Does 3DO deserve to be remembered fondly?

In 2012 Nintendo launched the Wii U. This was Nintendo’s first full HD console, and while it was technically considered a flop it will be remembered fondly for some of the games that it brought and ideas that I brought to the market. Nintendo has been in a weird position where they’ve been releasing their game consoles out of sync with the rest of the industry. But actually if you consider the timeline the Wii U is not a half step or even a mid generation console, it’s Sony and Microsoft who are out of step with Nintendo timeline.

I didn’t want to turn this into a Wii U or Nintendo topic I want to talk about the 3DO. If you consider the three do a half step or a mid generation console it’s worth examining it as such but if you consider it as its own generation that failed to spark direct competition or fail to compete when said competition arrived, in many ways that changes the dynamic.

When it first came out or when I first learned about it I was excited for the 3DO. Not only was it going to be able to play nearly arcade perfect translations of Neo Geo arcade games, as well as other arcade games, but it was also going to bring higher-quality PC style CD-ROM games to the market then the low-grade Sega CD stuff that came before.

One of the problems that 3DO had, besides being extremely expensive, is the best games were only playable if you had an expensive upgrade. It wasn’t even something like the 32x which added more horsepower to the machine it was something as simple as just adding MPEG capabilities to play video CD movies and games that could use MPEG full motion video. You know the kinds of FMV crap that was flooding the Sega CD.

Even though most of its games looked like trash it did have a few games that drew customers to check it out. One of the games that I remember reading about in wanting heavily was Samurai shodown. Even though I had this game on the Sega Genesis I wanted a more faithful arcade Port which is what the 3DO promised. But there was a game that was original to the system, it didn’t stay exclusive, that I really wanted called Gex. I would eventually get to experience Gex on the superior Sony PlayStation, but I never stopped wanting a 3DO back then.

Now I will argue vehemently that the Sega CD is more than just a standalone console that should be judged as a failure. I always contended that the Sega CD was in fact a very successful accessory to the Sega Genesis, which itself was a very successful system. So for me when I look at the Sega CD software Library I see a lot of games a lot of people despise but I still think have some merits including the FMV games. Except the Sega CD games are grainy, low resolution and unplayable. The 3DO versions were supposed to be superior. Of course many of these games were also available on PC in the form of PC CD-ROM but that’s another story we’re talking home consoles here.

As far as the hardware goes things get complicated because the system was not manufactured by a single company it was licensed by the 3DO company to other manufacturers. As far as I can tell there were two models that were released in the United States one that was manufactured by Panasonic and one that was manufactured by Goldstar and then a revised Panasonic model later on. There was a third model by Sanyo released in Japan. Because the system was extremely expensive and had very few compelling games it is considered a commercial failure does it didn’t sell well and is to this day hard to find. In fact in my entire life I’ve only seen 3 different 3DO machines in person.

One of the biggest complaints is the controller port the system has a weird situation where it can only hook up one controller at a time and then you daisy chain the controllers together. This design flaw would be bad enough if it wasn’t complicated by the fact that it was a controller modeled after the Sega 3 button controller, the inferior pad that most Super Nintendo fanboys will diss the Sega for having. So it’s understandable that gamers would snub the system and even die-hard collectors ignore it.

The high price tag coupled with lack of compelling software and a terrible controller plus a high failure rate makes the 3DO an oddity that is more or less better to be forgotten.

When you take into consideration that all of the games on the system that are worth playing can be found elsewhere in superior forms, there’s little incentive for a collector to consider the machine a viable purchase even today.

The question I wanted to ask was does it deserve to be forgotten or should at least be remembered for what it did, good or bad. A part of me who enjoys collecting and studying the history of video games and computers thinks that the three do definitely deserves to be remembered but not as a games console more as a multimedia device whose ties to the failed video CD format make it more interesting than any of its video game ties.

For those of us who vaguely remember reading about the 3DO in our gaming magazines, it will forever be remembered as this great mystery that we only saw pictures of or read articles about. For me once I grew up and did the research I learned that the 3DO was way more hassle than it was worth it had little value outside of a footnote in gaming and multimedia home video history.

However, at the end of the day I still believe that the 3DO is more of a game system then the failed CD-I ever was. I guess at the end of the day the only thing that remembered is its ties to the VD-I and VCD. I’ll save the video CD format discussions for another topic another day.

I don’t generally like to discount somebody’s childhood memories so if you had a 3DO when you were a kid I’m sure you remember it more fondly than anyone else will. I still think that at the end of the day the system is really not worth remembering fondly. And I still maintain that only die-hard collectors and those who had one when they were a kid should bother collecting them today. I tried to give the system the benefit of the doubt. But the more I look at it, and the more I think about it, the more I realize I’ve probably given it way more thought than it deserves, so I guess there is that.

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