The full title of this console is actually the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, but is often referred to simply as "3DO" as the console was appropriately developed by the 3DO company.
While lead design was led by the 3DO company, this console was actually manufactured by three other different companies: Panasonic, Sanyo and Goldstar which later became the LG corporation. Each 3DO unit manufactured by these three companies were appropriately marked with the logo of the company that produced them.
2 million units of the 3DO were sold worldwide.
The 3DO had a massive marketing campaign that was named 1993 product of the year by TIME magazine. This marketing campaign even attacked the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis systems where this ad referred to them as "baby toys".
The 3DO company who developed this console was founded by Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins in 1991, the same year Hawkins resigned from Electronic Arts.
The 3DO hardware was designed by Dave Needle and R.J. Mical, both had designed the Commodore Amiga computer and the Atari Lynx handheld system. The design of the 3DO began from an outline on a restaurant napkin in 1989. Trip Hawkins was a long-time acquaintance of Needle and Mical and found that their design very closely fit his ideas for what he wanted in a video game console, so he decided to join them in the design, commenting "Rather than me start a brand new team and starting from scratch it just made a lot of sense to ... join forces with them and shape what they were doing into what I wanted it to be."
This console was lent to Panasonic, Sanyo and Goldstar for manufacturing as the 3DO company did not have the resources to manufacture consoles.
At one point in time, the 3DO company was in negotiations with Sony for manufacturing the 3DO, but development on the PlayStation had already begun and Sony decided to resume that project rather than work on a new console with another company.
According to former Sega CEO Tom Kalinske, The 3DO Company was at one point in serious discussion for Sega to release the 3DO. Sega ultimately turned it down due to concerns over the high cost.
Because the 3DO was manufactured by three different companies, the system itself has a total of seven different variants. Each of these variants were released in different regions and not all model variants were available worldwide. The rarest of these models was the GoldStar GDO-203P 3DO Alive II which was only released in South Korea, and resembles a very-rounded PlayStation.
The very first model of the 3DO released was the Panasonic FZ-1 R·E·A·L model. This is the only hardware variant of the 3DO that was released in Japan, Asia, North America and Europe.
The Panasonic FZ-10 R·E·A·L model of the 3DO is the only variant of the console that uses a top-loading mechanism for inserting CDs. All other variants used front-loading CD mechanisms. This model was released in the United States, Japan and Europe.
Companies who obtained the hardware license but never actually sold 3DO consoles include Samsung, Toshiba,and AT&T, who even built prototype AT&T 3DO units and displayed them at the January 1994 Consumer Electronics Show.
One major contributor to the high retail cost of the 3DO was it being licensed to different manufacturers. The manufacturers had to make a profit on the hardware itself, whereas most major game console manufacturers such as Sega and Nintendo would sell their systems at a loss, with the idea of making up for the loss with game sales.
The 3DO's original retail price was $699 US dollars in 1993. This retail price is often cited as a major factor for the system's commercial failure as most consumers were unwilling to pay such an exorbitant price for a game console back then. Potential consumers complained about this price point, deeming it too expensive for a video game system. One 3DO executive allegedly responded to this criticism and reportedly said "the 3DO is not a video game system, but a multimedia entertainment system and is priced accordingly."
In an interview, Trip Hawkins clarified that while the suggested retail price was $699, not all 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 apparently sold for considerably lower prices. The Goldstar model launched at $399, and after six months on the market, the price of the original FZ-1 had dropped to $499.
Prior to the 3DO's original retail release, Return Fire, Road Rash, FIFA International Soccer, and Jurassic Park Interactive were originally going to be launch titles for the system but were pushed back to mid-1994 as developers were still trying to familiarize themselves with the 3DO hardware. Making matters worse, the technical specifications of the system kept changing up until the release date, making it impossible for developers to test their games on finalized hardware. Many third-party titles missed the launch date as a result. Crash 'n Burn was the only title available at launch.
The launch of the 3DO was severely under-stocked as Panasonic failed to manufacture an efficient supply of 3DO consoles for the launch date. Many retail stores only received one or two units as a result of this.
Unlike the United States launch of the console which was severely under-supplied, the Japan launch of the 3DO was moderately successful with 70,000 units being shipped to 10,000 stores. Sales soon dropped however and by 1995 the system earned a reputation in Japan for pornographic releases.
The 3DO's best-selling title is Gex with an estimated 1 million copies sold.
While the 3DO was on the market, the Panasonic M2 hardware was announced as an add-on for the 3DO and was later announced that it was in development as a brand new console and successor to the 3DO. The M2 project was later cancelled.
Goldstar dropped support for the 3DO in early 1996 as the company could not turn a profit on hardware sales. They did not have an efficient software division to produce games for the 3DO on a regular basis in order to turn a profit from game sales and when the price of the Goldstar model of the console dropped to $199 in December, 1995, Goldstar was losing $100 US dollars per console sale. Additionally, Panasonic already had exclusive rights to the M2 hardware which Goldstar could not secure.
During the second quarter of 1996, several of the 3DO's most loyal software supporters, including the 3DO Company themselves announced they were no longer making games for the system, leaving Panasonic as the only company supporting active software development for the 3DO. The system was ultimately discontinued at the end of 1996 due to competition with the Sony PlayStation, the Sega Saturn and eventually the Nintendo 64.
This is the very first video game console to feature a light synthesizer, converting CD music to a mesmerizing color pattern.
The 3DO does not have region lockout nor copy protection, making it very easy to play backup copies of video games as well as homebrew titles. It is also ideal for importing games because of this but a handful of Japanese games cannot be played on non-Japanese 3DO consoles due to a special kanji font which English language consoles can not read.
While the 3DO was manufactured by Japanese and South Korean companies, the console was conceptualized and designed in North America. Because of this, the highest video signal the 3DO will accept is S-Video as neither JP21 RGB or EuroSCART RGB were ever manufactured for consumer televisions in the United States.
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