DO hardware itself was designed by Dave Needle and R.J. Mical, starting from an outline on a restaurant napkin in 1989.
The 3DO Company lacked the resources to manufacture consoles themselves, and instead licensed the hardware to other companies for manufacturing. Trip Hawkins recounted that they approached every electronics manufacturer, but that their chief targets were Sony and Panasonic, the two largest consumer electronics companies in the world. However, Sony had already begun development on their own console, the PlayStation, and ultimately decided to continue work on it rather than sign with 3DO. According to former Sega CEO Tom Kalinske The 3DO Company was engaged in very serious talks for Sega to release 3DO. However, it was passed on by Sega due to concerns over cost. Panasonic launched the 3DO with its FZ-1 model in 1993, though Goldstar and Sanyo would later manufacture the 3DO as well. Companies who obtained the hardware license but never actually sold 3DO units include Samsung, Toshiba, and AT&T, who went so far as to build prototype AT&T 3DO units and display them at the January 1994 Consumer Electronics Show.
Licensing to independent manufacturers made the system extremely expensive. The manufacturers had to make a profit on the hardware itself, whereas most major game console manufacturers, such as Sega and Sony, sold their systems at a loss, with expectations of making up for the loss with software sales. Some sources claim that 3DO was priced at $699, far above competing game systems and aimed at high-end users and early adopters. Hawkins has argued that 3DO was launched at $599, and not "higher myths that are often reported." In a later interview, Hawkins clarified that while the suggested retail price was $699, few retailers sold the system at that price. Goldstar, Sanyo, and Panasonic's later models were less expensive to manufacture than the FZ-1 and were sold for considerably lower prices. For example, the Goldstar model launched at $399. In addition, after six months on the market, the price of the FZ-1 had dropped to $499, leading some to contend that the 3DO's cost was not as big a factor in its market failure as is usually claimed.
The launch of the platform in October 1993 received a great deal of attention in the press as part of the "multimedia wave" in the computer world at the time. Return Fire, Road Rash, FIFA International Soccer, and Jurassic Park Interactive had been slated for launch releases but were pushed to mid-1994 due to the developers' struggles with the then-cutting-edge hardware. Moreover, the 3DO Company made continued updates to the console hardware almost up to the system's release, which resulted in a number of third-party titles missing the launch date, in some cases by less than a month, because the developers weren't left enough time to fully test them on the finalized hardware. The only 3DO software available at launch was the third-party game Crash 'n Burn.
The system was released in Japan in March 1994 with an initial lineup of six games. The Japanese launch was moderately successful, with 70,000 units shipping to 10,000 stores. However, sales soon dropped and by 1995 the system was known in Japan as a host for pornographic releases.
Price drops announced in February 1996 were perceived in the industry to be an effort to improve market penetration before the release of the promised successor to 3DO: the M2. Heavy promotional efforts on the YTV variety show It's Alive and a stream of hinted product expandability supported that idea. To assure consumers that the 3DO would still be supported, the M2 was initially announced as an add-on for the 3DO. It was later revealed that the M2 would be an entirely separate console, albeit one with 3DO backward compatibility. Eventually, however, the M2 project was scrapped altogether.
Unlike Panasonic, Goldstar initially produced only 3DO hardware, not software. This made it difficult to manage competitive price drops, and when the price of the Goldstar 3DO dropped to $199 in December 1995, the company took a loss of more than $100 on each sale. Goldstar tried switching to the usual industry model of selling hardware at a loss and profiting on software, but though a handful of Goldstar games were published for the 3DO, Goldstar's software development operation arrived too late to allow them to turn a profit on the 3DO. This lack of a profitable business model, combined with Panasonic acquiring exclusive rights to the M2 technology, were cited as the two chief reasons for Goldstar dropping support for the 3DO in early 1996.
The 3DO system was eventually discontinued at the end of 1996 with a complete shutdown of all internal hardware development and divestment of the M2 technology. 3DO restructured themselves around this same time, repositioning their internal software development house as a multi-platform company supporting the PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and computer platforms.
The higher quality of later CD-ROM based systems that emerged in the mid-90s, the uneven quality of the games, and the initial high price are all considered to be among the many issues that led to the 3DO's demise.
Due to the licensing method employed by 3DO a number of different manufacturers produced the 3DO system for the market. The Panasonic versions are the best known and most common.
- Panasonic FZ-1 R.E.A.L. 3DO Interactive Multiplayer (Japan, Asia, North America and Europe) — The first 3DO system, which was initially priced at $699.99 in the U.S. and 79,800 yen (approximately 712 US dollars) in Japan. The price was later reduced to $399.99 in the fall of 1994.
- Panasonic FZ-10 R.E.A.L. 3DO Interactive Multiplayer (Japan, North America and Europe) – Released a year or two after the FZ-1. It is a less expensive, slimmer and lighter model and replaced the FZ-1 in Panasonic's portfolio. The FZ-10 featured a top loading CD tray, an internal memory manager and repositioned the LEDs and controller port. The controller is also smaller and lighter than the one included with the FZ-1, but lacks a headphones output.
