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An end to the painful cycle of consigning much-loved and trusty consoles to the dusty cupboard of outdated tech every five years. Instead of the live burial of our silicon best friends whenever the next generation rolled around, we'd be able to rub out the next generation altogether by gradually evolving our current machines into all-conquering hardware behemoths by way of incremental add-ons and upgrades. With just a few extra bits and bobs, your NES could be running Gears of War with 3000-player online co-op for decades to come.
The crushing reality
Above: The meteoric evolution of Sega gaming
People like shiny new things and game developers like playing with brand new technology. And however many new storage media and memory upgrades you bolt onto an old console, it's impossible to shake the stigma that it's still an old console. Thus, despite the best efforts of Sega's Mega CD and 32X in the '90s, third party innovation was largely eschewed in favour of slightly upgraded 16-bit ports and yet more multimedia games. Gah. First-party, we got a slightly flashier Sonic and an ugly-as-Satan's-arse Virtua Fighter.
And Nintendo's aborted SNES CD add-on succeeded only in getting the big N's face stomped off by a brand new rival, leading as it did to the creation of the ironically very next-gen PlayStation.
Envisioned and marketed by EA founder Trip Hawkins, the 3DO console was to be the man's greatest innovation and one of the biggest game-changers in the industry. Released in 1993, the idea was to launch not a console but a universal gaming platform, a standardised set of technology that could be licensed to any manufacturer, ending the petty console wars once and for all. With a similarly open (and low-cost) game licensing agreement, the utopian future of gaming was very much on the way.
The crushing reality
The 3DO was a noble concept, but also naive, foolhardy, and doomed to all buggery. It was ubdoubtedly uber-specced, but however awesome the technology, releasing a high-end $700 dollar multimedia game console into a world of people accustomed to the sub $200 SNES was never going to end well. And by the time people were really ready for what the 3DO could do, the PlayStation was doing it for a considerably lower price. Additionally, the too-early launch only exacerbated the problems of half-hearted software that had already battered Sega's Mega CD. Still, it had a great version of Road Rash.