In 1993 Time Magazine thought so much of the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer gaming console that they named it “Product of the Year”. The article went on to say “If you think you’ve seen graphics, wait till you check out the jaw-dropping visuals offered by this interactive system, which is bidding to be one of the main vehicles on the data superhighway. With its CD-quality sound and 32-bit processor, the Multiplayer is the most powerful video-game system yet.”
You would think such an endorsing article would later actuate into a gaming system so memorable it would be firmly embedded into our hearts and minds. Gamer’s would forever gravitate towards this system as being one of the best “back in the day” memories they ever had. Why is it then that most people have never heard of 3DO or their Multiplayer system?
Trip Hawkins, who founded Electronic Arts (EA), was the brain child behind developing the 3DO Company and the Multiplayer console. The 3DO company was formed with several established partners including Panasonic, Time Warner and EA.
Upon its release the Multiplayer was easily the most powerful gaming console on the market, but at a price…$699!! This was a console competing with the Super Nintendo and Mega Drive which both cost around $190 each, and placed the first nail in Multiplayer’s coffin.
The second problem that compounded the ever increasing nails to coffin ratio, was choosing to introduce Full Motion Video (FMV) into their already limited range of available games. FMV in a nut shell (help! I am in a nut shell), is when the use of pre-recorded video footage is incorporated into the game to provide a more realistic image. They were used mainly for cut scenes but unfortunately the developers wrongly thought it was so innovative they added too much content which ruined any chance of rewarding game play. 3DO were not the only gaming company to promote this technique, but they were definitely one of the instigators.
With small market penetration and delays in game content, the final nail in the coffin presented itself in December 1994 in the shape of a small grey box from Sony Computer Entertainment called ‘PlayStation’ (PS). The PS complimented the Multiplayer’s strengths and managed to learn from its weaknesses. Once the PS presented itself to the market, there was no real perceived benefit from the higher purchase price or overall offering received from the Multiplayer. This meant everyone pretty much just moved on.
In the timeline of gaming consoles the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer clearly has a place, it promised so much and should have been great. Like any jigsaw puzzle, you start at the edges and work your way in, the idea was solid, the attempt commendable, but in the end you need all the pieces to make the picture complete. For the Multiplayer, the innovations and improvements did not come together to look anything like on the box.