Science and Tech
5 Video Game Consoles That Almost Hit The Market

John Markley | 8 Dec 2015 18:00
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3. Panasonic M2

The 3DO, brainchild of Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins, was one of the also-ran consoles of the early 90s. 3DO was not a single device; instead, it was a set of hardware specifications created by The 3DO Company that different companies could license to build their own 3DO-compatible machines. It boasted a CD-ROM drive, advanced technical capabilities that put it well ahead of its 16-bit competition, and extremely low licensing fees for games that made it more enticing to developers.

Released in 1993, it survived only three years. Raking in royalties by licensing out your design to other companies who'll do the actual manufacturing sounds attractive - but it means your licensees have to actually make a profit selling the system instead of eating an initial loss and then making it up from game licensing fees. Which is why the first version of the 3DO, made by Panasonic, launched with a ludicrous price tag of $699. Mind you, that's 1993 dollars, or about $1,150 today. A lackluster library with an abundance of FMV-heavy titles didn't help either.

Undeterred, the 3DO Company announced even more powerful successor, the M2. It was initially conceived as an add-on for the 3DO, before being redesigned as a standalone system. (Presumably after someone in the office finally worked up the courage to ask Trip how many units they could hope to sell of a device whose potential market was limited to the eight people who already owned a 3DO.)

In 1995, however, The 3DO Company had had a change of heart about remaining in the hardware business, and decided to cut its losses to focus on game development instead. The M2 was sold to Japanese electronics company Matsushita, who continued work on its development until 1997.

The system came tantalizingly close to actually coming out. By the time it was canceled, actual gameplay screenshots of one of its planned launch titles, WARP's horror game D2, had been released. Unfortunately, at 11th hour Matsushita decided it couldn't compete with the likes of Nintendo, Sega, and Sony and pulled the plug.

This was not quite the end of the M2. Its hardware was the basis of Konami's M2 arcade board used for several Konami arcade games in the late 90s, such as Battle Tryst (less interesting than it sounds) and Polystars. Aspects of M2 technology also found their way into other Matsushita products, such as office multimedia devices, interactive information kiosks, and - in a final indignity - coffee vending machines.

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