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Rerun: The Tragedy of 3DO

2022-03-09 | 🔗

This is the story of a video game console that tried to make a big change in the market but failed, and the man who dreamed it all up.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Welcome to textile production from I heart radio, welcome do tat stuff, I'm your host job and strictly Devon. Executive police are, with I heart radio and held a tech, our yeah I'm still, vacation myself. So it's time for a rerun. This episode originally published on October fourteenth twenty twenty. It is titled the tragedy of three d, yeah. This was a fun one to cover because I do enjoy it. Yo Games, quite a bit and three d it was one of those systems. I was always curious about and never of what. Frankly I I had the cash on me at the time to be able to buy something like that, but yeah. Let's sit back and listen back in nineteen, ninety three, a new
Video game console created by the founder of electronic arts launched and just Three years later, that console he discontinued and essentially taken off the market. It was a massive failure. The company that made the console stick around a little longer, also and lay closing up shop and two thousand three. This is story of the three or company and the console that wasn't meant to be now, for this episode we're going to focus a lot early on at pre historic, at least in terms of three d o information, because I think it's to get an understanding of the man who championed a deal of the three deal to Kennedy where he was coming from what his thought process was. If I, just focused on the console or even the company, all by itself,
be kind of unusual strange. You wouldn't understand why anyone would make these decisions, so it's helpful to have the background also. I just think it kind of an interesting story with lots of ups and downs, and that story begins with William M Hawkins. The third a trip Hawkins was born in nineteen, before he grew up in California and his mother Doktor Helen Hawkins was a producer and host at a California public broadcast station. She was also a prominent feminist and a publications director, a influential woman, and father, William Hawkins Jr, had earned. degree in physics before becoming a sales and marketing executive for various companies in Cal when primarily those in the tech sector in the late fifties and then into the sixties trips.
Would take a job with a company called Spectral Dynamics Corporation, which employed another person. it will be an important figure early, and for the young trip there being a man named Lane HAWK, but will get back to him. So as a kid trip law games, not just playing them but kind of learning how they worked right. What were the mechanics behind the games? What was this theory behind the guy? what led to making a game a fun playing experience. You know it It's not easy to develop an actual game that is rewarding that balances everything out and he was really interested in that model and when in high school, You would attempt to make his own version of various types of games like he would take operation from games that existed, that he enjoyed and try to make his own. He was particularly
interested in games that simulated sports. He himself loved sports, and so these games kind of gave him an outlet too kind of imagine himself being part of, like a top class athletic team According to later interviews, HAWK enjoy the board games but saw that many of his friends preferred to spend their spare time watching stuff on television, and during a visit to the home of his father's coworker that the aforementioned lane hawk, he saw something that would spark his imagination, for future industry. So Lane was fascinated with games as well, just like young trip Hawkins, and he was also really into computer systems, which at the time were not a consumer product? This, the only seventy six was even before them her hobbyist kits to purchase lane had spent a lot of money like more than five grand
in the nineteen seventies was an even more princely sum than we would think of today, and five thousand dollars is a lot of money. They to buy. What today would be an incredibly primitive mini computer, but the time it was there, it was kind of showing its age at the time, but it was at one point the art, it was called the PDP eight now computer first debuted in the nineteen sixties, when it really was you cutting edge type of technology, it costs a whopping eighteen thousand five hundred dollars. But this was well beyond the the Hague a of the PDP eight, and it was also a really big computer. It like the size of like a cat at like a wardrobe or a small refrigerator, it was a twelve bit machine. Many could handle a range of integers, for zero. Four four thousand ninety five or you could do from negative two thousand and forty eight to two thousand forty seven at zero would be taking up that pesky spot
in the middle and programming for the machine was from what I we stand anyway, not intuitive. It was not an easy the program for, but Lane wanted something that he could kind of work on in his spare time to putter around with was almost like a project car for someone who's a gear head for lane. It was a pity, be eight and he hooked up this computer to tell it. Printer. There was no display there, no monitor for the PDP eight, so you couldn't, I'll look at a screen and see what you are working on and instead you used to tell a type printer and the printer would print out. The information that you are working on with the computer would read it. You would make changes that would promote a new page, so pretty paints in process? While lane created a game, he called Mu M o o, as in what cows say, at least in the United States and the game.