- Panasonic ROBO 3DO (Japan only) — An FZ-1 custom console, fitted with a five disc CD drive.
- GoldStar 3DO Interactive Multiplayer (South Korea, North America and Europe) — The GoldStar (LG) GDO-101M unit, released a year after the FZ-1, is similar in physical appearance to the Panasonic model.
- GoldStar 3DO Alive II (South Korea) - The Goldstar 3DO Alive II (the original Goldstar model is referred to as the Alive in foreign markets) is the rarest of all of the systems, resembling a very rounded PlayStation.
- Sanyo TRY 3DO Interactive Multiplayer (Japan only) — The 3DO TRY system was only released in Japan in medium quantities before the whole 3DO system disappeared.
- Creative 3DO Blaster — A PC ISA expansion card with a double-speed CD-ROM drive and one controller that enables compatible Windows-based PCs to play 3DO games. Produced by Creative Labs.
The original edition of the console, the FZ-1, was referred to in full as the 3DO REAL Interactive Multiplayer. The console had advanced hardware features at the time: an ARM60 32-bit RISC CPU, two custom video coprocessors, a custom 16-bit DSP and a custom math co-processor. It also featured 2 megabytes (MB) of DRAM, 1 MB of VRAM, and a double speed CD-ROM drive for main CD+Gs or Photo CDs (and Video CDs with an add-on MPEG video module). The 3DO included the first light synthesizer in a game console, converting CD music to a mesmerizing color pattern.
The 3DO is one of few CD-based units that feature neither regional lockout nor copy protection, making it easy to use pirated software. Although there is no regional lockout present in any 3DO machine, a few Japanese games cannot be played on non-Japanese 3DO consoles due to a special kanji font which English language consoles could not read. Games that have compatibility issues include Sword and Sorcery (which was released in English under the title Lucienne's Quest), the adult video game Twinkle Knights and a demo version of Alone in the Dark.
- 32-bit 12.5 MHz RISC CPU (ARM60)
- Custom Math co-processor (It does not use the stock ARM FPA unit.)
- 32 kB SRAM
- Resolution 640×480 (interpolated), 320×240 (actual) 60 Hz for NTSC version, and 768×576 (interpolated), 384×288 (actual) 50 Hz for PAL version with either 16 bit palettized color (from 24 bits) or 24 bit truecolor.
- Two accelerated video co-processors capable of producing 9–16 million pixels per second (36–64 megapix/s interpolated), distorted, scaled, rotated and texture mapped.
- 50 MB/s bus speed (synchronous 32-bit @12.5 MHz bus)
- 36 DMA channels
- 2 MB of main RAM
- 1 MB of VRAM
- 2 expansion ports
- 16-bit stereo sound
- 44.1 kHz sound sampling rate
- Supports Dolby Surround sound
- Custom 20-bit Digital signal processor (DSP) – 20 bit accumulator with 16-bit parameter registers for extended precision
- Double-speed (depending on manufacturer) 300 kB/s data transfer CD-ROM drive with 32 kB RAM buffer
- Multitasking 32-bit operating system
Audio & Video
- RF Switch An RF connector can be used with older TVs that lack direct video inputs. The 3DO output is compatible with most existing video console switches, including those made for the NES/SNES, Sega Master System/Genesis, & NEC Turbo Grafix RF. This provides a relatively low quality but universally compatible video signal.
- Composite RCA The 3DO features standard composite video and audio ports (yellow/red/white RCA connectors) that are compatible with off the shelf cables also used on DVD players and certain other video devices and games consoles, as well as older computer video monitors.
- S-Video Except for the Goldstar GDO-101M model, the 3DO also offers an S-Video connector for enhanced picture quality on more advanced televisions.
All 3DO consoles have integrated power supplies. Some models (Panasonic 3DO FZ-1, Sanyo TRY 3DO, and Goldstar 3DO) have hardwired power cords, others (Panasonic 3DO FZ-10) use an IEC C7P "figure 8" power cord. All North American model specifications are AC 120V 60 Hz 30W.
Most 3DO systems shipped with a standard controller, as well as A/V and power cables. The 3DO controllers were unique in that the system base unit contained only one controller port and the controllers could be physically daisy chained together via a port on the back of each controller. Up to eight controllers could be linked together in this fashion. All controllers for each 3DO console are compatible with one another.
In addition, standard 3DO controllers released with the Panasonic FZ-1 also contained a headphone jack and volume control for silent play. The GoldStar (LG) model also included a controller with this feature.
Third party controllers were produced by a number of companies including Logitech. World International Trading Corporation also released an adapter that allows Super NES controllers to be used with the 3DO.
The only light gun ever released for the 3DO was the Gamegun, a product of third-party developer American Laser Games. Despite this, no fewer than 10 games with light gun support were produced for the system. Most of these were arcade ports from American Laser Games (including the infamous Mad Dog McCree), but Virgin Interactive and Digital Pictures also released 3DO light gun games.
