The world of Game was a wasteland. Atari, the fabled kingdom of the west had fallen. Its people had turned on their king in a vicious revolt. Their coffers no longer flowed freely with gold. The land lay in ruin. Crumbling arches and broken pillars dotted the landscape. Once grand halls now lay empty and bare, their tapestries worn, their gleaming floors tarnished and dull. Even their army had disappeared from the battlefield. They had not been conquered. They had simply laid down their arms and walked away. The citizens had lost faith in the empire and had long since fled to other lands. The royal family had moved into hiding. Without a people or a king to strive for, what need was there for an army? So soon after a meteoric rise to power, twilight had fallen on Atari and the gaming world.
In the darkness that followed, two powers rose in the east, the great empire of Nintendo and the powerful Sega clan.
Nintendo were a people who had learned to harness vast reserves of creative energy. The nation rose to prominence under the hand of Emperor Hiroshi Yamauchi. A shrewd and determined leader, his strategies were complimented by the coterie of Samurai who served him. At the head of their defenses was the legendary samurai Miyamoto. His battle prowess and achievements would become the stuff of legend. The nation would come to revere him, and even enemy warriors, moved by wonder and respect, would come to pay him tribute. Under the guidance of the emperor and his champion, waves of samurai were groomed and sent forth to do battle. In those early days, Nintendo was a nation brimming with creative power and their dominance was staggering. Over time, they would become more rigid, beholden to layers of tradition. Though they would continue to innovate, they advanced according to their own code of honor and paid little heed to the technological advancements of rival nations. The heavy armor of their samurai along with the defensive strategies they employed in battle, allowed the empire to withstand generation upon generation of assaults by outside powers attempting to lay them low.
Sega was the name used by an aggressive clan of ninja who emerged from the mist shrouded hills of the east and operated with stealth and speed. They were a band of deadly warriors who were unafraid to challenge the might of the Nintendo Empire. They saw the empire as too stifling and conservative and offered a less restrictive alternative for those who would convert to their cause. The weapons of war they fashioned were fused with mystical energy and were awe-inspiring in their power. Their names still echo down through the ages. The Genesis, the Saturn, the Dreamcast. For four generations they held their own in what would come to be known as ‘The Great War’. Led by two famous assassins, Yu Suzuki and Yuji Naka, they would eventually conquer over half of empire territory, though their conquests would not hold forever.
As the two eastern nations rose in power and influence, trade routes opened with the rest of the world and the people of the west became enamored of them. The popularity of the eastern powers spread like a wildfire throughout the western regions with people proclaiming their allegiance to one or the other. Some saw the vacuum of leadership in the west as an opportunity and made moves to join the fray. The kingdom of Atari had remained in hiding for generations, secretly developing a weapon of great magnitude that could be used in an effort to reclaim their former glory. They were calling it, ‘The Jaguar’ and rumors of its existence and capabilities began circling the lands and those who had secretly harbored a long-suffering devotion to the fallen kingdom began to feel hope burn once again in their breasts. A world war was about to begin. A tumultuous uprising and an epic struggle of powers, whose wake would reshape the landscape such that the world of Game would become almost unrecognizable to future generations.
This is where we will pause for a moment. Assuredly the annals of history carry forward for untold years beyond this point. Later, a broken trade relationship between Nintendo and the Sony aristocracy would lead to another player in the war, the presence of which would move across the face of the earth like a hurricane and reshape the course of history. Much later, the X-bot cyborgs would descend upon the world from the Microsoft mother ship and wage war upon the standing powers of the time. But allow us to focus in on a small part of history that occurred before all of that. Before the world would behold the wonders of Sony or the horrors of Microsoft, in the final days of the third age, there was… a man named Trip.
Trip Hawkins was not a warrior, a ninja or an emperor. He was just a man possessed of a remarkable charisma, a keen intelligence and a burning ambition. One night, Trip Hawkins had a dream. In his dream, Trip saw the future, a future where the world of Game had been altered by a piece of technology unparalleled in power and possessing irresistible allure. It was made clear in his vision that this object could be used as a device for good or wielded as a weapon of war. Though the technology of the item was so advanced and complex as to be almost alien, still, the designs for building the device were given to him in the dream along with a capacity to interpret them. In his dream, Trip saw information no longer being written to cartridges but rather shining optical discs. He saw an information network lacing the worlds infrastructure, connecting people from all corners of the earth and a means for tapping into it. He saw a technology that was adaptable and upgradable such that it would continue to be relevant in succeeding generations. He saw all of this and more. Trip awoke in a cold sweat. The designs for the building of the device were still in his head. It was begging to be built. It was begging him to build it. A name for the device floated down to him from the darkness of the room. It would represent, among other things, the next evolution in the sharing of media and information. Audio to Video to… 3DO. Trip Hawkins climbed out of bed and began building the future.