Pretty simple. The game would generate a four digit number and it would keep that number secret. So the game has afforded number and it was your job as the player to figure out what that four digit number one Then you would submit your own guess. You would put in a four digit number and the computer would tell you how many digits, if any you right and whether or not any of those digits were in the right place. So let's say that the secret number, the camp- comes up with is eight thousand nine five. And my guess is one five. Nine three some would tell me. I got one correct, digit right location, because I got the nine correct in it's in the right spot. And I got a second digit correct, but it's not in the right spot. My five, is in the wrong position of that four digit number. So it's similar,
to a board game that would come out a little later called mastermind that one uses colors, not numbers, but it's a similar idea now move Who did this use moves and cows a cow would indicate that you had the right digit, but was in the wrong place, a move, would indicate that you had a right digit, but and it was in the right place, but you we told which one was which right you wouldn't be told which of the digits, was the correct one. You would just know. Oh I've got you know two MUS and a cow, and then my fourth digit is wrong cuz I've got to start changing this out and narrowing down. What that four digit number can possibly be and I assume you had to do it in a certain number of turns, but none of my research found anything about that. But for our story the important part is when Trip Hawkins SALT lanes set up, something must have switched on in trips, brain
saw the potential for computers to bring together the worlds of television and board games. He amend, in a world where one day people could play games on computers with displays and that's what he wanted to do. He wanted to make games for computers. there was no real way to do that at that time and there is no way for the consumer to even get hold of a computer at that stage Organs was certain. This is where things were going to go and lane hawk go on to develop some early arcade games, but that's a story for another time. According to trip Hawkins himself around nineteen. Seventy five he later a long term plan that would lead towards the founding of a computer game company by the year. Nineteen eighty do. But he had a lot of challenges to overcome. To actually make that happen. Now he I'd and was accepted at Harvard, and you
the student there in the early nineteenth seventies, any at work in an industry that just didn't exist yet, and that also meant he faced of challenges. When it came to his studies, it's not like there were degrees and what he wanted to do, because the thing to do wasn't a thing yet so he's started to kind of put together. His studies in a piecemeal fashion. Neo take classes in computer science and programming and related topics and at the end of his stay at Harvard. He hadn't just earned a degree. Essentially invented a degree in applied game theory and design. then went on to pursue postgraduate work at Stanford, where he earned an mba in nineteen. Seventy eight by this time, technology, was slowly starting to build the foundation that Hawkins would need to pursue his dream of creating a video game company
a tory twenty six hundred head debuted the year before he got his mba than that took out sitting position in the new field of home, video game consoles that same year, nineteen, seventy seven apple, would unveiled the apple to computer, which was the first personal computer from Apple that took aim and the relatively small harp hobbyist market are the original apple computer was a kit, you might even see pictures of old apple one computers in wooden cabinets. That's the original app but the apple two was the first real consumer, personal computer and It was still too soon for Hawkins to really pursue his plans to make a video game company. In addition, while in college Hawkins and made marketed and sold his own board game. After take, alone from his father. His father loaned him the princely sum of five thousand dollars which,
Again. That's a lot of money and people liked the game that Hawkins made, but one enough people who actually bought it to make it up ass. It was a failure and that failure, I think, convinced Instead, he really need to be methodical and patient before launching his business. It would be a bad idea, to rush into things. He had already seen what you know a misstep could do. It could be a very expensive mistake. So Hawkins would conduct the first complete study of the personal computer market. it's in nineteen, seventy eight that's back was a very young field. There were a lot of different computers out there, the apples the Trs eighty or trash eighty computer, the Tandy, the Commodore sixty four those were of coming out around this time, some of them a little later and he started to get a feel for where thing
we're headed and how he might best be able to take part in a technological revolution, while school. He attended a Peter Fair, and he actually saw the apple to day you in person. He was at that computer affair and he decided that he would apply to work for a computer company on graduating and he did he applied to a lot of different places and the one that game one offered that he accepted was apple. The company was here I need to bring him on board. He was the first NBA and in the company which he jokingly said, is always scary thing. You never want to be the first MBA in a company, but he joined when there were somewhere between twenty five and fifty people working there. Mrs, don't fully. Agree on this, which is often the case when I research stuff in computer history, though Hawkins himself has said there were about fifty employees. However, twenty five of them were
primarily responsible for physically assembling the computers if we really the sources kind of agree, it's just that some of the sources. ignore the assembly line workers and only focus on the in all the apple management and off That seems a bit o leaders to me, but maybe that's what's going on anyway. This was right as the apple to started to get some traction as the earliest successful personal computers that was available on the market at Apple Hawkins would gain a lot of real world experience while taking on an increasing amount of possibility. He helped guide apple's efforts to getting computers into workplaces and he encouraged the all men of various productivity applications like spreadsheet programmes. Atkins has said quote: I didn't invent the spreadsheet, but I did bring the first spreadsheet apps into apple in but this would allow apple to compete in markets were previously IBM was really the king of the castle.
