3DO makes its debut at electronics show

After three years of deal-making, Trip Hawkins took the wrapping off the newest entrant into the multimedia market, proclaiming his player to be the “merging of the New Hollywood.” Certainly, the room at the Consumer Electronic Show was packed with the right players to make it seem possible.

Hawkins’ 3DO Inc. boasts no less than Time Warner Inc. and MCA’s parent, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., as key investors.

Furthermore, Hawkins announced telecommunications giant AT&T was joining 3DO as an equity partner, bringing the total investment to $ 20 million.

To underscore the day’s significance, MCA chairman Lew Wasserman and CEO Sid Sheinberg were in the front row, cheering Hawkins on, while top TW exec Geoff Holmes shared the stage.

“3DO will lead the creation of a mass consumer market for interactive multimedia,” said Hawkins, “We have the potential to make the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer a worldwide consumer electronics standard format like VHS.”

What Hawkins is delivering is impressive.

The squat gray boxes made by Matsushita’s Panasonic division plays CD music, Kodak’s photos on a CD, interactive games, plus within a year, full-length motion pictures.

Inside sits a set of computer chips with speed that far exceeds the capabilities of IBM-compatible PCs carrying a 486 chip.

Instead, the system rivals what a $ 10,000 Silicon Graphics workstation can do. Two powerful custom graphics chips generate 16 million colors, vs. a meager 256 for Nintendo or Sega.

Moreover, they let software developers create 3-D objects that can rotate in space, become transparent and even stretch and collapse. A quick demonstration of a title based on Universal’s “Jurrasic Park,” revealed startling full-color backgrounds taken from film footage.