Philips CD-i

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Philips CD-i
The Philips CD-i 220 console and controller
Manufacturer Philips, Sony, Magnavox
Type Home video game console
Media player
Generation Fourth generation
Release date
  • NA: December 3, 1991
  • EU: July 10, 1992
Retail availability 1991–1998
Discontinued 1998[1]
Media CD-i, Audio CD, CD+G, Karaoke CD, Video CD
Operating system CD-RTOS
CPU Philips SCC68070 @ 15.5 MHz
Memory 1 MB RAM
Display 384×280 to 768×560
Graphics Philips SCC66470
Sound MCD 221, ADPCM eight channel sound
Online services CD-Online
Predecessor Philips Videopac + G7400

The Philips CD-i (an abbreviation of Compact Disc Interactive) is an interactive multimedia CD player developed and marketed by Royal Philips Electronics N.V., who supported it from December 1991 into the late 1990s. It was created to provide more functionality than an audio CD player or game console, but at a lower price than a personal computer with a CD-ROM drive at the time. The cost savings were due to the lack of a floppy drive, keyboard, mouse, and monitor (a standard television is used), and less operating system software. "CD-i" also refers to the multimedia Compact Disc standard used by the CD-i console, also known as Green Book, which was developed by Philips and Sony.

In addition to games, educational and multimedia reference titles were produced, such as interactive encyclopedias and museum tours, which were popular before public Internet access was widespread. The CD-i was also one of the earliest game systems to implement Internet features, including subscriptions, web browsing, downloading, e-mail, and online play.[2] This was facilitated by the use of an additional hardware modem that Philips initially released in Britain in 1995 for $150 US.[3] Competitors included the Tandy VIS and Commodore CDTV.

Work on the CD-i began in 1984 and it was first publicly announced in 1986.[4] The first Philips CD-i player, released in 1991 and initially priced around US$700,[5] was capable of playing interactive CD-i discs, Audio CDs, CD+G (CD+Graphics), Karaoke CDs, Photo CDs and Video CDs (VCDs), though the latter required an optional "Digital Video Card" to provide MPEG-1 decoding. The CD-i was a commercial failure, losing Philips $1 billion.[6]


Philips at first marketed CD-i as a family entertainment product, and avoided mentioning video games to not compete against game consoles.[7] Early software releases focused heavily on educational, music, and self-improvement titles, with only a few games, many of them adaptations of board games such as Connect Four. However, the system was handily beaten in the market for multimedia devices by cheap low-end PCs,[8] and the games were the best-selling software. By 1993 Philips encouraged MS-DOS and console developers to create games, introduced a $250 peripheral with more memory and support for full-motion video, and added to new consoles a second controller port for multiplayer games.[7]

The attempts to develop a foothold in the games market were unsuccessful, as the system was designed strictly as a multimedia player and thus was under-powered compared to other gaming platforms on the market in most respects.[9] Earlier CD-i games included entries in popular Nintendo franchises, although those games were not developed by Nintendo. Specifically, a Mario game (titled Hotel Mario), and three Legend of Zelda games were released: Zelda's Adventure, Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon. Nintendo and Philips had established an agreement to co-develop a CD-ROM enhancement for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System due to licensing disagreements with Nintendo's previous partner Sony (an agreement that produced a prototype console called the SNES-CD).[10] While Philips and Nintendo never released such a CD-ROM add-on, Philips was still contractually allowed to continue using Nintendo characters.

Applications were developed using authoring software produced by OptImage. This included OptImage's Balboa Runtime Libraries and MediaMogul. The second company that produced authoring software was Script Systems; they produced ABCD-I.

Philips also released several versions of popular TV game shows for the CD-i, including versions of Jeopardy! (hosted by Alex Trebek), Name That Tune (hosted by Bob Goen), and two versions of The Joker's Wild (one for adults hosted by Wink Martindale and one for kids hosted by Marc Summers). All CD-i games in North America (with the exception of Name That Tune) had Charlie O'Donnell as announcer. The Netherlands also released its version of Lingo on the CD-i in 1994.