The 3DO Gamegun uses the same design as the Gamegun released for the Sega CD: an orange "Old West" revolver. Select Gameguns house a controller port so that another Gamegun may be daisy-chained for two-player gaming, which is supported in most of American Laser Games's 3DO titles.
Though no light gun was released for the 3DO in Japan, the Japanese localizations of Demolition Man and Corpse Killer retain light gun support, and could be played by Japanese gamers using imported Gameguns.
Panasonic and Logitech both released the 3DO mouse. The Panasonic FZ-JM1 and Logitech 3DO mouse are identical aside from their markings. Fewer than 20 games supported its use, some of which were optimized for the standard controller or light gun rather than the mouse. Of the 3DO games which were optimized for use with the mouse, the best known are Myst and Lemmings. The Panasonic mouse was also bundled with Konami's Policenauts Limited Edition in Japan which came with a Policenauts mouse pad.
Home Arcade Systems released a steering wheel for the 3DO which is supported by several racing titles, including The Need for Speed.
FZ-EM256 3DO Memory Expansion Unit
The Panasonic FZ-EM256 is a 256 KB Expandable Memory Unit that plugs into the 3DO Expansion bay on the back of the console. Released in 1994 and sold in Japan only, but is compatible with all models. It came with a Storage Manager start-up disc that is required to use the unit.
FZ-AK1 3DO Karaoke Mixer
The Panasonic 3DO Karaoke Mixer allows 3DO owners to play a standard music CD, turn the vocals down, plug in one or two microphones and sing over the music. This unit was not released in all markets.
Some of the best-received titles were ports of arcade or PC games that other cartridge-based systems of the time were not capable of playing, such as Alone in the Dark, Myst and Star Control II. Other popular titles included Total Eclipse, Jurassic Park Interactive, Gex, Crash 'n Burn, Slayer, Killing Time, The Need for Speed, Road Rash, and Immercenary. The 3DO version of arcade title Samurai Shodown was the only port with faithful graphics for some time, and the 3DO Super Street Fighter II Turbo was the first and arguably the best port with its CD-quality audio.
Since its release coincided with the arrival of the modern first-person shooter, the 3DO also had some of the earliest members of the genre as exclusives, such as Escape from Monster Manor, the previously mentioned Killing Time, and PO'ed, as well as ports of Wolfenstein 3D and Doom.
However, the 3DO library also exhibited less successful aspects of home gaming at the time. It was launched at the dawn of CD-ROM gaming, and early titles on 3DO (and Mega-CD alike) frequently attempted to use interactive movie-style gameplay. Such titles rendered all or nearly all of their graphics in full motion video, which necessitated that any interactive influence from the player be limited to a greater extent than other games of the time. Some games followed a single unfolding of events simply by correctly timed prompts executed by the player. Night Trap, Mad Dog McCree, and The Daedalus Encounter are some of the more notorious titles from this era. Also, digital video was of very low quality at the time, especially on low-cost consumer devices.
The 3DO Company designed a next-generation console that was never released due to various business and technological issues. The M2 project, which began as an accelerator add-on for the 3DO, was to use dual PowerPC 602 processors in addition to newer 3D and video rendering technologies. Late during development, the company abandoned the console hardware business and sold the M2 technology to Matsushita. While Matsushita initially claimed to be planning a game console with the technology, it was shortly thereafter re-branded for the kiosk market competing with the CD-i system.
Video game (primary market at launch)
- Commodore Amiga 1200
- Commodore Amiga CD32
- NEC TurboGrafx-16 with Super CD-ROM expansion
- Nintendo SNES
- Sega Genesis with Sega CD expansion
- Atari Jaguar
Video game (primary market at end-of-life)
High-end A/V (secondary market) (multi-purpose audio/video systems)
Reviewing the 3DO just prior to its launch, GamePro gave it a "thumbs sideways". They commented that "The 3DO is the first CD-ROM system to make a real jump forward in graphics, sound, and game design." However, they questioned whether it would soon be rendered obsolete by the upcoming Jaguar CD and "Project Reality" (i.e. the Nintendo 64)[note 1] and felt there were not yet enough games to justify a purchase, recommending that gamers wait several months to see if the system would get a worthwhile library of games. The 3DO was awarded Worst Console Launch of 1993 by Electronic Gaming Monthly. In a special Game Machine Cross Review in May 1995, Famicom Tsūshin would score the 3DO Real console a 26 out of 40.
Citing a lack of decent exclusives and an "astronomical asking price", in 2009 video game website IGN chose the 3DO as its 22nd greatest video game console of all time, slightly higher than the Atari Jaguar but lower than its four other major competitors: the SNES (4th best), the Sega Genesis (5th), the PlayStation (7th), and the Sega Saturn (18th). On Yahoo! Games the 3DO was placed among the top five worst console launches due to its one-game launch lineup and high launch price. Gaming retrospectives have also frequently accused the 3DO of having an abundance of poor quality interactive movies.
Trip Hawkins' business model for selling 3DO was widely derided by industry figures.
- Though the Jaguar CD and Nintendo 64 would not be released until 1995 and 1996 respectively, at the time the gaming media thought they would both be released in mid-1994.
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