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The Panasonic FZ-1 R.E.A.L. model of the 3DO, possibly the most recognizable version.

Welcome to the REAL world.
What are you playing with?
Slogans for the machine itself
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The 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, also known as just the 3DO, was a 32-bit console released by the now-defunct 3DO Company in 1993. The console was an attempt to create a standardized video game console format. The 3DO Company was founded by Trip Hawkins, the founder of Electronic Arts, which he left to form 3DO.

The system was unique in that it wasn't manufactured by the parent company. Instead, The 3DO Company licensed the blueprints of the console to various manufacturers, which provided their own versions, similar to the then-popular VHS standard for home video. While this may have been seen as an innovative business model at the time, it heavily contributed to the console's high price since it not only added an extra middleman that increased the cost, but also meant that the system couldn't rely on the razor and blades business model that most console manufacturers utilize. Panasonic was the first licensee, with Goldstar (LG) and Sanyo providing their own versions later — the latter only releasing in Japan — and Creative Labs releasing a 3DO add-on for your PC which has the actual 3DO hardware on it and only required a CD-ROM Drive and a Sound Blaster 16 or equivalent card, not relying on the PC's processor and graphics card at all.

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As history has not been entirely kind to the 3DO, it's easy to overlook how it was legitimately primed to take the world by storm. The console was fairly beefy for its time period, heavily outstripping both the SNES and Sega Genesis at the height of their console war. It also received a lot of media coverage and pledged support from third-party developers thanks to light licensing costs. People were ready and willing to accept a new competitor into the video game industry. However, it never took off. You thought that the PlayStation 3's $599 US dollars in 2006 was ridiculous? The 3DO launched with a price of $699 in 1993 — that's equivalent to $976 in 2006 and over $1,200 in 2020 when adjusted for inflation. Though some stores sold the system for a bit under MSRP and later models ended up as cheap as $199, its launch price is still one of the most expensive of all time for consoles. The system also had a very anemic lineup of games in its infancy, launching with a single title and not receiving any notable games for several months afterward.

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While the launch wasn't great and the system ultimately failed, the overall third-party support was still solid. As the 3DO Company was expecting their profits to come from console sales, their licensing fee was an extremely paltry $3 per game sold. Crystal Dynamics, 3DO themselves, and Electronic Arts released some well-regarded titles for the console, and it even saw the debut of the Gex series. However, this didn't save it from the hype for the superior Sega Saturn and PlayStation systems just around the corner, nor did it solve the issues the manufacturing partners faced in profiting of their licenses. The 3DO format died a quick death after a much-hyped 64-bit add-on called the "M2" ended up being unceremoniously cancelled by Panasonic.

The 3DO Company tried to rebrand itself as a third-party developer (much like the Sega of today) after their console failed, but a lack of quality control due to a failed game development strategy led to them going bankrupt in 2003.

Videos of various games with commentary by former 3DO Company employees ewhac and gammadev can be found here.


Specifications:

Processors

  • CPU: 32-bit ARM60, 12.5 Mhz, with math coprocessor.
  • GPU: Two custom video coprocessors.
  • Sound: Custom DSP.

Memory

  • 2MB main memory.
  • 1MB video memory.
  • 32K battery-backed saved game memory.

Display

  • 640*480 resolution.
  • 24-bit color.
  • Optional S-video support.

Sound

  • 16-bit stereo or surround sound.

Accessories

  • While all models of the 3DO were designed with only one controller port, the controllers are designed to work around this by having second controller ports built into each one, allowing up to eight controllers to be daisy-chained together.
  • Panasonic FZ-1 3DO controllers also came with a built in headphone jack and volume control.
  • The standard game pad has three action buttons (ABC), two shoulder buttons (L and R) and two menu buttons (X and P). A six button controller (the REAL Pad Soldier) was also made for Super Street Fighter II Turbo, but it didn't actually add any new buttons - instead, it simply had the LXR buttons arranged atop the ABC buttons in order to mimic the standard Street Fighter button setup.
  • One Light Gun was released for the console, the Game Gun, which worked with 10 games. Certain models of it also allowed to two player support by daisy chaining the guns together.
  • The 3DO mouse, co-released by Panasonic and Logitech. Fewer than 20 games support its use.
  • Home Arcade Systems steering wheel, designed for several racing games on the console, including The Need for Speed.
  • Memory Expansion Unit: A Japan-only upgrade that plugs into the Expansion Bay in the consoles back. It also came with a Storage Manager start-up disc that is needed to use it.
  • Panasonic 3DO Karaoke Mixer: A peripheral that allows 3DO owners to play a standard music CD, turn the vocals down, plug in one or two microphones and sing over the music.

Games:

Exclusive titles:

Multi-Platform games that started on the 3DO:

Ports


Tropes:

  • Awesome, but Impractical: The 3DO Blaster by Creative Labs is a thorough encapsulation of this. The concept is definitely worth a look on its premise alone, being that it's an entire game console contained on a computer expansion card that even allowed for a resizable window on your desktop of the game back when this was unheard of. Unfortunately, a concept this nifty came at a huge cost — the card retailed for $400, only worked with a specific set of CD-ROM drive models which locked anyone without them out of the card or be forced to pay another $100, and this was on top of the already high cost of a computer to begin with so most users weren't about to fork out another big sum of money for either the console or card note .
  • Meaningful Name: It was the first game console built around polygons, the next step for the progress of interactive media. So we have audio, video, and three-dee-o.
  • Product Facelift: Because the 3DO was conceived as a standard for a console, 3DO licensed out the software for other companies to produce rather than producing the hardware themselves. The original 3DO models were made by Panasonic, but the following year newer models were released by Sanyo and Goldstar, as well as an add-on by Creative Labs that added 3DO compatibility to a PC.
  • Take That!: One ad for the console took snipes at the SNES and Sega Genesis, dismissing them as baby toys compared to it.
    If you're not playing on a 3DO System... what are you playing with?
    It's time to put away your toys.

Alternative Title(s): Three DO

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