The Panasonic 3DO: A Glimpse into a Rare Failed Video Game Console

There are a handful of cheaper 3DO consoles floating around on the web at the moment. The Panasonic 3DO typically sells well over $100. These consoles are priced just under the $100 mark and guaranteed to work according to the sellers. If you’re interested in investing in this interesting piece of gaming collectors past, make sure you scoop up one of these bargains soon. You can also perform a general search on eBay for this console here.

However, you may not be very familiar with this system. That’s alright. The Panasonic 3DO never really gained mainstream acceptance like it’s other mid 90’s competitors (such as the Sega Saturn or PS1). Like the Xavix Port, the 3DO broke many barriers in the world of video game consoles. It was the first console to offer a disc system in place of cartridges. It was the first 32 bit console. It was the first console with truly high fidelity 16 bit PCM based audio card and Dolby Digital certification. You almost wonder in the world something this powerful could fail so miserably in the market (and fail it did with aplomb).

Panasonic 3DOThe History of the Panasonic 3DO


The console began life in 1993 as an idea from Electronic Arts’ founder, Trip Hawkins. By 1996, Panasonic and the 3DO company discontinued production. Many commentators in the game industry view the console and the company’s venture as a colossal failure. But I disagree. In my opinion, the console is just quirky to such degree that it completely destabilized the business model. It may have represented a commercial failure. But, this console was really a gaming revolution. Some people blame the console’s high cost for its downfall. Coming in at $699 retain price tag back in 1993, the console was quite cost prohibitive. But that’s not the entire story. The console didn’t really cost that much more to manufacture compared to its competitors. Right before its demise, Panasonic dropped the console’s price down to a more reasonable $400. But the price drop came too little too late. By now, the PS1 and Sega Saturn were eating the Panasonic 3DO‘s lunch and taking up just about all of the market share. The initial price makes perfectly good sense if you think about it. At the time, Panasonic’s console really had no competitor’s on the market. What really killed the console was the lack of third party commitment in its game catalog in the early days of its release.

The console offered these incredible (for the time) 3D graphics that 2D competitors (Sega Genesis and SNES) and inferior products (arcade units) just couldn’t compete with. The market was wide open for Panasonic and Hawkins. Unfortunately, not enough third parties bought into the vision and early adopters shied away from the initial price. The lack of initial 3rd party games turned into a lack of games period. Couple this with the success of fourth generation consoles (SNES and Genesis) and the writing was on the wall for the console. In my opinion, the Panasonic 3DO was the ‘Icarus of video game consoles’. It had the misfortune of coming out at the wrong time in an awkward phase between the Super Nintendo’s best games and before the technology for competing 32 bit consoles became accessible. The console reached too far too soon. To put it another way, you were much better off waiting for the Sega Saturn to come out.

With that being said, the console represents a seriously underrated budget item for us video game collectors. Because of its obscurity and lack of sales, tons of consoles are floating around on the web in various conditions at reasonable prices. And despite the fact that it didn’t have a huge catalog like the PS1 or N64, don’t let that scare you off. The console’s library is pretty small. But, the few games on offer are pretty awesome. The best 3DO games include system exclusives (at the time) such as Gex (you probably thought this started on PS1!), Killing Time, Lucienne’s Quest, Madden, and Alone in the Dark (also on the PC). To date, many argue that this version of Street Fighter 2 Turbo is unsurpassed even by the Sega Saturn version. I highly recommend nabbing a 3DO and building a budget collection of rare video game history!


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