four years after joining apple trip. Hawkins was the director of strategy and marketing, which you know that's a heck of an achievement to go to a director level position within four years, even if you and you know, take into account the fact that the office staff had really only numbered twenty five employees when he joined the company and apple had just held its initial public offering and that ended up making Hawkins a really healthy amount of cash. But this in that we were just getting up to nineteen. Eighty, two and Remember what I said a little earlier in this episode. That was the year that Hawkins had predicted. way back in nineteen seventy five, that he would launch a computer game company, or at least that's what his plan had called for and other computer game companies were already getting off the ground around this time home video game consoles like the Atari twenty six hundred had spawned numerous
game, development companies, since made his move to follow through on his plan that his younger self had created- and he left Apple, to found his computer game company now trip. Hawkins says that at the time he thought video game developers we're on the whole, not treated so well. They were frequently treated like cheap Contra. Labor on a game by game Basis and Hawkins aim to create a company that would turn that, on its head and that was the birth of electronic arts better known today as air. Then it was back and maintain. Eighty two when we come back, we'll give a super high level overview of Hawkins Vision of EA and how that, would lead him to found another company, the three d o company, but first, let's take a quick break
today, the man yea has it's fair to say a little bit of baggage, along with it but he has a reputation for doing some stuff, that rubs gamers the wrong way, the big one being that it has history of scooping up smaller video game developers and then kind of happening, the intellectual property, those video game developers had created and just meaning a dry having the developers languish a bit before shutting them down has done this to companies like origin, which made the wing commander and Ultima Series Match, says, Pandemic Bullfrog studios. The list is long into. one twelve even made headlines for a really, not super awesome reason
It was voted the worst company in the entire United States, but back in ninety eighty two. It was a very different company. Hawkins said that he funded IE, eight out of his own pocket for the first six months and the very beginning he was the only employee- and he was were- Galaviz home until he was able to cure some office space in California, and then he started to higher on employees, and it was we in October months after he had started, he got started in the the spring of nineteen, eighty two, so the fallen one thousand nine hundred and eighty two he got together with his employees starting to sound a little biblical and together we brainstormed up the name of the company. Electronic arts and Hawkins, had really wanted to stress that This can be a form of art and that video in developers are artists and they should be recognized as such and electronic arts was born.
is early identities centred around compensating and crediting game developers. Above and beyond what the competition offered like most video games at the time, You have no idea who worked on that game, found out. It was only because some industry magazine wrote up an article about the person chances are you just knew which titles went with which companies, if you were even paying that close attention Hawkins one too, that he wanted to say. No, you will to recognise the work of specific videogame developers and the ones that make the stuff you lie. You'll know to keep getting their stuff. That was the idea The company launched early titles like mule em, you Elio as a combat simulation game and our which was one of my favorite early, computer games, it was a chess like game in which players would control p.
Says that represented different sort of magical and mythological creatures and characters and you're trying to take control of a board by controlling space occupied by your opponent, so you can move a piece to an opponent's square, and that would initiate an arcade style dual where you would try to beat the player or your computer opponent in a little arcade style, a little shootout and different pieces different abilities. Some of them were super fast, but not very powerful. Some shot very powerful beams, but move slowly and so on. I'm getting off track, but it was a great game again one am I irids any are convents out there, give it a shot out, because man that was one of my favorite early computer gangs, Hawkins, Over his favorite games were still sports titles
an early ea sports game was Dr Jay and Larry Bird go one on one which, if you're not the one up on the sports ball, it's a basketball game. You know Doctor Jay and Larry Bird, both famous basketball players, amazing basketball players Atkins himself designed the game, This was very heavily involved in the design of the game and he also brought both of the basketball stars into the design phase in the marketing of the title, and that gave it so prestige in the market to actually you know, attach the old world athletes to this video game title- and if you know your video game history, you also know that this early period of yea coincided with a catastrophic market event one nineteen, eighty three the home, the game market began to wobble by nineteen eighty four. It was in a shambles, and I've done
