Collecting The Obscure: A Look At The 3DO Interactive MultiPlayer

November 30, 2018

Mention the name Trip Hawkins to most people outside of the video game and computer industry, and you are bound to get a few blank stares. Unlike the popularity of Apple’s founder Steve Jobs or Atari’s charismatic leader, Nolan Bushnell, few recognize the name Trip Hawkins. Hawkins was a gifted Harvard graduate who went to work for Apple Computer in 1982 as the company’s director of strategy and marketing. Rumor has it that he didn’t click well with Steve Jobs and the culture of Apple Computer at the time, so he decided to create his own software company. He named his company Electronic Arts, and it became one of the most successful video game and computer entertainment publishers ever created.
Much like most entrepreneurs, Hawkins was not content to just be at the helm of a multimillion dollar computer entertainment company, and by 1990 he was supposedly quite frustrated at the lack of advancements being made in the home video game industry. This gave him a groundbreaking idea. He would simply create the most powerful stand-alone video game system ever conceived. At the time, the industry was abuzz with words like multimedia and interactive entertainment, as the adoption of the compact disc was beginning to allow for far greater advancements than that of limited cartridge-based games. Video games could now display actual full-motion video with Hollywood style budgets and actors driving the plots of most games. By 1991, Hawkins would transition from Electronic Arts to his newly created company called 3DO.
By 1993, Trip was steadily working to bring his vision to reality. The genius behind the vision was that instead of being a video game hardware manufacturer like Sega or Nintendo, at the time, the 3DO company would not make hardware. Instead, they would simply create the chipset that the system would use and license it to other manufacturers. They would then tempt software publishers to create games for the system by lowering the royalty charged to produce games for the console to roughly $3 per unit sold. This was in stark contrast to the massive fees levied by Sega and Nintendo to allow companies to produce games for their video game systems. On paper this all sounded like a great idea, and in theory it should have worked, but like most great ideas, technology, application, and marketing are everything, and this is where the 3DO started to stumble.
Panasonic agreed to produce the first systems using 3DO’s visionary chipset. On Oct. 4, 1993, the FZ-1 REAL 3DO Interactive MultiPlayer went on sale with little fanfare. It was priced at $699.99 and featured an advanced 32-bit processor with CD-ROM media storage. It was twice as powerful as anything currently being produced by Nintendo and Sega at the time. The system came packaged with the game “Crash N’ Burn,” which was a futuristic combat racing game unlike anything seen on the market at the time. Other releases were in the works but sparse at the time of the system’s release. Software was priced at around $49.99 to $59.99 for each additional title.
As you can probably guess, unless you were obsessed with following the home video game industry at the time or had to have the latest and greatest technology, few knew what the 3DO Interactive MultiPlayer was. The system did get some excellent media coverage at the time, but that was mostly due to the egocentric nature of Hawkins himself and the fact that the powerful new video game system retailed for close to $700 at a time when less powerful video game systems could be had for $200 or less. The system would experience brutal sales in 1993 for the all important Christmas season.
Ironically, some of the best games started to arrive in early 1994. Electronic Arts is credited as one of the most important developers for the system, and some of the publisher’s most popular games and franchises ended up there. “Road Rash,” “Escape from Monster Manor,” and even “John Madden Football” are all great games worthy of checking out. Another popular publisher who stood by the system was Crystal Dynamics. I greatly enjoyed the “Total Eclipse” space shooter game as well as the original pack-in game, “Crash N’ Burn.”
Sadly, by 1994, the writing was already on the wall for the 3DO system. Sony and Sega both announced plans to create CD-ROM based 32-bit systems that were much more powerful than the current 3DO system. And while Panasonic eventually initiated steep discounts to their version of the 3DO system, GoldStar would release a version for around $299, but it would fail to reignite interest, as potential buyers were blown away by the Sony PlayStation. The Sony Playstation created such a shock to the video game industry upon its release that by 1996 Sega would be fighting a bitter war for survival and Nintendo would be forced to release their next generation video game system several years early in 1995 (called the Nintendo 64). Nintendo was already starting out in the number two spot due to Sony’s dominance. Ironically, and it is beyond the scope of this article to elaborate any further, but Nintendo could have prevented the release of the Sony Playstation had it simply used Sony to create its rumored CD-ROM drive for the Super NES system as originally planned.
Today, the 3DO presents sort of an enigma for collectors and video game enthusiasts to ponder. While it does have collectible value, the system is not in much demand. It does command a respectable value on the secondary market, but collectors should understand that there is absolutely nothing driving demand for failed systems like the 3DO. Systems can be had for anywhere from $100 to $200 on the secondary market depending on condition and what is included. Games generally cost about $20 and up, and the system does have its fair share of elusive games that are quite valuable. Keep an eye out for “Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties,” which is an adult-themed game that goes for over $100 complete in box. Other rarities include “Lucienne’s Quest,” which can sell for several hundred dollars when complete and in good condition. Aside from value, the system did see almost every exclusive full-motion arcade shooter produced by American Laser Games released on it. Playing “Mad Dog McCree” on the system with the optional light gun controller is well worth it in my opinion.
Collecting the 3DO is not something I recommend in today’s day and age. The system is a curiosity that won’t see any play in your collection, nor will it become more valuable in the future. There is absolutely nothing driving demand for obscure systems like this that have a very limited following, and sadly nothing Trip Hawkins does in the future will ever change that.

Shawn Surmick has been an avid collector since the age of 12. He currently resides in his hometown of Boyertown, Pa., and is a passionate collector of antiques and collectibles. His articles focus on various topics affecting the marketplace.

 

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