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Thread: The "next-generation" systems that tried to replace the 16 bit generation early (3DO, Jaguar, 32X etc)

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    Cherry (Level 1)
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    Default The "next-generation" systems that tried to replace the 16 bit generation early (3DO, Jaguar, 32X etc)

    Around 1993, a crop of systems came out that claimed to be "next generation". They were 32-bit, used CDs, or both. Of course, the 16-bit market remained strong, not being seriously replaced until the PlayStation and Saturn arrived in 1995.

    But of these systems, the 3DO is the standout success, which is odd because it competed against two systems from then-established manufacturers (Atari and Sega), then again, the 3DO was backed by the founder of Electronic Arts. It failed because of its high price, but it did some things right:

    It truly was a "next gen" system. Nothing could touch the capabilities of the 3DO until the Saturn came along nearly two years later. Sure, it was expensive, but it did see some niche market success. It also had a good game selection, and early - there are lots of games that came out for the 3DO long before the Saturn was out, and some of these games were pretty good and offered experiences you couldn't get on another console. By the end of 1994, there were over 70 games available on 3DO. It also wasn't region-locked, and used CDs. If an SNES was the benchmark for 5th generation and the PlayStation 6th, the 3DO would be about a 5.7 .

    Jaguar, on the other hand, gave no reason to buy it. The only game that was only available on Jaguar and gave anything close to a next-gen experience was Alien vs. Predator. Tempest 2000 was good but that could have been done on SNES. So could the rest of the Jag library except AVP. Not to mention, a large fraction of the Jaguar's library came out late, in the second half of 1995. By then the PlayStation and Saturn were out. It was too little too late. At least the Jaguar itself, despite an overall crappy library, did have a few good games and could be had for cheap late in its life. The Jaguar CD, on the other hand, was a system with no reason to buy it whatsoever. It came out the same month as the PlayStation. It was half the price, assuming you already had a Jag, but you might as well have flushed those 150 bucks down the toilet. The Jaguar CD had a small selection of games, all of which were shit. Not to mention it was so unreliable that if you bought it at its September 1995 launch date it probably wouldn't make it to Christmas 1995.
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    The problem with the 3DO was that it was basically a PC and cost too much at the time. I do actually like the console for what it is though I don't actually own one. Still most of the good games on it are available on the PC.

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    Sony just destroyed the competition during that time

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    As Gameguy said; the 3DO was really hurt by its price point. Having said that it really stood out from the CD-i and Jaguar due to it having some adoption among Japanese developers.
    This really helped it's game selection and set it apart from the rest. I really enjoy the 3DO.

    The Jaguar absolutely should have shipped as a CD system from the start. There was really no excuse. There was already the Sega CD, Turbo CD, CD-i and then the 3do shipping around the same time as the Jag. This was a HUGE oversight on Atari's part. It still would have been under powered compared to the 3DO, but remained more relevant and cutting edge in the public conscience. It also would have helped keep game prices potentially lower as the Jag carts were expensive.
    Regardless, I still have a soft spot for the Jag. It has its gems!
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    Quote Originally Posted by gbpxl View Post
    Sony just destroyed the competition during that time
    The PlayStation came out on September 9, 1995, once it launched it was lights out for any of the 1993/1994 launched 32-bit era systems (aka pre-Saturn). So any "success" that these systems would have would be dependent on the time period before September 9, 1995. The holiday season of 1994 was crucial.

    The 3DO sold 2 million units. That's 3 times that of the 32X (665,000) and 8-10 times that of the Jaguar (200,000-250,000). It was $700 initially at its launch in October 1993, in spring 1994 the price was lowered to $500 and in November 1994 to $400. However, the Saturn still outsold it 4 1/2 to 1.