full episodes about the video game crash of eighty three. But the short version is that there were a confluence of problems from a flood of bad games by by night developers there were series of terrible business decisions at multiple companies. There was the over production of titles. That meant that the lucrative industry imploded. Then there are other elements to like it's insane popular games or or entertain franchises that ended up being a cost that you can never recoup I think a lot of really bad decisions and entire companies disappeared within a year, and video games in general were seen as a oh you're, so much so that retailers didn't want to carry. video games or video game councils- and it was over- We buy kind of pivoting toward computers that companies related to the video game space, could stay afloat
and you know he had primarily been developing titles for computers. But it wasn't immune to this problem either. may shifted a little bit in its initial strategy. You know again was originally to promote games by associating those games with the designers who made them, but yea was focusing more on promoting specific game titles and making franchises out of I'm rather than saying. Oh, this is a game by so, and so the company focused exclusively are developing games for various computer platforms like the apple computers pcs, the Commodore, sixty four and others. At that time, then Nintendo came along and managed to do what most analysts thought was impossible. and tinder was able to bring consoles back from the dead. Then, No entertainment system here in the United States also knows the family com became a grand slam,
home run of a hit thought. I would use an analogy that trip Hawkins himself would probably appreciate But it would take many years for ea to start to develop games for console systems in earnest because Hawkins was one he was wary of consoles after the crash of nineteen. Eighty three and two he was pretty sure the pc was going to be the future of gaming When Sega launched the Sega Genesis, aka, the a drive in nineteen. Eighty nine Ellison in North America launched in different parts of the world at different times it launched in Japan earlier, for example, but Tripoli would relent a bit and negotiated a favorable but not perfect deal with Sega for the e aid for ye to to publish games on Sega's console and at that point, ye would also develop a few games for them Tender entertainment system and got a little bit out of that niche market of just developing computer games. Now we get
the point where we start to see where the three d o company idea starts to creep into Hawkins, mind to understand why Hawkins would try to get into the console market after he had kind of grow grown wary of it after the crash of nineteen. Eighty three, you have to know a bit about the relationship between video developers and companies that actually manufacture the hardware that those games run on the main the console manufacturers, in other words in particular, was kind of a thorn in the end. reciting only for trip Hawkins Sago wouldn't on steep royalties. Now that meant that game publishers would have to pay a certain amount of. money per game sold back to Sega. In order to have the games run on Sega Machine
So let's say that you as a consumer are going out to buy an ear game for the sake of Genesis who is getting paid. What turns out a lot of people are getting paid first there's the brick and mortar store where you bought your game. Because again, this is back in the late eighties, there's not really any other opportunity. But those merchants in turn had to spend money to get the stock to sell in the first place. So they, would buy their copies of the games that they sell to. Consumers like you from yea or from a video game distributor. But let's not get too complicated yea in turn would have to share a portion of each of those sales to retailers back with Sago Sega, demanded high royalties, so that and a smaller percentage of the money would go to ea ea would develop the games, but some that money was gone
go to say God not to EA and Hawkins felt that there was a big power imbalance there one a way to address it and he thought if he could make a company, the design, video game systems and he didn't impose. hi royalties on publishers then theaters would have a greater degree of freedom and a large incentive to develop games for that system and it would usher in a new era of amazing games. This was key. Into that artists. First mentality and let's face it: a desire to keep more of the revenue for the publisher, not send it off to the car filmmaker. The three deal model was to impose a flat three dollars royalty rate per game sold. It was much lower then the royalties that were being imposed by saying or nintendo at the time. Hawkins had a fairly radical idea. Now the standard practice for
console hardware is for a single company like Nintendo or Sega, or Sony to design and manufacture the systems themselves. These companies could have One in house development, studios but they would also negotiate deals with external video game studios to publish titles on those consoles and hawk wanted to kind of turn that model on its head and his idea was to create a company that would design the specs and the texture for a video game council, but then that company with license out the design for other manufacturers to actually make to fabricate those cam So, if you listen to my episode about arm processors, you're right now, Is this model as arm followed the same pathway? It's something Nvidia does with graphics cards, although Nvidia also will manufacture cards in house, in addition to licensing out the designs to other fabricators.
