3DO Interactive Multiplayer

3DO Interactive Multiplayer

Panasonic FZ-1 R.E.A.L. 3DO Interactive Multiplayer
Developer The 3DO Company
Manufacturer Panasonic, Sanyo, GoldStar
Type Home video game console
Generation Fifth generation era
Release date
  • NA: October 4, 1993[1]
  • JP: March 20, 1994
  • EU: 1994
Retail availability 1993–1996
Introductory price US$699.99
Discontinued Late 1996[2]
Units sold 2 million[3]
Media CD-ROM
CPU 32-bit RISC CPU ARM60 based on ARM architecture @ 12.5 MHz
Memory 2 MB RAM, 1 MB VRAM
Storage 32 KB SRAM
Online services Planned but canceled[2]
Best-selling game Gex, over 1 million[4][5][note 1]
Successor Panasonic M2 (canceled)

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, it was discontinued in late 1996, three years after its first release.


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 US$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 (designers of the Commodore Amiga and the Atari Lynx), starting from an outline on a restaurant napkin in 1989.[7] Trip Hawkins was a long-time acquaintance of Needle and Mical and found that their design very closely fit his philosophy for architecture and approach, so he decided that "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."[7]

The 3DO Company lacked the resources to manufacture consoles, 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.[7] 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.[7] 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.[8] 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,[9] Toshiba,[10] 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.[11]

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 US$699,[3][12] 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."[13] In a later interview, Hawkins clarified that while the suggested retail price was $699, few retailers sold the system at that price.[7] 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.[2] In addition, after six months on the market, the price of the FZ-1 had dropped to $499,[14][15] leading some to contend that the 3DO's cost was not as big a factor in its market failure as is usually claimed.[7]

Hawkins claimed that the console was HDTV-capable, and that the company could use its technology for a set-top box.[16] Electronic Arts promoted the console in two-page advertisements, describing it as a "technological leap" and promising "twenty new titles ... over the next twelve months".[17]

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.[7] 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.[18] The only 3DO software available at launch was the third-party game Crash 'n Burn.[7][19] Panasonic also failed to manufacture an ample supply of the console in time for launch day, and as a result most retail stores only received one or two units.[1]

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.[10] However, sales soon dropped and by 1995 the system was known in Japan as a host for pornographic releases.[20]

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.[21] 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.[22] 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.[22]

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-1990s, 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.[2]


Panasonic FZ-10 R·E·A·L 3DO Interactive Multiplayer
GoldStar (LG) 3DO Interactive Multiplayer
The Sanyo 3DO TRY

Thanks to the licensing method of The 3DO Company, a number of different manufacturers produced the 3DO system for the market. The Panasonic versions are the best known and most common.


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).[2] 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 illegal copies or homebrew software.[25] 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.

Technical specifications

Panasonic FZ-1 "Clio" graphics accelerator
Panasonic FZ-1 "Madam" graphics accelerator
System board


Audio and video


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 60320 C7 "figure 8" power cord. All North American model specifications are AC 120V 60 Hz 30W.

Basic accessories

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.[27]

Light gun

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.[28]

Steering wheel

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.[29]

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.[29]


Crash 'n Burn on the 3DO, the system's first bundled title

Some of the best-received titles were ports of arcade or PC games that other 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 Sega 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.

Aborted successor

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,[30] 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.

Konami later made an M2-based arcade board.[31] Games ran straight from the CD-ROM drive causing long load times and a high failure rate due to the CD-ROM being continuously in use.

Market competition

Video game
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 2] 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.[32] The 3DO was awarded Worst Console Launch of 1993 by Electronic Gaming Monthly.[33] In a special Game Machine Cross Review in May 1995, Famicom Tsūshin would score the 3DO Real console a 26 out of 40.[34] Next Generation reviewed the 3DO in late 1995. They noted that due chiefly to its early launch, it had a larger installed base and more high quality games than the newly-launched Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation, making it a viable alternative to those systems. However, they debated whether it could remain a serious contender in the long run, in light of the successor M2's imminent release and the Saturn and PlayStation's superior hardware. They deemed the 3DO hardware overhyped but still very good for its time, especially praising the DMA engine. They gave it 2 out of 5 stars, concluding that it "has settled out as as a solid system with some good titles in its library and more on the way. The question that must be answered though is this: Is having a 'good system' enough?"[1]

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).[35] 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.[19] Gaming retrospectives have also frequently accused the 3DO of having an abundance of poor quality interactive movies.[36]

Trip Hawkins' business model for selling 3DO was widely derided by industry figures.[37]


PhoenixEmuProject - 100% compatible 3DO emulator. Developed by one of the FreeDO authors.