    It was also the only one of these systems that was the most advanced on the market, and that was for two years. I suspect that if they'd gotten the 3DO out there at $500 and had it down to $300 or less by holiday 1994, it could have seen more success. The initial FZ-1 model would have needed a simpler design (more like the FZ-10 ended up being) There were plenty of games available for the 3DO by the 1994 holiday season. Of course, it would have been fighting the PlayStation hype train by this time. The high cost of the system was offset by the lower cost of the games, but that didn't benefit them as much as it should have. Overhyping the M2 early on also hurt them. Third party support completely died on the 3DO by spring 1996 because of that.

    Another thing that could have helped 3DO would have been, ironically, a slightly later release combined with a slightly earlier hardware finalization date. The hardware for the 3DO was finalized very close to release, which was October 4, 1993. Only one game was available that day, and few systems produced. Finalizing the hardware a month or so earlier and waiting for an early-mid November release would have still allowed the system to meet the lucrative holiday launch window and would have allowed for more supply and probably 6-8 launch games instead of one. Hype was strong for 3DO in 1993, it was Time's Machine of the Year.

    The 3DO was the only early 32-bit system that had any chance of competing with the PlayStation. If (and this is a BIG "if") they managed to get the price down to $150 for the 1995 holiday season AND not hype the M2 too early, keeping a steady stream of third party support through all of 1996 and even into 1997, they would have probably racked up a few sales by people looking for a 32-bit system cheaper than the PlayStation with a decent game library. The 3DO would have still died in 1997 whether or not the M2 was released. But a lower price and more third party support would have probably allowed it to rack up 4-5 million total sales instead of 2 million. If the M2 had come out in 1997, it would have probably had some success if it were cheap enough but still would have trailed Sony and Nintendo by a wide margin. It was only slightly more powerful than the N64 in practice so it would have had to be about $250 or less at launch.
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    The problem that the 3DO console had was that it was not manufactured by them directly. They licensed this to Panasonic, Sanyo, and Goldstar, resulting in a massive MSRP. 3DO had those too, but since nobody was taking a hit on the hardware, it went straight to the consumers. No, it was worse, because the hardware manufacturers had to make a profit themselves! Therefore, what should have been an entry at say $300-350 with later discounts became $599-699 or somewhere in between. That killed the system really from day one. Sony, Nintendo, Sega all sold their hardware at a loss, with profits coming from software licenses. Meanwhile, 3DO charged a pittance comparatively, meaning that low sales generated them even worse revenue.

    The initial library was not superb, that's for sure, but also no worse than what the PS1 had on debut, or the Saturn. However, like SEGA, 3DO simply did not have the capital reserves of Sony, and need a big splash right away. People were still buying 16-bit consoles at a bargain, with games getter better and better on those consoles.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg2600 View Post
    The problem that the 3DO console had was that it was not manufactured by them directly. They licensed this to Panasonic, Sanyo, and Goldstar, resulting in a massive MSRP. 3DO had those too, but since nobody was taking a hit on the hardware, it went straight to the consumers. No, it was worse, because the hardware manufacturers had to make a profit themselves! Therefore, what should have been an entry at say $300-350 with later discounts became $599-699 or somewhere in between. That killed the system really from day one. Sony, Nintendo, Sega all sold their hardware at a loss, with profits coming from software licenses. Meanwhile, 3DO charged a pittance comparatively, meaning that low sales generated them even worse revenue.
    It wasn't really the manufacturers' fault but more that their intended target market didn't really exist. They aimed the 3DO at people who wanted to play Multimedia PC games without having to buy an actual Multimedia PC. Back then a decent home computer would have cost around $3000 give or take, so they thought that the $600-$700 was a great price when compared to that as it was cheaper than a home computer but still more powerful hardware than the competing console systems(which were priced cheaper).

    The thing is that most people who wanted PC quality games actually bought a real PC instead, and people who wanted a cheaper option than a PC for gaming just went with the even cheaper consoles. This compromise 3DO system fell in the middle where there wasn't much interest. Not as powerful/versatile as a real PC, not as cheap as other dedicated game consoles.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gameguy View Post
    It wasn't really the manufacturers' fault but more that their intended target market didn't really exist. They aimed the 3DO at people who wanted to play Multimedia PC games without having to buy an actual Multimedia PC. Back then a decent home computer would have cost around $3000 give or take, so they thought that the $600-$700 was a great price when compared to that as it was cheaper than a home computer but still more powerful hardware than the competing console systems(which were priced cheaper).