to focus on three D. O Hawkins stepped as these ceo of IE eight, which would come back to haunt him later, would remain the chairman of the Board of directors for a while would become the ceo of three d o now and all these initial lessons are really wearing me out beyond the goal of creating a design for a new council. There were a few other considerations going into the three deal, but it helps if we take a snapshot, look of where the video game console industry was in nineteen, ninety one that was the year of three Deos found. So what was going on with videogame councils in ninety one, but generally speaking, the counsels of ninety ninety one we're in what we would refer to as the fourth generation of video game consoles first generation which started in the nineteen seventies had largely in consoles with games that were hard wired onto the systems, meaning you couldn't
switch out games or anything the console would have one or more games programmed on it. And that was that That was what you were limited to second generation of consoles hat is the one that had the Atari twenty six hundred in it. That was part of the second generation, this as the generation that was around during the crash of nineteen eighty three, a lot of these consoles had no cartridge base system, so you could switch out games that kind of stuff. The third generation included the and donor timid system, the sacred master system and a few other councils now then mine, these generations are like hard and fast with solid boundaries. It's not like you. After nineteen eighty seven, you go from one generation to the next, their little more. but while Hawkins was working on the design of the three Dio, the leading, consoles on the market included the Super Nintendo entertainment system, which came out nineteen, ninety one,
the Sega Genesis, which had actually come out in nineteen, eighty, eight and the turbo graphics. Sixteen. These were all fourth generation video game console There were others that are on the market as well. They just weren't as popular. There was the Philip c d. I Sega would include the Sega CD as a type of of, when there were a couple of other systems that were, the horizon and ninety one. When three dia was coming together but while the systems like the Essen, he s the genesis and the base turbo gravest. Sixteen were all cartridge based games. Where the game is. You know hard coded onto the Circuit board of a video game cartridge. The future was moving toward optical discs, compact disc, in the game space that was clearly where things were going. Although some companies cough Nintendo cough, would resist that longer than others
now the standard of the time. The fourth generation councils was for sixteen bet, graphics, with processors that ranged on the low end with eight bit cpu the turbo graphics. Sixteen had an eight bit c b, you and eventually the fourth generation would include a couple of systems that had thirty two bit cpu use with, like the Sega thirty two x, although thirty two bit system saw limited release in the fourth generation and limited success. They they will. he came in on the tail end of the fourth generation will play a bigger part in the fifth generation of games. It would take a couple the years to design the three d and land licensing deals with manufacturers interested in making the new console The launch of the three Deah would pull in direct competition with councils that belong to the fifth generation of game systems more in those in a minute, so the pressure was,
the three deal would need to be better than the existing councils in the fourth generation or it would quickly be left behind by the next generation of systems. From other many factors, so the lead designers for the three Deo were a couple of guys named Dave Needle and Rj, Michael, both of whom had worked on systems or other companies together. In fact, needle Michael had both worked with Commodore to design the Amiga computer system, I've done episodes about Amiga and that story is pretty darn interesting. I really recommend you look into it. It's a fascinating story. Recommend checking out those episodes. In particular, I think I did a bang up job, if I don't mind saying so You can see how that particular project came about and how it gradually faded away. But the two. It also designed the links handheld system for a Tory. That's l! Why? In acts as a tory was naming their systems after cats furrow
and now they would be designing the three d o specs for trip Hawkins. Now, according to at least some versions of the story, Ray the design for the three d, a really good start in nineteen. Eighty nine needle and Michael had sketched out their ideas on a napkin and trip. Hawkins had known these two for for years and after learning about what they had in mind, he decided he wanted to join forces with them in an effort to shape this, into the three deal idea. He was kind of thinking on so together, they form the three d o company, the fall. for the console would become the three Deo interactive multiplayer, but a lot of people just call it. The three
That does make things a little confusing, because that was also the name of the company as well and will learn the company managed to stick around a little longer than the console did. So it gets a little. You know: fuzzy when you start just abused three as the name Hawkins look to partner with different electronics manufacturers to license the design for the actual production of the three d, o building a hardware company, would have been monumentally expensive. So he decided that lies. It just made more sense, and he approached in particular prepare Panasonic, Sony and Sega. Now Tony had recently had a really bad experience with an intended. The two companies where soup to introduce a cd rom peripheral that was intended for the Super Nintendo System and Sony was going to make it. Then they had gone really far in the in the whole process. But then Nintendo backed out of the deal worse than that they backed out in public at
yes and switch to a different company. They chose Philips instead and Ultimately, that didn't really go anywhere that product just kind of faded away. So it was all for nothing. KEN could her Oggie a Sony executive who was in charge of this super disk project pivoted within and to use the super disk technology as the backbone of a new product from Sony. The first playstation prototype, which actually was very different from the playstation that would officially debut a couple of years later, but surprisingly Sony. declined Hawkins his offer to license the three d design for manufacture because they already had their play station in development, say gum which, if you recall, was the company that had kind of inspired Hawkins to pursue the three d o project in the first place, also passed on the opportunity, to make the three DL apparently Sega executives felt it would have been too expensive with two.
