NEC PC-FX

NEC PC-FX

5th Generation Competitors
3DO Jaguar Saturn Playstation Nintendo 64 FM Towns Marty CD32 Pippin Playdia Loopy
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 23rd Dec 1994  1998  400K
North America NA NA  NA
Europe NA NA  NA

When the SuperGrafx failed to make ground up on the 16 bit consoles and with the 32 bit generation on the horizon NEC realised they had to develop a new machine from scratch.

NEC looked at the Playstation and Saturn to see the areas they needed to concentrate on.  They chose a fairly powerful 32 bit chip in the RISC based V810 and they picked a very speedy double speed SCSI CD drive.

Unfortunately they missed what would turn out to be the single most important aspect of the new consoles.

The PC-FX had no 3D capabilities at all.  It was a very powerful 2D machine, but this didn’t help it against the onslaught of 3D games that came with the 32 bit generation.

Aside from the 3D aspect, the PC-FX was a powerful machine, capable of moving large 2D images around and using Jpeg animation in-line with other 2D assets.

It was also a very expandable machine, including a memory slot for backup and an in-built SCSI chain to add various SCSI devices (although none were ever announce or supported).

In the end the PC-FX ended up being a repository of Hentai titles, much like most failed consoles in Japan.  This failure also saw NEC leave the console market, which was a shame given their previous attempts.

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3DO

3DO

5th Generation Competitors
CD32 Jaguar Saturn Playstation Nintendo 64 FM Towns Marty PC-FX Pippin Playdia Loopy
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 20th Mar 1994 1996  2M (total)
North America 4th Oct 1993 1996
Europe 4th Sep 1994 1996

The 3DO was born from an idea that Trip Hawkins had.  Trip had started Electronic Arts and had witnessed how the console market worked.  He’d been frustrated with how the manufacturers (Nintendo and Sega) controlled the market and had come up with a different idea.

So he started the 3DO company and his engineers came up with a set of basic specifications for a console.  The idea was that different manufacturers would then build their own machines based on those specifications.

Each manufacturer could push those specs a little and case it however they wanted as long as the resultant machine was compatible with all the others.

A few manufacturers signed up but machines were only created by Goldstar and Panasonic, although Creative did create a 3DO PC card.

The machine was a flop, mostly due to the high prices.  Normal consoles of the time made a loss on the machine but made the money back on game licensing.  But the 3DO system did not allow license fees to be shared, so each manufacturer had to make a profit on the hardware.

After the other manufacturers pulled their support even Panasonic and Goldstar took their consoles off the market.  It was a powerful console and 3DO were designing the follow-up machine, the M2.

The 3DO company finished their life making games for other consoles.

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Fujitsu Car Marty

Fujitsu Car Marty

Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 1996  1997  4K
North America NA NA NA
Europe NA NA  NA

After the Marty flopped Fujitsu gave the technology to their Car Audio arm, Fujitsu Ten.  Their brief was to make use of the Marty‘s capabilities in the car somehow.

Fujitsu Ten succeeded on many fronts, they created the worlds first car entertainment system.  It was capable of using multiple external screens, had built-in GPS (another first) and could use most of the software that worked on the Marty.  In fact, with the addition of an external floppy it could use all of the Marty software.

Once again, however, the Car Marty was far too expensive.  It did not sell well and was pulled from the market after a fairly short time.  It was a harbinger of things to come though and many other companies took notes from the Car Marty design.

The Car Marty itself is pretty hard to get working outside of a car.  There was a cable available, but this is even rarer than the machine itself (which is incredibly rare).  Because it’s made for a car, it needs a 12v power supply (centre negative) and a proprietary connector for video.

We’ve already got a pinout available if you need it, right here Car Marty Accessory Port Pinout

You can at least use a PSU of your choice, which means you can make it work without a step up/down convertor.  But that’s really the only advantage of using this over a standard Marty.

There were two versions released, the MVP-1 and MVP-10.  They’re pretty much the same but the MVP-10 has a slightly different CD mechanism for reliability.

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FM Towns Marty

FM Towns Marty

5th Generation Competitors
3DO Jaguar Saturn Playstation Nintendo 64 CD32 PC-FX Pippin Playdia Loopy
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 20th Feb 1993 1995  45K
North America NA NA  NA
Europe NA NA  NA

Fujitsu were deep in battle for Japan’s PC98 throne with their FM Towns systems.  Their main rival, NEC, was also doing well in the console market with their PC Engine machines so Fujitsu decided to fight them on this second front.

But instead of making a custom platform like NEC did, Fujitsu decided to take the base model from their FM Towns range and put it in a home friendly casing.  The Marty came out at a high price, unsurprising given the fact that it was a truly advanced PC in a compact casing.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that it was the first 32 bit console (debuting a few months before the 3DO) consumers were not swayed.