4DO is working on a 3DO emulator based on the FreeDO source code.[38] Most games are now playable with minor issues.[39]

See also


  1. Sales figures for Gex remain unclear. While the October and November 1995 issues of GamePro and Electronic Gaming Monthly both state that Gex exceeded 1 million in sales in July 1995 (well before the game was released for any platform other than the 3DO), an article in Next Generation also cover-dated November 1995 says that the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer had sold only 750,000 units worldwide.[6]
  2. 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.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Which Game System is the Best!?". Next Generation. Imagine Media (12): 36–85. December 1995.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "3DO – 1993–96 – Classic Gaming". Classicgaming.gamespy.com. Archived from the original on 2012-04-15. Retrieved 2012-07-31.
  3. 1 2 Blake Snow (July 30, 2007). "The 10 Worst-Selling Consoles of All Time". GamePro. Archived from the original on 2007-05-08. Retrieved November 14, 2008.
  4. "At the Deadline". GamePro. IDG (85): 174. October 1995.
  5. "Tidbits...". Electronic Gaming Monthly. Sendai Publishing (76): 19. November 1995.
  6. "75 Power Players: The Evangelist". Next Generation. Imagine Media (11): 56. November 1995. Global sales stand at around 750,000, with 300,000 sold in the US.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Matthews, Will (December 2013). "Ahead of its Time: A 3DO Retrospective". Retro Gamer (122). Imagine Publishing. pp. 18–29.
  8. Vinciguerra, Robert. "Tom Kalinske Talks About His Time Overseeing Sega As Its CEO In the 90s; Reveals That Sega Passed On Virtual Boy Technology, Considered Releasing 3DO". The Rev. Rob Times. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  9. "New 3DO Hardware Deals". GamePro (59). IDG. June 1994. p. 184.
  10. 1 2 "3DO News". GamePro (60). IDG. July 1994. p. 170.
  11. "No Business Like Show Business". GamePro (57). IDG. April 1994. p. 8.
  12. Markoff, John (September 9, 1993). "Market Place; Investors can only guess which video game device will conquer.". The New York Times. Retrieved April 23, 2010.
  13. Ramsay, M. (2012). Trip Hawkins. Gamers at Work: Stories Behind the Games People Play (pp. 1–15). New York: Apress.
  14. "3DO Prices Drop". GamePro (58). IDG. May 1994. p. 168.
  15. "3DO System Down to $500!". Electronic Gaming Monthly (57). Sendai Publishing. April 1994. p. 18.
  16. "Atari Jaguar Unveiled—Stalks 3DO". Computer Gaming World. November 1993. pp. 10–11. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
  17. "The Face of the Future". Computer Gaming World (advertisement). December 1993. pp. 32–33. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  18. "Problems in 3DO Land!". Electronic Gaming Monthly (53). Sendai Publishing. December 1993. p. 16.
  19. 1 2 "The Best -- and Worst -- Console Launches". Yahoo! Games. November 8, 2013. Retrieved 2014-01-30.
  20. Ogasawara, Nob (May 1995). "International News". Electronic Gaming Monthly. Sendai Publishing (70): 82.
  21. "3DO Powers Up". GamePro (64). IDG. November 1994. p. 272.
  22. 1 2 "Goldstar Drops 3DO". Electronic Gaming Monthly. Ziff Davis (80): 18. March 1996.
  23. "Matsushita Brings 3DO to the Far East". GamePro (57). IDG. April 1994. p. 176.
  24. Markoff, John (December 11, 1994). "For 3DO, a Make-or-Break Season". New York Times. Retrieved December 31, 2007.
  25. "3DO Today". 3DO Today. Retrieved 2012-07-31.
  26. "3DO FAQ – Classic Gaming". Classicgaming.com. Retrieved 2012-07-31.
  27. "New Adapter Allows Any Super NES Controller to Be Used on 3DO". Electronic Gaming Monthly (65). Sendai Publishing. December 1994. p. 68.
  28. *Always replaying within 24h. "Video game store - [3DO] Policenauts Limited Mouse Box & Pilot Disk". Akiba-Games.com. Retrieved 2013-11-18.
  29. 1 2 "Panasonic 3DO". Video Game Console Library. Retrieved 2013-11-18.
  30. "3DO Press Release". Cs.cmu.edu. 1994-08-24. Retrieved 2012-07-31.
  31. "System 16 – M2 Hardware (Konami)". System16.com. Retrieved 2012-07-31.
  32. "System Shopper". GamePro (53). IDG. December 1993. pp. 46–49.
  33. "Electronic Gaming Monthly's Buyer's Guide". 1994.
  34. GAME MACHINE CROSS REVIEW: 3DOリアル. Weekly Famicom Tsūshin. No.335. Pg.167. 12–19 May 1995.
  35. "3DO is number 22". IGN. Retrieved 2012-07-31.
  36. Matthews, Will (December 2013). "Ahead of its Time: A 3DO Retrospective". Retro Gamer (122). Imagine Publishing. pp. 24–25.
  37. Kent, Steven L. (2001). The Ultimate History of Video Games: The Story Behind the Craze that Touched our Lives and Changed the World. Roseville, California: Prima Publishing. p. 486. ISBN 0-7615-3643-4.
  38. "4DO website". www.fourdo.com. Retrieved 2015-06-07.
  39. "Compatibility List - 4DO Wiki". wiki.fourdo.com. Retrieved 2015-06-07.

External links

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