Contents | < Browse | Browse >
%% CES Report                                         by  Jason Compton  %%
%% A look at what's up and coming...      %%

I had been looking forward to the CES for quite some had always
seemed like the place to be when you wanted to see new, amazing products.

After all, the Amiga was introduced at one.

So far, I've been a bit disappointed from the computer angle.  Very, very
new computer-oriented products are being shown, the exception being new
software lines like Paramount.  Of course, many of these new lines won't
be supporting the Amiga, since, as a Paramount rep told me, "We're in this
to make money.  We're not doing this to make other people's platforms
attractive."  So much for wanting to be on the ground floor.

The show is broken up into two major areas: the East building, which I
refer to as the "quiet one", featuring large Philips, 3DO, and Gemini
displays, with a host of other consumer electronic devices, a few of
which are actually pretty impressive (and which I'll actually include in
the magazine this week and next), and the North, or "loud one", with
all of the games: Nintendo, Sega, Ocean, Paramount, MTV, etc. etc.  A
few of the gaming magazines have actually set up booths, I guess to make
them seem more journalistic.

I HAVE been walking around, trying to get information, and relating it
to the Amiga if I can.  So I'll try to get the Amiga news out of the way

1.  ReadySoft will be distributing Robinson's Requiem in North America, 
probably around Christmastime.  It's a CD32 title by Silmarlis.

2.  Inferno, another CD32 title, is scheduled for CD32 release around
Christmas, a couple of months after the PC introduction.  (incidentally,
the game looked good on their PC).

3.  Samsung is there, so I figured I'd try asking around.  I went into the
super-special Samsung reception room and left my card and my question,
"Is Samsung bidding for the Commodore Amiga technology?", because nobody
there knew what I was talking about.  A fellow Amigan who I ran into at
the show said that he talked to a Samsung rep who said that Samsung was
still in it and waiting for a response, but since I didn't talk to this
rep I can't be convinced.  On Saturday, I checked back in, and they
still didn't know.

4.  Blue Ribbon was supposedly there, but I never managed to find them.

5.  MicroProse is going to drop Amiga support, in all likelihood.

6.  A rep from Westwood told me to sell my Amiga and "get a real computer."

7.  Ocean bought the license to 6 new EA titles.  Unfortunately, they only
got the UK license (or perhaps only the Europe license.)  I asked David
Size of EA if he knew why they couldn't get the US licenses.  He didn't
know, since he's a game producer and doesn't deal with licensing.

8.  Psygnosis is still supporting the Amiga.  The sequel to Microcosm,
which is now nameless because of a legal dispute, was being shown on
the FM-Towns console (which, incidentally, has a bad controller).  It
looked decent.  Same gameplay, mainly, just in a more open space.

9.  I had a GREAT conversation with a rep from Maxis UK.  She was very
enthusiastic about the Amiga, and while she admitted that they don't
port everything over to it, pointed out that they do the games that they
feel "need" to be on the Amiga.  Unfortunately, I didn't get her name.

(By this point in the show, I had been sent to see so many UK reps I was
considering going to software companies and simply asking, "Excuse me,
is anybody here British?")

That about does it for Amiga news.  On with the show...

1.  Yeah, yeah, The 3DO Company has a huge section.  Actually, they just
have a bunch of meeting rooms and reps, but have sublet a lot of that
space to Panasonic, Samsung, Sanyo, and GoldStar, all of whom have their
3DO boxes present.  They were in the East building, away from other games.

Panasonic:  Still has that "castle-shaped" unit, still has controllers
that shock you through the speaker port (I actually got a few Panasonic
and 3DO reps to admit that they have a problem with it!), and is coming
out with an MPEG module and memory card.

MPEG module:  Latches onto the right side as you look straight at it, a
boring black rectangle.  No release date, no price.

Memory card:  Uses the PCMCIA 1 standard size, but their own proprietary
cards anyway.  The prototype was in a big ugly box about the size of
an ORIGINAL external Amiga floppy drive, except this one was black.
The memory card (128k) is tiny and sticks out of it.  No price, no date.

Also, Panasonic is working on implementing a "second-generation" 3DO
box, which may very well be a cost-reduced, no-expansion-port model.

Panasonic ALSO had a PAL 3DO on display, cleverly hooked up to a PAL
TV so it didn't look like crap to the Americans.  (come on, say it
with me...)  "No price, no date."

Samsung:  Probably has the most attractive unit in existance.  What can
I say, it plays 3DO games.  No price, no date.

Sanyo:  Ugly box.  Plays 3DO games, although the sound seemed to be
lower quality than the others.  That may just be the Sanyo TVs they had
the boxes hooked up to, though.  <shrug>  No price, no date.

GoldStar:  Box similar to Samsung's.  Plays 3DO games. 
No price, no date.

I asked representatives from each company this question:  "What will
be your selling angle?  What will make the consumer buy YOUR 3DO box
over someone else's?"  I think I could have given these answers myself.

Panasonic:  Name recognition, status in the 3DO market, possible cost

Samsung:   May include the MPEG module in their unit, but maybe not.

