Enter the 3DO

The Panasonic FZ-1 R.E.A.L. Multiplayer

Way back in the early 1990s, the Sega Megadrive (or Genesis for my North American readers) and SNES were the kings. They brought unprecedented power into the homes of gamers, unless you were rich enough to own a Neo Geo. But there were rumours of a new kid on the block. Headed up by EA founder Trip Hawkins, the 3DO Company were going to unleash and all powerful 32-bit console that would blow the current 16-bit offerings away. And I wanted one.

Starblade 3DO art

The 3DO ethos was to do things differently to the established “norms” of the industry. They wouldn’t manufacture their own hardware. Instead they would license it out to dedicated consumer electronic companies, such as Panasonic. They also wouldn’t charge a license fee to publish software for the format. Now, these seem like good ideas, and on paper they are. However, they did contribute to the fairly rapid demise of the platform.

The Problems

You see, by having 3rd parties produce the hardware under their own banners, the systems couldn’t be sold as “loss leaders”. This mean’t that the first machines on the market from Panasonic retailed at roughly £700/$700! This put them far beyond the reaches of the mass market enjoyed by Sega and Nintendo, who by this point were selling their systems for around £100-£150. And with no license fees for software, there was no way to subsidise the manufacturers by 3DO either. The lack of a license also allowed for some seriously shoddy software to get into the market.

The Support

John Madden 3DO

Yet, the 3DO persisted for a good couple of years. And there was some truly great software for it. Being founded by Trip Hawkins mean’t that EA were onboard from day 1. As a result, the 3DO was home to some fine software, such as the 3DO version of John Maddens Football, and the first truly 3D FIFA. Add in a wonderful 32-bit update of Road Rash, and the first entry in the long running Need For Speed series, and you can see that EA took the platform seriously. Then there was Crystal Dynamics, who supported the system pretty much exclusively, wit titles such as Gex, and Crash and Burn.

Wing Commander 3

Interplay were another strong supporter of the system, as were Origin who produced a stunning version of Wing Commander III. Alas, even with this support, and some serious price cuts by Panasonic and the other hardware licensees, they system ultimately failed. Despite this, a strong core of fans have continued to use the system right up to the present day. And in November 2018, I finally managed to get myself a 3DO! Over 20 years after the systems release, I finally own my own system. And I love it. I now have access to the definitive CD ROM version of Night Trap (a game I love far more than I should). I can play Gex. I can play the excellent version of Road Rash. Hell, I can pretend I’m a 1990s rich kid. I love my 3DO. And I hope to have many more years of loving it.

My very own 3DO system.

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