Small of a profit margin to really get into the three d manufacturing game This is one of those cases where, it made the right call those. then can seem few and far between. If you know a lot about Sega's history, but this was the right decision, sonic, however, was a different story, this alike, Alex Company was one of the biggest in the world, but they didn't have a video game console they didn't develop those there, was an entire sector of the electronics market out there that Panasonic was not serving so the company became the first to lie. since the three d, o design and start on fabrication, A little bit later, another japanese electronics company called Sanyo would start making their own three d, o consoles they also licensed it from three to now Ano started off in nineteen forty seven. During what was effectively a purge Panasonic it was a post world war. Two purge of the
but company for that story. You should listen to my episodes about the history of Panasonic, because I mentioned it there find it interesting that the first two companies that sign onto to fabricate radios. Also shared, dna in their corporate history also, This doesn't really play into our three Deo story. I thought I would just go ahead and mention it. Those Two companies would join up in two thousand and nine when Panasonic would acquire Sanyo, which is just thence that we live in a really weird world. There was a third company that would manufacture three Deo councils, This one was gold star, a south korean company gold. Our is still around today, except it's by a totally different name, and it's a name that you and recognise that As El G Electronics, it changed its name. Nineteen ninety five, so the
He is still around, but under a different name, while penance, on yellow and gold star would produce three consoles. There were a few other companies that had agreed to license the design and build their own 3d arrows, but those it's just never materialized in the marketplace Gamepro magazine was a great resource for this episode. When I was looking into this, According to one issue, Samsung was one of the companies that signed on to produce three Deos, although they didn't announce any sort of timeline for production and ultimately it didn't go anywhere. Another game pro issue revealed that the election. Its Kommeni Toshiba had secured a licensing deal there. Actually manufacture a handheld or portable three deo system that also never went anywhere and yet another issue of game pro, but they were really big into covering the development of three dl back in the day, but I found that TNT,
only showed off a prototype three d, o system of their own. Had the nineteen. Ninety four consumer elect Alex Show, but as far as I know, think beyond the prototypes that a t made ever got produced, I do wonder if there are any of those a t and floating around out there anyway, gold? Dar, Panasonic and Sanyo. Would each release a few different versions of the three d they produced. Some were never meant to be consumer products. They were rather designed to help game developers who needed no actual hardware to test their games on essentially debug kits for their game, others would swap out basic parts on the systems allow the early three Deos had a motorized cd tray, which is both expensive it's a point of failure. New venture, the motors going to give out in the treaty is not going to extend our go back in.
so some of them in the subsequent models of the three Deo replace that, with a top loading cd tray to just flip, open the top and put a cd in that way, as opposed to ejecting a tray, now when we come back I'll run down what the basic specs were for the three d o console, what set it, apart from other consoles of that from and why the console ultimately failed, as well as give a brief rundown on what happened to the company three Deo, which again hung on for a few years after the death of the console will get to that. After this quick break and oh wow So what makes a three d o a threed here, let's learn about the specks of the council. Now, for the purposes of this breakdown. I I'm really just going to focus on the first consumer model of the three Deo to hit the market.
That would be the Panasonic three Deo interactive, multiplayer, F, Z, one. This is the system that first debuted in nineteen ninety three, the brains of the machine, was a thirty two bit cpu. That was a risk style processor. Are, I asked see that is reduced instruction set computer, I talked about this with the story of arm, but based equally. It means that the instructions that this style of sepia handles our role Tivoli simple, and that means that each step each instruction is easy to carry out and therefore it goes pretty fast complicated instructions might require lots more steps. That slows things down the clock, speed or the number, pulses. The cpu has per second to carry out. Instructions was twelve point: five megahertz, that's twelve million five hundred thousand pulses Second, that sounds like it's really fast, but by
embarrassing. These days, we talk about processors that are in the gigahertz range, with more than a billion pulses per second, so we've come a long way, paired with the cd you were a couple of video coprocessors meant to offload some of the heavy lifting when it comes to graphics, processing. In a way it's similar to what graphics cards would do for pcs late. Ninety nine. By handing off tasks like texture, mapping to coprocessors, the cpu could focus on other tasks while running games on the treaty. It also had a math coprocessor in addition to those two also kind of spread out below now, This was in the dark times before. Hgtv was even a thing, though, HAWK has said on occasion that the three Dio could have been upgraded to hd. I don't know It's true based on what I've seen, however, as it.
