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Gadget Hall of Fame: 3DO

The most expensive games console in history tells us its tale...

New games consoles have always commanded monstrous price tags. But when the 3DO launched in the States for a staggering US$700, it set a record that still stands today.

Adjusted for inflation, that's the equivalent of £891. It was soon available for £400 in the UK, when the Panasonic FZ-1 variant (pictured) launched, but even that was a hefty whack for an unproven system with a games collection that was the definition of 'mixed bag'.

So what was so special about this post-SNES, pre-PlayStation gaming powerhouse? 

 

 

 

What's the story?

“If you think you’ve seen graphics,” said Time magazine in 1993, “wait ’til you check out the jaw-dropping visuals offered by this interactive system.”

The 3DO was the first mass-selling, CD-playing, 32-bit, fifth-gen console. It had an odd business model: the company behind the platform, 3DO Interactive, only licenced it, meaning consoles could be made by anyone; there were 3DOs by Panasonic, Sanyo, Creative and LG.

Games were well-made, funded by film studios and fairly cheap, thanks to low licensing fees, but this approach was the 3DO’s undoing: Panasonic only made money by charging £500 for a machine.

When Sony’s PlayStation arrived at £300 (which soon dropped to £200), the 3DO was priced out of the market.

Why should I want one?

Because you collect old consoles and want to open a retro gaming café.

Your Panasonic FZ-1 will be more popular than the Atari Jaguar because the Jag’s graphics weren’t great, while the 3DO’s were brilliant.

The 3DO Super Street Fighter II Turbo will be more popular than the SNES version and people will spend hours on lizard-based platformer Gex.

You'll still need to dig fairly deep for one though - UK PAL versions are fetching around £200 on eBay.

Stuff's top four 3DO games

Fatty Bear’s Birthday Surprise

As conflicted antihero Fatty Bear, you journey both through the home of your sleeping hosts and your own terrifying emotions.

Your aim? To organise Kayla's birthday party for tomorrow before she wakes. Except it's not quite as easy as trying on hats and baking a cake...

Download Fatty Bear's Birthday Surprise from Steam

The Daedalus Encounter

You play a former space marine who is now a brain in a jar, controlling a remote flying probe that explores a derelict alien spaceship with Tia Carrere (of Wayne's World and True Lies fame).

Quite a premise. eh? Particularly when you consider that, in 'choose your own adventure' style, your actions could lead to one of three different endings.

The Need for Speed

Yes, the veteran racing series was actually born on the 3DO, and made a showcase for the console’s graphics.

It created not just one series of games, but set the ball rolling for a genre of realistic racers that produced Gran Turismo and the Forza series. Oh, and (less impressively), the 2014 movie of the same name.  

Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties

Perhaps the worst game ever, dating sim PDWT consisted of little more than a slideshow.

It was pretty much a PowerPoint presentation about the lives of two idiots, and was royally panned by reviewers who even considered it responsible for the 3DO's downfall.   

Also in 1994...

Beyond the opening of the Channel Tunnel and George Foreman becoming World Heavyweight Boxing Champion at the age of 45, these were the cultural landmarks of 1994...

Pie in the Sky

Richard ‘Uncle Monty’ Griffiths plays a big fat policeman who is also the big fat head chef at his own restaurant, as if those weren’t two very demanding full-time jobs. A mash-up in more ways than one.

Therapy? - Troublegum

With grunge limping wearily across the Atlantic, it was up to pop-metal Ulstermen Therapy? to prove that British music could be every bit as angry, depressed and bitingly cynical as anything US bands could muster.

Rapa Nui

On a pre-outsider-contact Easter Island, the inhabitants’ lives are made difficult by the class system, deforestation and a religion that demands they put up a load of enormous stone heads.

Iain M Banks – Feersum Endjinn

Written partly in phonetics, this sci-fi novel is set on an Earth that has been mostly deserted by humanity, and upon which those remaining are facing extinction. A bit like Rhyl.

Buy or download Feersum Endjinn by Iain M Banks