What was the “3DO”? – An Introduction to Panasonic’s Console

“What is a 3DO?”

A response I get many times when I talk about my favourite console of all time. It’s one that is followed up with: “I didn’t know Panasonic made a console?” Something I hope to change with this article as I cover some of the very basics of the 3DO and, hopefully, shed some light on this fantastic and much neglected console.

Truth be told it wasn’t all Panasonic as such, it was licensed to other companies. Sanyo, Goldstar, AT&T, each producing their own iteration of the hardware. The 3DO Company was founded by none other, Trip Hawkins. Also the founder of EA, a connection he exploited to get some of the best titles on the system.

The 3DO, in my eyes, paved a way for the future of gaming and fell short before it could hit the ground running, mainly due to the arrival of a cheaper CD system, the Sony Play Station.

3DO launched in August 1993 with a whopping £600 price tag. An honest price for the hardware with room for profit. The system housed some of the greatest titles come the mid-nineties and the best incarnations of that time. SNK’s Samurai Showdown had the most accurate arcade port to date, followed by Capcom’s Street Fighter 2 Turbo. Don Bluth’s laser disc series hit with faithful reproductions of Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace.

It was’t just the FMV titles like: Night Trap, Corpse Killer and Supreme Warrior causing interest, there were some bonafide game changers in there too. FIFA soccer, Space Hulk, Return Fire, Wing Commander 3, Need for Speed Track & Field, Road Rash, Gex, Blade Force. Ported versions had unmatched graphical details mainly due to the games being built specifically to the system architecture.

Need for Speed for example, was originally designed as a car simulator and remains that way on the 3DO, but when EA shipped this across to other platforms those mechanics were ripped out and replaced with a more arcade aesthetic that remains today.

3DO’s titles were match by its innovation and ambition. It had a video adapter that allowed Video CD playback, it had a planned modem for online gaming, it housed a battery backup (32kb hard drive) to save games and play expansion packs. It very much centred around a multi-player ethic with daisy chaining of controllers, no multi-tap needed. All these  features in 93, the time most people were still playing on the Super Nintendo and Sega Megadrive, here was a console adopting some of the positive features of a PC and incorporating them into a console, something not really seen until the arrival of the Dreamcast/PS2.

3DO had a great team of technicians and engineers some of which worked on the Amiga. Dave Needle and R J Mical co-designed the machine, which remains one of the most aesthetically beautiful pieces of hardware I’ve ever owned. The system was also future proofed with the addition of the M2 upgrade, which would ‘up’ the power of the unit just shy of PS2 specifications. The unit was slated for a 97/98 release, which sadly fell through as Matsushita dropped the project.

What the hell is a 3DO? It’s one of the greatest consoles you never heard of but now you have – what are you waiting for?

3DO introduction by Ash