In 1993, American musician Todd Rundgren created the first music-only fully interactive CD, No World Order, for the CD-i. This application allows the user to completely arrange the whole album in their own personal way with over 15,000 points of customization.

CD-i has a series of learning games ("edutainment") targeted at children from infancy to adolescence. Those intended for a younger audience included Busytown, The Berenstain Bears and various others which usually had vivid cartoon-like settings accompanied by music and logic puzzles.

Although extensively marketed by Philips, notably via infomercial,[11] consumer interest in CD-i titles remained low. By 1994, sales of CD-i systems had begun to slow, and in 1998 the product line was dropped. Philips had by then already sold its gaming subsidiary, Philips Media BV, to French publisher Infogrames in 1997.[12]

A large number of full motion video titles such as Dragon's Lair and Mad Dog McCree appeared on the system. One of these, Burn:Cycle, is considered one of the stronger CD-i titles and was later ported to PC. The February 1994 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly remarked that the CD-i's full motion video capabilities were its strongest point, and that nearly all of its best software required the MPEG upgrade card.[13]

In 1995 Philips introduced CD-Online, a system which provided the CD-i with full internet access, including online shopping, email, and support for networked multiplayer gaming on select CD-i games.[14] Australia Andy Stout, a writer for the official CD-i magazine, explained CD-Online:

It is very much Internet-lite. The main advantages are that it's cheap - probably working out at a third of the cost of a PC or Mac solution - and incredibly user-friendly. The downside though is using a browser that doesn't support Netscape, and coping with all the drawbacks of the machine's minuscule memory - you can only ever access 10 articles on Usenet at a time, it'll only support 80 bookmarks maximum and for all that trouble all your saved games, preferences, and high scores will have been written over in RAM. ... It's got the full access right now but with only about 40% of the functionality, which will probably be fine for people who don't know what they're missing. But the virtual keyboard is a complete nightmare to use ...[15]

By mid-1996 the U.S. market for CD-i software had dried up and Philips had given up on releasing titles there, but continued to publish CD-i games in Europe, where the console still held some popularity.[16]

With the home market exhausted, Philips tried with some success to position the technology as a solution for kiosk applications and industrial multimedia.[citation needed]

Player models[edit]

Philips models[edit]

The Philips CD-i 910
Philips CD-i 400 series

In addition to consumer models, professional and development players were sold by Philips Interactive Media Systems and their VARs. Philips marketed several CD-i player models.

  • The CD-i player 200 series, which includes the 205, 210, and 220 models. Models in the 200 series are designed for general consumption, and were available at major home electronics outlets around the world. The Philips CD-i 910 is the American version of the CD-i 205, the most basic model in the series.
  • The CD-i player 300 series, which includes the 310, 350, 360, and 370 models. The 300 series consists of portable players designed for the professional market and not available to home consumers.[clarification needed (not available?)] A popular use was multimedia sales presentations such as those used by pharmaceutical companies to provide product information to physicians, as the devices could be easily transported by sales representatives.
  • The CD-i player 400 series, which includes the 450, 470, 490 models. The 400 models are slimmed-down units aimed at console and educational markets. The CD-i 450 player, for instance, is a budget model designed to compete with game consoles. In this version, an infrared remote controller is not standard but optional.
  • The CD-i player 500 series, which includes the 550 model, which was essentially the same as the 450 with an installed digital video cartridge.
  • The CD-i player 600 series, which includes the 601, 602, 604, 605, 615, 660, and 670 models. The 600 series is designed for professional applications and software development. Units in this line generally include support for floppy disk drives, keyboards and other computer peripherals. Some models can also be connected to an emulator and have software testing and debugging features.

There also exist a number of hard-to-categorize models, such as the FW380i, an integrated mini-stereo and CD-i player; the 21TCDi30, a television with a built-in CD-i device; and the CD-i 180/181/182 modular system, the first CD-i system produced.