Trip sought out capital from the world’s leading businessmen and entrepreneurs. He leveraged his charismatic genius to persuade those with power to buy in to his vision. A lesser man would have failed at the start. A lesser man would have sounded insane. But Trips conviction was genuine and although the road he was travelling was an exhilarating mystery, even for him, that conviction was contagious, and soon he possessed a network of associates who shared his vision. A network that consisted of pioneers in electronics, manufacturing, communications and financing. He was even able to convince a former architect of the Atari kingdom to defect to his cause. Such was his gift.
As the device began to take shape, its capability was slowly being made clear. This was a power that would easily rival and diminish the weapons of all of the great nations of the earth. The war machines of the Nintendo empire, the Sega uprising, the Philips colonialists, the NEC and Amiga nations, even the rumored Atari Jaguar, would all pale in comparison to the might of the 3DO. Trip travelled east and persuaded the world’s foremost electronics manufacturer, Matsushita (Panasonic in the west), to begin building the final design. Soon thereafter, the weapon was forged. The 3DO was R.E.A.L. Ultimately, Panasonic and Trip Hawkins turned their weapon on the other gaming nations of the earth and took their place in the war. The 32-bit era of the war, and the fourth age had begun.
Trips estimation of the power potential of his dream device was soon proven right. It easily outclassed all of the competition of its time. The weapon became the pride of the west and many citizens rallied to the red, blue and yellow banner of the 3DO army. When Atari eventually introduced their secret weapon in an attempted comeback, the 3DO was easily able to shrug off it’s advances. There was, however, a fatal flaw. Trip had been given a vision of the future, but he didn’t know from how far in the future it had come. The machine was cutting edge, but its appetite was insatiable. It cost too much to manufacture, to fuel, to repair. The resources required were as staggering as the capabilities of the system itself. In the course of the war, it became evident that the leaner, more efficient weapons of the other nations gave them a distinct advantage. Being less expensive to manufacture meant more enemy weapons were produced than 3DO’s and in time that disparity in numbers became too overwhelming for Trip and his army to overcome.
Soon, rumblings began to emerge of a new weapon being crafted by the Sega clans and something even greater by a spited Sony aristocracy. Doubt began to gnaw at the hearts of the 3DO faithful. But Trip was not finished. He believed that he could forge a path forward and remain competitive if he built a weapon that would be more powerful than anything the other nations could produce. If he could do so while improving some of the 3DO’s inefficiencies, well, all the better. Work began on the Mark II. Exploiting all of the knowledge and experience they had culminated during the production of the 3DO, Panasonic began building a master weapon that again, was far ahead of its time. Initial reports revealed that the M2 system would easily outperform Sega and Sony’s new weapons and be poised to go head to head with Nintendo’s upcoming 64-bit juggernaut. The 3DO Brigade cheered and celebrated. They looked to the future with hopeful enthusiasm. The day was bright.
And then… it wasn’t. Panasonic looked back at the resources spent on the 3DO experiment and looked ahead at what would be required to forge ahead with the M2. In the end, they were not willing to commit the resources required to make the M2 successful and broaden 3DO’s conquest. They cancelled the project. They disbanded the army. The 3DO faithful wept. Eventually, most would ally themselves with one of the other nations engaged in conflict. The war continued as did the story of the Gameworld. Trip moved on to other endeavors, none of which would again influence the history of the war until much, much later, and then only in a minute, insignificant fashion. But the dream of the 3DO carried on.
In later years, ideas that had been introduced by the 3DO would be adapted and perfected by other powers, at a reduced cost due to the unrelenting advance of technology. Those whose lives had been touched by the 3DO, who marveled at its power and fidelity, who pledged their allegiance to the red, blue and yellow, carried their memories with them and never forgot. I was one of those. I am the story teller. The chronicler. I was there to witness the war. I watched it unfold, first hand. I had been a Nintendo loyalist prior to the advent of the 3DO. I became a 3DO believer after only one instance of observing it’s power and glory. I signed up for the cause. Trip, it appears, who had made a believer of so many, had made one of me as well. Though somewhat late to do so, I joined my 3DO brethren in battle and was proud to be counted among them. After that dark day when 3DO fell, I returned to my Nintendo roots, but I never let go. Even still I cling to those halcyon days of youth, and the excitement and wonder the 3DO brought. Now, I am the “Nint3nDO Sage”. We are far passed those days, and yet the war still rages on. The journey is not yet over. Let us look to the future with hope as we dearly remember the past.
Proud member of the 3DO brigade