The Marty was compatible with a few titles from the FM Towns range of PCs.  It’s (relatively) low memory stopped it from playing the majority of the games. There was a memory upgrade released which allowed it to play some games, like Street Fighter 2, but it slowed the whole machine down due to it’s implementation.

Fujitsu released a second edition of the Marty, the only difference was the (rather smart) grey casing and a much lower price.  This change did start to work and sales started to increase, unfortunately Fujitsu’s management had given up and pulled out of the console market entirely.

Because of this decision a new rule of business was made in Japan called The Marty Law, basically it states that you don’t keep offering something for sale then you can’t increase it’s sales.

The technology used in the Marty finished with the Fujitsu Ten Car Marty.

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Casio Loopy

Casio Loopy

5th Generation Competitors
3DO Jaguar Saturn Playstation Nintendo 64 FM Towns Marty PC-FX Pippin Playdia CD32
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 19th Oct 1995 Nov 1995
North America NA NA  NA
Europe NA NA  NA

The Loopy was an interesting concept, Casio decided that girls needed their own console and designed it with an in-built colour thermal printer.  Because it was a girls console all the games revolved around dressing up characters, with the ability to print the result to the printer.

Casio found out, within weeks, of the release that girls did in fact play consoles, they played the same ones the boys did and weren’t interested in a console that didn’t have the same games as mainstream ones.

The Loopy was discontinued almost immediately.  11 games in total were released in cartridge format.  You could also buy a mouse to use instead of the included game pad (which is quite nice btw).

An accessory called Magic Shop was available.  This was, in essence, a capture device that allowed you to use captured video to make stickers.

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Bandai Playdia

Bandai Playdia

5th Generation Competitors
3DO Jaguar Saturn Playstation Nintendo 64 FM Towns Marty PC-FX Pippin CD32 Loopy
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 23rd Sep 1994 1996
North America NA NA  NA
Europe NA NA  NA

The Playdia was Bandai’s attempt to enter the fifth generation of consoles in 1994.  It was primarily aimed at young children and, as such, it’s specs were woefully underpowered compared to the other entrants.

Unfortunately Bandai had miscalculated the popularity of the more powerful consoles with it’s target audience and the console didn’t sell well.

In the end Bandai were really the only developer to develop for the system (except for a couple of games developed by VAP), the other publishers concentrated on the more powerful and popular machines.

To suit the simplicity of the machine it came with a single infra-red controller.

 

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Bandai Pippin

Bandai Pippin

5th Generation Competitors
3DO Jaguar Saturn Playstation Nintendo 64 FM Towns Marty PC-FX CD32 Playdia Loopy
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 28th Mar 1996 1997 42K (total)
North America 1st Sep 1996 1997
Europe 1997 1997

In 1996 the post-jobs world of Apple was searching around for ways to spread their PowerPC platform.  Seeing how consoles had integrated into so many living rooms they decided that this was the direction to go.  So, working with Bandai, they developed the Pippin Platform.  This platform was based on their existing Power Mac computers.

The Pippin was a hugely powerful machine and included numerous options that no other console had.  These included the ability to be used in PAL or NTSC out of the box and they had a built-in VGA port as well as the usual composite jacks.

Bandai released the Pippin in Japan as the ATMARK and in the US as ATWORLD.  These machines were largely identical except the US one was black from the start and the Japanese release was white.

In Europe Katz Media released a slightly improved machine with more memory.

The Pippin was incredibly expensive at release, unsurprising seeing as it had such a powerful spec.  But despite that it couldn’t compete well with the Playstation or Saturn.  Nobody wanted to buy a machine that was weaker and more expensive.  The Japanese version is easiest to get hold of, the US version is rare and the European version is nearly impossible to get.

The Pippin came with internet access built-in, via a phone jack.  The controller, called the Apple Jack, had a built-in trackball to help you navigate web pages.

The community has since released a version of Mac OS 7 that can be booted, pretty much making the Pippin into a working Macintosh.

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Atari Jaguar

Atari Jaguar

5th Generation Competitors
3DO CD32 Saturn Playstation Nintendo 64 FM Towns Marty PC-FX Pippin Playdia Loopy
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan 21st Nov 1994 1996  190K (total)
North America 23rd Nov 1993 1996
Europe 27th Jun 1994 1996

After the games crash Atari struggled to make ground in the new videogame world with the death of the 2600.  After several attempts they started to concentrate on computers instead.  Until two engineers from a company called Flare approached them with a hardware platform they’d been developing.

Atari were already working on a project called Panther at the time, but decided to ask the Flare team to develop their platform under the codename Jaguar.