Other manufacturers[edit]

In addition to Philips, several manufacturers produced CD-i players, including Magnavox,[13] GoldStar / LG Electronics, Digital Video Systems, Memorex, Grundig, Saab Electric, Sony (Intelligent Discman, a portable CD-i player), Kyocera, NBS, Highscreen, and Bang & Olufsen, who produced a television with a built-in CD-i device (Beocenter AV5).

TeleCD-i and CD-MATICS[edit]

Recognizing the growing need among marketers for networked multimedia, Philips partnered in 1992 with Amsterdam-based CDMATICS to develop TeleCD-i (also TeleCD). In this concept, the CD-i player is connected to a network such as PSTN or Internet, enabling data-communication and rich media presentation. Dutch grocery chain Albert Heijn and mail-order company Neckermann were early adopters and introduced award-winning TeleCD-i applications for their home-shopping and home-delivery services. CDMATICS also developed the special Philips TeleCD-i Assistant and a set of software tools to help the worldwide multimedia industry to develop and implement TeleCD-i. TeleCD-i is the world's first networked multimedia application at the time of its introduction. In 1996, Philips acquired source code rights from CDMATICS.

Technical specifications[edit]

A presentation controller for the Philips CD-i. The CD-i's controllers were heavily criticized.
CD-i Mouse

Market competition[edit]

Panasonic M2 is an interactive kiosk.[19] Multimedia/video game systems include Commodore CDTV, Pioneer LaserActive, 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, and Tandy Video Information System. Dedicated video game consoles based on CD-ROM media include Sega Mega Drive/Genesis with Sega Mega-CD/Sega CD expansion, 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, and NEC TurboDuo.


Although Philips had aggressively promoted CD-i, by August 1993 Computer Gaming World reported that "skepticism persists about its long-term prospects" compared to other platforms like IBM PC compatibles, Apple Macintosh, and Sega Genesis.[20] The magazine stated in January 1994 that despite Philips' new emphasis on games "CD-i is still not the answer for hardcore gamers", but the console "may yet surprise us all in the future". It recommended the CD-i with video cartridge for those needing to buy a new console as "The price is right and there is more software to support it", but 3DO was probably better for those who could wait a few months.[7] An early 1995 review of the system in GamePro stated that "inconsistent game quality puts the CD-i at a disadvantage against other high-powered game producers."[21] A late 1995 review in Next Generation criticized both Philips's approach to marketing the CD-i and the hardware itself ("The unit excels at practically nothing except FMV, and then only with the addition of a $200 digital video cartridge"). The magazine noted that while Philips had not yet officially discontinued the CD-i, it was dead for all intents and purposes, citing as evidence the fact that though Philips had a large booth at the 1995 Electronic Entertainment Expo, there was no CD-i hardware or software on display. Next Generation scored the console one out of five stars.[11]

After its discontinuation, retrospectively, the CD-i was overwhelmingly panned by critics about its graphics, games, and controls. Microsoft CEO Bill Gates admitted that initially he "was worried" about the CD-i due to Philips's heavy support for the device and its two-pronged attack on both the games console and PC markets, but that in retrospect "It was a device that kind of basically got caught in the middle. It was a terrible game machine, and it was a terrible PC."[22] The CD-i's various controllers were ranked the fifth worst video game controller by IGN editor Craig Harris.[23] PC World ranked it as fourth on their list of "The 10 Worst Video Game Systems of All Time".[24] listed it as number four on their list of The 10 Worst-Selling Consoles of All Time.[25] In 2008, CNET listed the system on its list of The worst game console(s) ever. [26] In 2007, GameTrailers ranked the Philips CD-i as the fourth worst console of all time in its Top 10 Worst Console lineup.[27]

Games that were most heavily criticized include Hotel Mario, Link: The Faces of Evil, Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon, and Zelda's Adventure. EGM's Seanbaby rated The Wand of Gamelon as one of the worst video games of all time.[28] However, Burn:Cycle was positively received by critics, and has often been held up as the standout title for the CD-i.[21][29][30][11]