Was sold. The three Dio would generate images that would be shown at a resolution of six hundred and forty pixels by four hundred and eighty pixels. Now, essentially, you know standard definition. It was cable, I love replicating sixteen point: seven million colors the video supported Dolby, surround sound. It had two mb of D'Ram, one mb of Vram and thirty, two kb of S ram. But what the heck is that well DE stands for dynamic ram, which at the time was thus in the ram of machines, it must be continually refresh around occasionally refreshed, I should say, not continually, occasionally refreshed by the microprocessor or else the memory deteriorates. V ram is video ram, a type of ram that the computer and actually read and write to simultaneously, and it was particularly useful for handling graphics and s room,
stands for a static ram, which was a much faster, form of ram than DE ran but it's better. Why don't? Just you want to just use use for a man was because it was also way more expensive, so would drive up the cost of production. That's why the three deal also had some expansion, ports and at a single control port, but it allowed for a daisy chain connections of up to eight peripherals, so you can have more more controllers plugged into it, but it had the one port that you used to do that with now. When the system went on sale, oh and it also had a cd rom drive. I mentioned that earlier, but young children do what I went on sale. I did so for six hundred ninety nine dollars in nineteen. Ninety three that is a lot of money if we just for inflation in today, the? U S dollars it would be equivalent to about one thousand. Two hundred sixty bucks or so
So imagine that you go into a store, and you see a video game console and it's ticket price as one thousand two hundred and sixty dollars This is not a fully fledged computer. It's not like a gaming rig or anything. It is a video game console akin to something like the playstation by compared, then the Sega Genesis which was again already on the market. It had been since the late eighties that one cost eighty nine dollars when it launched and the Super Nintendo entertainment system, which was the rain in champ at the time had cost one, hundred. Ninety nine dollars, when it launched so the three d o asked more than both of those combined. It almost cost twice as much as both of those put together now granted. The three deal was a thirty two bit sis whereas the ESA, yes and the Sega Genesis, the regular Sega Genesis were sixteen bet system
so the radio could run more sophisticated games with better graphics, but at that steep price point would anyone actually buy one and why was that price so high? While it goes back to the three Dio business model, B Hawkins idea was leave the manufacturing to other people and to make money through licensing the technology to those manufacturers and later to develop games for the system itself and to locked on royalties for all the consoles and games that were sold for the factors that meant that the three was inherently more expensive than if those companies had actually develop their own hardware in house if actors were going to have to pay three Deo for every console they sold to consumers so to make up for that cost that loss in revenue they increased the price of the consoles, but that ended up pricing the systems well out of the budgets of most video games.
And who are out there. The typically the way, video game console manufacturers make money is through software, not hardware, Most companies will actually sell the hardware, the consoles at a loss. So the retail price, will actually be below what it costs to make and ship those consoles to consumers, Why would you do this? Well, it's councils consoles, are really no good without content to play on those consoles. So the men factors would use the council's to secure customers for stuff like video games and other content. My soften Sony and than ten dough can stay and to lose money on console sales if they can make it back by selling enough First Party Games, or making royalties off of games that are to run on those systems, but since manufacturers like Panasonic, didn't own the ip they
rely on that same model, they weren't going to make royalties off of game sales. The way that three deal would peck of it. Sonic had made a game for the console that they were manufacturing. They would have to pay reality. The three deal now sure it was a lower royalty than what it would be. If you were to make a game for Sega or Nintendo Panasonic was actually fabricating. The three top 10s and so the company pass. The costs on to the consumer understand The belief that meant that the sails of the three Dio were modest at best. While the royalty fees meant that new developers were interested in making games for the console the fact the consoles weren't really selling. Well was a huge problem: developing a game is a time consuming and expensive process, and if you see that very few people
bought the console in the first place. Well, there's not a lot of incentive for you to make games for it. I mean, if you do, spend that time and money there's a really good chance. You won't see a return on that investment. There's literally not enough people with the console out there to buy enough Please have your game for you to make a profit. So the three d o had sort defeated itself now this wasn't. So the hardware, Fair other systems that could go toe to toe with a three o were soon on the market. Afterwards, like the Sony, Playstation Failure was more in the business model. Hawkins, for his part, has the most retailers actually marked the price down to five hundred and ninety nine dollars. Not six hundred and ninety nine dollars, because the retailer said will now her be able to sell these things if it's that expensive. So I guess that's something but even so, at five. Ninety nine. It was far more expensive than the consoles that competitors on the market had.
when the Sony Playstation. Would they view in nineteen. Ninety five, two years after the three EU at first hit the market so priced it at two hundred and ninety nine dollars and The three deal the playstation had a thirty two bit processor. imperative amounts of ram, the He one would be the most expensive three console to hit the market. That was the first one, but even though expensive ones were still more, expensive than the competition gold three dia will debut at three hundred and ninety nine dollars even the expensive. Z one would drop to four hundred and ninety nine dollars later, but the damage had been done adding to the enormous problem of a high price, was the fact that developing games for this. was a new process. It was a brand new set of hardware and that men that game development was a little more slowly than what the three had hoped.