    The thing is that most people who wanted PC quality games actually bought a real PC instead, and people who wanted a cheaper option than a PC for gaming just went with the even cheaper consoles. This compromise 3DO system fell in the middle where there wasn't much interest. Not as powerful/versatile as a real PC, not as cheap as other dedicated game consoles.
    Never thought of it that way before. Interesting.

    I guess what sets the 3DO apart from the Jag and 32X is games. The Jaguar only had five games come out between launch and October 1994, that's 11 months. Most of its games came out in 1995 by which time the PlayStation and Saturn were out or very close to launch. The Jaguar was a pipsqueak compared to those two, and also amassed a library of only 50 games. The 32X wasn't much more powerful (if at all), came out six months before the Saturn, and only got 40 games. Still, the Sega name probably got it a few sales, but 665,000 sales in a year and a half is not exactly successful.

    I think it goes without saying that the 3DO, 32X, and Jaguar were premature to the 32-bit era. The Genesis was in its heyday in 1993, the SNES was ramping up to its 1994-1995 peak, and even the NES was still in production in 1993-1994. People were just happy with 16 bits. Many people complain today about ugly 3D graphics on PlayStation and Nintendo 64, but the 3D was good enough quality by then to wow people and become mainstream. Games like Super Mario 64 and Metal Gear Solid were 3D masterpieces, whereas things like even Bushido Blade, Ridge Racer, and Jumping Flash, while they've aged relatively poorly, were a huge step up and wowed people in the mid 1990s. To an extent 16-bit 3D games like Virtua Racing and Star Fox wowed people, but the quality of 3D on those systems - or even the Jaguar and 32X - was never going to be appealing enough to replace 2D, and the 2D graphics on those systems also wasn't a meaningful enough upgrade to the 16-bit consoles most consumers had purchased in the last 3-4 years or less. The SNES came out in 1991, in 1993 it was clear 16-bit was going to be the mainstream for a while.

    By 1995-1996, the 16-bit consoles were getting stale and people were ready for something new. Let's look at the cycles of when the most successful consoles of the generations launched before then: 1975, crash. 1977, 1982, crash. 1985, 1990. Notice the 5 year gaps between 1977-1982 and 1985-1990 (the generations that weren't cut short by a crash). '77 being the Atari 2600 and '82 being the ColecoVision, 5200, Vectrex, etc. '85 being the NES (with the 7800 first test marketed in 1984 and the Master System in 1986) and '90 being the average of the '89 Genesis and '91 SNES. The pattern would suggest a new generation starting around 1995, which it did. On September 9, 1995 the bell tolled for the 16-bit generation. Companies were wise to keep their focus on 16-bit until that date. In fact, had the Saturn launched on its originally planned September 2, 1995 date, it would have been more successful. The Nintendo 64, launched September 29, 1996, was launched in the nick of time. The SNES was rapidly losing steam in 1996 against the PlayStation and 16-bit in general left the mainstream around 1997.

    In summary, missing that 1995-1996 window for launching a 32-bit console put you in a real uphill battle.
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    The problem was that market didn't exist in anything but tiny numbers. Kids knew immediately that FMV was trash, while those who were growing into adulthood wanted more sophisticated games that only a PC could provide. There were tons of RTS, sims, and other intensive games that no console could effectively do. In fact, that was largely true all the way through the previous generation. Most people still enjoyed the classic games, which explained the continued success of Zelda, Mario, DK for Nintendo, and later Crash, Spyro, Lara for Sony, whether in 2D or 3D. Again, the financial structure for 3DO never made any sense in the gaming world, which explained its quick burnout.
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    The 3DO was supposedly better designed and much easier to program for than either the Jaguar or the 32X, which would probably help explain the number and quality of the ports it received.
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