In October 1994 Philips claimed an installed base of 1 million units for the CD-i,[31][32] but in July 1996 they said they had still sold only 200,000 units.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Blake Snow (May 4, 2007). "The 10 Worst-Selling Consoles of All Time". Archived from the original on May 8, 2007. Retrieved November 25, 2007. 
  2. ^ Jones, Sandra (1 April 1996). "Kits let television go online". Daily Press. Newport, Virginia. p. B7 – via 
  3. ^ "New Sunday Times - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved February 17, 2015. 
  4. ^ (2005). History of the Philips CD-i,
  5. ^ "COMPANY NEWS; New Philips CD - The New York Times". April 2, 1992. Retrieved August 19, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b "Inside Scoop". GamePro. No. 97. IDG. October 1996. p. 24. 
  7. ^ a b c Miller, Chuck; Dille, H. E.; Wilson, Johnny L. (January 1994). "Battle Of The New Machines". Computer Gaming World. pp. 64–76. 
  8. ^ "The Next Generation 1996 Lexicon A to Z: CD-i". Next Generation. No. 15. Imagine Media. March 1996. p. 31. 
  9. ^ "75 Power Players". Next Generation. Imagine Media (11): 63. November 1995. CD-i started life as an ahead-of-its-time multimedia player, but ended up an under-powered game machine. 
  10. ^ Staff writer. "The SNES CD-ROM". The Nintendo Repository. Archived from the original on 24 February 2008. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h "Which Game System is the Best!?". Next Generation. Imagine Media (12): 77. December 1995. 
  12. ^ Staff writer (3 February 1997). "Philips Media Transferred Multimedia Assets to Infogrames". Business Wire. San Jose, California. Archived from the original on 4 February 2013 – via The Free Library. 
  13. ^ a b "New Life For CD-i". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 55. Sendai Publishing. February 1994. p. 20. 
  14. ^ Cardilini, Les (26 October 1995). "CDI, a low-tech Net option?". The Age. Melbourne. Green Guide, p.16. 
  15. ^ Ramshaw, Mark James (January 1996). "Generator". Next Generation. Imagine Media (13): 31. 
  16. ^ "A Cry for Help from a CD-i Owner". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 88. Ziff Davis. November 1996. p. 281. 
  17. ^ a b c d Forster, Winnie (2005). The encyclopedia of consoles, handhelds & home computers 1972 - 2005. GAMEPLAN. p. 208. ISBN 3-00-015359-4. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ Matsushita Electric/Panasonic (April 10, 2000). "Planetweb and Panasonic to Bring the Internet to the Interactive Kiosk Marketplace; Panasonic Internet-enabled M2 Interactive Kiosks to Preview at KioskCom 2000". Business Wire. Archived from the original on January 13, 2011. Retrieved March 16, 2008. 
  20. ^ "Part II of CGW's Computer Game Developers Conference Coverage". Computer Gaming World. August 1993. p. 38. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  21. ^ a b "Once and Future Kings: Video Game Hardware Outlook". GamePro. IDG (70): 29. May 1995. 
  22. ^ "What the Hell Does Bill Gates Know About Games, Anyway?". Next Generation. No. 18. Imagine Media. June 1996. p. 10. 
  23. ^ "Top 10 Tuesday: Worst Game Controllers". IGN. February 21, 2006. Archived from the original on January 14, 2007. Retrieved August 7, 2009. 
  24. ^ The 10 Worst Video Game Systems of All Time | PCWorld
  25. ^ The 10 Worst-Selling Consoles of All Time, Feature Story from GamePro
  26. ^ The worst game console(s) ever | Crave - CNET
  27. ^ (May 6, 2007). Top Ten Worst Consoles, GameTrailers. Accessed November 14, 2012.
  28. ^ - EGM's Crapstravaganza: The 20 Worst Games of All Time Archived November 4, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  29. ^ "News Review: Burn: Cycle". Entertainment Weekly. December 9, 1994. 
  30. ^ "Electronic Gaming Monthly's Buyer's Guide". 1995. 
  31. ^ "The Deseret News - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved February 17, 2015. 
  32. ^ "The Milwaukee Journal - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved February 17, 2015. 

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