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The 3DO Interactive Multiplayer (often called simply 3DO) is a video game console originally produced by Panasonic in . Further renditions of the hardware were released in by Sanyo and Goldstar. The consoles were manufactured according to specifications created by The 3DO Company, and were originally designed by Dave Needle and RJ Mical of New Technology Group. The system was conceived by entrepreneur and Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins.

Despite a highly-promoted launch (including being named Time magazine's "1994 Product of the Year") and a host of cutting-edge technologies, the 3DO's high price ($699.95 USD at launch), limited 3rd-party developer support, and an over-saturated console market prevented the system from achieving success comparable to competitors Sega and Nintendo. This console was released in North America in September 1993 and in Japanmarker on March 20, 1994.


The 3DO Interactive Multiplayer was originally conceived by The 3DO Company, founded in 1991 by Electronic Arts co-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 $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 licensing method accounts for why the 3DO was available from no less than 4 separate manufacturers. The launch of the platform in October, 1993 was well-promoted, with a great deal of press attention in the mass media as part of the "multimedia wave" in the computer world at the time. Even so, the 3DO was awarded Worst Console Launch of 1993 by Electronic Gaming Monthly.

By the early 1990s, the video game market had become overcrowded with plethora of consoles. Sega, Nintendo, Commodore, SNK, and Atari each had a video game system on the market. When viewed internationally, the chief competition for the 3DO during its peak had been Nintendo's SNES, the Sega Genesis and NEC's TurboGrafx-16 platforms.

The 3DO console itself was priced at $699, far above competing game systems and aimed at high end users and early adopters. For a significant period of the product's life cycle, 3DO's official stance on pricing was that the 3DO was not a video game console, rather a high-end audio-visual system and was priced accordingly, so no price adjustment was needed. Despite this, the promised "early adopters" never showed up to purchase mass quantities of games.

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 of 3DO, the M2. Heavy promotional efforts on the YTV variety show It's Alive and a stream of hinted product expandability supported that idea; however, the M2 project was eventually scrapped altogether.

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 (Studio3DO) as a multi-platform company supporting the Sony PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and PC platforms.

The higher quality of later CD-ROM based systems that emerged in the mid-90s (primarily the Sony PlayStation), the limited library of titles, lack of third-party support, and a refusal to reduce pricing until almost the end of the product's life cycle are all considered to be among the many issues that led to the 3DO's demise.


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

  • Panasonic FZ-1 R.E.A.L. 3DO Interactive Multiplayer (Japan, Asia, North America and Europe) - The first 3DO system, which was initially priced at $699.99 in the U.S. The price was later reduced to $499.99 in the fall of 1994.
  • Panasonic FZ-10 R.E.A.L. 3DO Interactive Multiplayer (Japan, North America and Europe) - Released a year or two after the FZ-1. It is a less expensive, slimmer and lighter model and replaced the FZ-1 in Panasonic's portfolio. The FZ-10 featured a top loading CD tray, an internal memory manager and repositioned the LED's and controller port. The controller is also smaller and lighter than the one included with the FZ-1, but lacks a headphones output.
  • Panasonic ROBO 3DO (Japan only) - A FZ-1 custom console, fitted with a five disc CD drive.
  • Goldstar 3DO Interactive Multiplayer (South Korea, North America and Europe) - The Goldstar unit, released a year after the FZ-1 is similar in physical appearance to the Panasonic FZ-1. Due to hardware differences and file processing limitations, incompatibilities with some games were reported. In addition, accessories could not be exchanged between the Goldstar and Panasonic units except controllers.
  • Goldstar 3DO ALIVE II' (South Korea only)
  • Sanyo TRY 3DO Interactive Multiplayer (Japan only)
  • Creative 3DO Blaster - PC ISA expansion card with a double-speed CD-ROM drive and one controller that enables a PC to play 3DO games.


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 of DRAM, 1 megabyte 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). The 3DO included the first music visualizer in a game console, converting CD music to a mesmerizing color pattern. The controller was also original for its time; a headphone jack and volume dial was available at the bottom of the initial versions of the console.

The 3DO is one of few CD-based units that feature neither regional lockout nor copy protection, making it easy to use for pirated software. 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 did not and still had 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.

The 3DO is also unique for consoles of the time in that it had standard video and audio ports that were compatible with standard off the shelf cables. In addition to standard RF modulator support and stereo, the console could also be used with composite and S-Video cables.

Technical specifications


  • Interpolated 640x480 resolution output to screen, upsampled from 320x240 or 320x480 internal resolution with either 16 bit palettized color (from 24 bits) or 24 bit truecolor.
  • Two accelerated video co-processors capable of producing 9-16 million pixels per second (36-64 megapix/s interpolated), distorted, scaled, rotated and texture mapped.

System board
  • 50 Mbit/s bus speed
  • 36 DMA channels
  • 2 megabytes of main RAM
  • 1 megabyte of VRAM
  • 2 expansion ports




Among the accessories shipped standard with most 3DO systems were a standard controller and a light gun. 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 8 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 model also included a controller with this feature.

Third party accessories were produced by a number of companies including Logitech and included items such as joysticks, light guns and a steering wheel.


Some of the best-received titles were ports of arcade or PC games that other cartridge-based 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, and Immercenary. Additionally, 3DO had the most popular port of Road Rash, and the arcade fighting game Samurai Shodown was ported to the system with all original graphics intact. The first home port of Super Street Fighter II Turbo was also available on the system, exceeding the original with its CD-quality audio.

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 relied entirely on full motion video with little interactive influence from the player, often patternized beyond a flexible standard. 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. Aside from this, the most significant issue with interactive movie games was their limited level of interactivity and depth. Some games followed a single unfolding of events simply by correctly timed prompts executed by the player.

Game series that were originally launched on the 3DO by Electronic Arts, Studio 3DO and Crystal Dynamics established themselves on other 32-bit consoles. One major hit for the 3DO, Return Fire, an advanced tank battle game, was ported to the PlayStation and Microsoft Windows, but was met with limited success.

Aborted successor

The 3DO Company designed a next-generation console that was never released due to various business and technological issues. Called the M2, it 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. 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 (primary market at launch)

Video game (primary market at end-of-life)

High-end A/V (secondary market) (multi-purpose audio/video systems)

See also


  1. 3DO - 1993-1996 - Classic Gaming
  2. 3DO Today
  3. 3DO FAQ - Classic Gaming
  4. System 16 - M2 Hardware (Konami)

External links

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