that meant that some titles that had been intended to be launched. Titles like addressing park game trail behind by several months as developers tried to work out bugs in their code, In fact, the only title that was available at launch was a game called crash and burn a futuristic racing game. The console with fair a little bit better in Japan, where there were six whole launch titles to go along with it when it went on sale in nineteen. Ninety four but after an initial interest in three d o that interest in Japan died down and sales died with it. and one bitter part of the story is that a the company that trip Hawkins had founded back in nineteen. Eighty two, ultimately bailed on three 3ds to develop more software for Sony, Playstation Hawkins, about his old company would not be developing exclusive title, for the 3Ds console, but they
be doing it for the Sony Playstation, and that had to be a knife in the back to see the company he had founded undercut the next company he had founded yikes the three d o company was looking at a new console designed to try and salvage things they code named it the M two. This was going to be the successor to the three d o and it was intended to be. Backwards compatible with the three 3Ds system, so that now you wouldn't totally irritate all the three 3ds up there and the IMF to was needed because other game consoles were hitting the market that could compete on a technical level pretty effectively with the three deal and they were much cheaper and That, unfortunately, was just never meant to be. The company stopped development of the IMF to and sold it after Panasonic, it's probably a good thing because they avoided these sunken cost far, I see by ninety ninety six. The writing was on the wall and
three deals system was discontinued. The YO companies which gears and instead of designing hardware specks and then licensing those out the fabricated, the compass would focus solely on developing software for other existing consoles. like the Sega Saturn and even the Sony Playstation, as well as for other computer platform, the company restructured, followed me, there's no need for them were designed teams at that point and by Anti? Ninety seven. The company had sold off its hardware business division to Samsung Martin who had been present well hope, it was serving as ceo German left the company at that time, leaving Hawkins with the full leadership of the three d o funny. Three o company would go on to develop. Games like the army, men franchise, the might and magic series and high it major League baseball, which is possibly another nod to Hawkins Love of sports,
but while some of those franchises would do well, ultimately, the company was unable to stay in business and to them three ten years after they had founded the company. Three Deo had to file for chapter eleven bankruptcy action its assets were sold off with different franchises going to other game developers and all story, comes to an end. What, as for trip Hawkins He ran to some other challenges in two thousand and eleven, the IRS that, as the Internal Revenue Service in the United States, the agency kind of in charge of overseeing federal, access. They alleged that Hawkins owed around twenty million dollars in back taxes, and that number would steadily go up. A judge said that Hawkins quote, continued to spend money extravagantly with knowledge of his liabilities. In the quote. Essentially, he was saying that Hawkins was using a personal bankruptcy. He too kind of shield his wealth and was
EL spending money like crazy on a lavish lifestyle or as an old time me type person might say he was me, can hay while the sun was shining, he was this, with the help of a little accounting company called K, p m g by the way, this sort of financial gymnastics that Hawkins was accused of performing. are not that dissimilar from the allegations leveled against a certain United States. President right now, Hawkins would go on to pay some of those back taxes back. He would be embroiled in various legal proceedings regarding the bulk of those taxes. That's where electronic arts or easier It is now the second largest video game publisher in the world right behind Activision Blizzard. Another behemoth in video game public and, as I mentioned earlier, PA has built up a pretty spotty reputation over the years. Oh and As for apple, you know the first employer of trip Hawkins after he got out of town
well Apple is still do in pretty good these days. I hear they actually have a new phone out, so garonne them and that wraps up the tragic tale of the three d o and the three Dio company and the misadventures of trip Hawkins, which I think would make a great title of a choose. Your own adventure novel. Next for Hawkins, I don't know he found another company called digital chocolate which will maybe I'll talk about in another episode, then the only still act about there, but the other was one of those stories where, like he had some great ideas and he a real passion for games, something that I think is is really noteworthy, and he made some great moves, but not everybody. You know that's a thousand very few people do and this is a reminder of that.
hope you enjoy that episode of the tragedy of three D. Oh, if you have suggestions for topics, I should cover a detour upset the text up, remember to reach out to me the best. to do that is on twitter to handle for the shows TAT start pages. W I'll talk to you again really soon. Text stuff, is it Heart radio production for more pod from Iheart radio visit. The eye heart radio, app apple, podcast, wherever you listen to your favorite jokes.
Transcript generated on 2022-03-19.