Sanyo:  I'm not really sure, their rep spoke lousy English.  The upshot,
though, was that they would market it and try to bring it in cheaply.

GoldStar:  This guy seemed to have learned English from the Sanyo guy
, and was about as helpful.  Same story.

Also, Creative Labs has a cleverly titled product called the 3DO Blaster.
This is an 8-bit ISA card with the 3DO chipset that, if armed with a
SoundBlaster and a sufficient double-speed CD-ROM drive, will play 3DO
games on Windows or DOS (although the Creative guy seemed puzzled that
anyone would want to play it on DOS.)  The 3DO board passes through the
normal VGA output and adds its own graphics, if the 3DO is in use.
Creative also plans a 3DO MPEG board to go with this.  Date:  none.
Price:  "Well under $500", which we all know probably means $489.99.
They did such an impressive job of showing it multitask, too: they
had MINESWEEPER loaded at the same time as the 3DO.  Oh dear, looks
like the Amiga's been surpassed.

Want my analysis on the situation?  With all the games present, it
doesn't seem like 3DO will be folding overnight.  HOWEVER, I think that
the "new 3" haven't thought their plans through well enough, and I
predict that Panasonic will win unless they misprice their units...
of course, they have already, but that's because they CAN.

Creative's board is a nice idea, but unfortunately is rather silly.
You will be paying roughly the same cost as a new 3DO ($480 at Software
Etc. these days) for just a card that will require you to have a CD-ROM
and SoundBlaster already installed (BTW, all the SB does is amplify the
3DO-generated sound.)  The MPEG board will NOT (that's NOT) be accessable
by the PC, meaning that if you've got a ReelMagic card or would like to
use your 3DO MPEG for a PC program, too bad.  The Creative rep ALSO
admitted that there would be some problems with recognizing different
varieties of MPEG movies and 3DO games, but their hope was that the
white book standard would emerge supreme.  For what looks like it will
be the cost of a FULL 3DO unit, you can buy JUST A CARD that requires
you already have a SB and a double-speed CD-ROM.  Somehow, I think PC
users will take a pass and go for a cheaper, full unit, unless they 
already own both pieces of hardware.  Hopes and promises.

Moving on across the aisle, Philips is putting on a blitz for the CD-i.
Too bad they haven't improved on it.  I will admit, though, they're
trying, and the games are getting more exiting.  Unfortunately, they
all require the MPEG module.  Perfect case in point is Microcosm.

I walked over to where the Microcosm disk was and asked the Philips
rep to start it up.  He did, and the intro began.  I had to admit
to myself, it looked a touch better than the CD32 version, although
the music was not as good.  At any rate, it played for a while, and
I asked (because I didn't know), "This is the base unit?"

The replay:  "The base unit and the Full Motion Video cartridge."

Ah.  THAT put a new spin on it.  Now I was looking at an intro that,
while looking somewhat sharper than the CD32 version, required an 
extra $250 to run.  (The gameplay, incidentally, was not discernably
superior.  It had a first-person perspective, however.)

Philips is trying to permutate the CD-i into lots and lots of new
forms...TVCD-i being one, a 20 inch TV with a CD-i built in.

They're also coming out with a new, low-cost box for $300.  Its
MPEG module will run another $200, for a grand total of $500 required
to play Microcosm.  It's a box, smaller in every dimension than
the CD32, with a medium grey case and little visibility inside the
CD drive.

If any of you have ever seen a CD-i, you've probably noticed that
their controllers are horrible, hard-to use, poorly-laid-out affairs.
Even the Philips guys don't like them.  However, they're coming out
with a new gamepad-like controller for their new line.

Something looked REALLY, REALLY familiar about this pad, but I 
couldn't place it.

Finally, my companion, Katie Nelson, figured it out.  "Why does this
pad look so much like a Gravis Gamepad?"

The Philips rep clamped his hand over his mouth in mock horror and
said, "Well, you just said it.  Yeah, they make them for us."

The upshot from that display:  CD-i has some decent games, IF you
have the MPEG module.  If may as well have bought a CD32,
it's better.
Gravis:  (on the subject)  Gravis is coming out with a wicked-huge
flightstick/programmable pad.  This sucker is huge, sporting about
20 programmable buttons, two functions each, a joystick AND a joypad...
for flight-sim enthusiasts, this is home.

Paramount:  A nice big display in the Loud building, featuring some
new Star Trek games and Nana Visitor from Deep Space Nine (who,
incidentally, looks much smaller in person.)

Sir-Tech:  I haven't made it to them yet, but they included a disk
with press releases in the press packet.  THAT, I like.  Too bad
none of them are very relevant to the magazine.

I saw the Gunvertor!  They had a couple of company representatives
there, plus a busty blonde in a tight black bodysuit.  Somehow, I
figured as much.  (If you don't remember the Gunvertor, I mentioned
it a week or two ago.  It's a $70 universal remote in the shape of
a handgun.)

I haven't been able to track down the Amazing Computing people,
which is really a shame, because I was looking forward to talking
with them.

I've got some press releases: some computer/game oriented, some of
just cool items on display.  I'll be entering them over the next
month or so, since only Sir-Tech had the foresight to include a
disk for the press...