Panther wasn’t progressing as well as Atari had hoped, so they cancelled the project and went full steam ahead with the Jaguar.  The machine was released, to fairly underwhelming reviews, in 1994 after a small test release the year before.

Atari billed the Jaguar as being the first 64-bit console.  Their whole advertising strategy, named Do the Math, pushed the idea that the current crop of 16 bit and 32 bit consoles were inferior due to the lower bitness.

But this had a number of flaws, firstly the general public didn’t really understand the argument about bits and secondly it was fairly easy to argue that the Jaguar wasn’t 64 bit at all.

The problem stemmed from the fact that the Jaguar has 3 main processors, a Motorola 68000, which is 16-bit externally, but 32-bit internally and two custom 32 bit RISC processors.

On that evidence you’d say the Jaguar was, at best, 32 bit.  However, the Jaguar transfers data over a 64 bit address line.  This does, technically, make it a 64 bit machine.

Regardless, none of this worked.  The Jaguar turned out to be difficult to develop for and Atari no longer had the might needed to compete against Sony and Sega.  Games weren’t impressive compared to their Playstation and Saturn versions and developers left the platform in droves.

We’re only just now finding out how powerful the Jaguar was.  Modern day developers, with a greater understanding and better toolchains, are able to push the platform with greater results.  It’s a shame that we’re just seeing that it could have competed in the 32 bit era.

To try and keep the console alive Atari promised a number of peripherals including a VR headset and CD Addon.

The CD Addon was the only one to see the light of day (although the VR headset was demonstrated).  The Addon didn’t have many games and had proven unreliable, but the games that were released are fairly impressive.

Now, the controller.  It is not considered one of the best ever.  It is ungainly, mostly due to the keypad that takes up most of the space.  This keypad allows games to have lots of control options and games come with an overlay (like the Intellivision).  It is helpful, but it makes for a really uncomfortable controller.

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Amiga CD32

Amiga CD32

5th Generation Competitors
3DO Jaguar Saturn Playstation Nintendo 64 FM Towns Marty PC-FX Pippin Playdia Loopy
Region Release Date Discontinued Lifetime Sales
Japan NA NA NA
North America NA NA NA
Europe 17th Sep 1993 1994 100K

The history of Commodore is long and complicated.  But by the time the gaming industry recovered from the crash they were doing ok with the Amiga platform.  But this was due to change, Europe had been a stronghold for them but the NES and, to a lesser extent, Sega MasterSystem were about to hit and hit hard.

Commodore tried a couple of times to compete, first with a consolised version of their hit Commodore 64 8-bit computer and then with a living room friendly version of their Amiga platform, the CDTV.

Both were huge flops.  The C64 Game System just didn’t have the power and the CDTV was a confusing and expensive system.  Whilst it had some power it just wasn’t marketed well.

Their final attempt was again based on the Amiga, but this time it got pretty much everything correct.

The CD32 was the first 32 bit console and was based on the Amiga 1200, in fact with the addition of an extension board it was possible to add peripherals like a keyboard and mouse to make it a fully fledged computer.

The machine itself was powerful, priced fairly well and had the advantage of having a library of existing Amiga titles that could be easily ported across.  The controller is a fairly weird inverted look, but is surprisingly comfortable.  The buttons, however, feel slightly cheap, as does the D-Pad.

There are some truly great titles for the CD32 and programmers, even now, are porting across other Amiga titles across, including the awesome Supercars 2 by Gremlin.

Unfortunately, despite a strong start, the CD32 failed selling just 100,000 units.  This was due to a number of factors, first Commodore missed a patent payment to XOR.  This meant that they were unable to sell the CD32 in America.  Then their available stock was stuck in the Philippines, the factory refused to release it due to an outstanding bill.  Unable to pay the bill, the patent payment or to sell more units, Commodore filed for Bankruptcy.

A few companies purchased the Commodore name but they didn’t want to release new machines, just use the name to shift various items.  An ignominious end to a revolutionary company.

Specs

Processor Motorola 68EC020 @ 14.32 MHz (NTSC) 14.18 MHz (PAL)
RAM 2 MB
ROM Kickstart 3.1 ROM with CD32 extensions
1 KB non-volatile EEPROM memory for game saves
Custom Chips Advanced Graphics Architecture (AGA)
Akiko CD controller and performs chunky planar graphics conversion
Video 24-bit colour palette (16.8 million colors)
Up to 256 on-screen colours in indexed mode

  • 320×200 to 1280×400i (NTSC)
  • 320×256 to 1280×512i (PAL)
Audio 4 × 8-bit stereo PCM channels)
28 kHz maximum DMA sampling rate
Removable storage Double-speed (300 KB/s) CD-ROM drive (proprietary Matsushita controller)

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