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CDTV Retrospective Update
Peter Olafson firstname.lastname@example.org
Just when you thought you'd read everything there was to read about CDTV
games, I'm back with an update.
In the wake of my two-part retrospective (in ARs 5.01 and 5.02), I've
received Email from two people shedding new light on titles whose status
couldn't be nailed down for the article.
In addition, I reached Gail Wellington -- former head of Commodore's CDTV
unit, now vice president of marketing for Philips' CD-i division -- who was
able to lend additional insight into CDTV's failure.
"The biggest problem with CDTV was money - money for development of
software and money for marketing," she wrote in an Email. "Commodore was
already in trouble and had had some layoffs. The funds just weren't
available to support much development. I think the total development
funding, including the Grolier's bundle commitment, was about $5 million."
"Philips spent that much on three titles."
"We had 35 titles within three months of when we launched and 70 not long
after. Of course, not all were games. There were the Xphias titles,
Grolier's, Garden Fax, a title about military aircraft and others. Several
were roll-overs, as you said, which is typical with any new platform unless
there is huge development money available from the hardware manufacturer.
Second-generation things were planned, but the development funding dried up
completely and lots of them ended up never happening."
"There also was some dissension within C=, since CDTV was not developed as
part of the main engineering group, but by a small separate team. This
resulted in people within the company not giving it their wholehearted
support and is, in part, why it was considered a 'crazy younger brother.'
As for unreleased titles, money evidently prevented completion of Garfield:
A Winter's Tail CDTV. The game had given the developer more trouble than
the earlier Snoopy: The Case of the Missing Blanket and it wanted "a
fortune" to finish it, wrote Ms. Wellington. (I was unable to locate
Garfield's developer, The Edge Interactive, to obtain a comment.)
She also recalled that Infogrammes also had "a couple of other CDTV games,
at least one of which was finished." (She didn't remember the name -- it
was a "flying shooting game" -- but reports that it had a great
And Ms. Wellington also confirmed the existence of unreleased CDTV
versions of LucasArts' Loom and Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade --
reporting that they were in "near-final form" when she left Commodore in
the spring of 1992.
"I don't know what happened thereafter," she wrote. "I'm surprised they
never did come out."
Apparently they came close. For a correspondent from Germany reports
seeing pre-production CDTV versions of Indiana Jones and The Secret of
Monkey Island and offered some speculation about their fate.
He reports trying out a gold-disk Monkey Island in 1992 at Germany's CeBIT
fair and finding it a more or less straight port of the disk-based version.
With one difference: The four-voice music had been replaced by 16-bit CD
The Indiana Jones CD was said to be "broken," and the writer indicates that
MI, while playable, could have sustained similar damage from "rough
His hunch is that, "through a chain of confusion," the gold masters somehow
wound up as product samples. Thus, scratch the disks, and scratch the
"I can't prove that," he acknowledges, "and my view is pessimistic. But
given how Commodore operated these days this would be the shortest possible
way to disaster. And pretty embarrassing for Commodore to call LucasArts
[and say,] 'Um, we somehow managed to break the, um, CD gold masters you
sent us. Could you please, um, cut another three CDs for us?"
"At that time CD writers and CD-R discs were not a common sight. I
remember from a visit at Sonopress in 1991 (back then the second largest CD
manufacturer in Germany; a subsidiary of Bertelsmann, the world's third
largest media company) that customers had to deliver the data to go onto CD
in the form of a tape. The tape contents were then converted into ISO 9660
format and a golden CD-R was cut."
"At this stage you could either decide to have a production master made
from the CD-R or first use the CD-R sample for prior product testing. Lose
or break the CD-R and you'd have to pay for most of mastering process
Which, given the money woes described above, might have been more than CBM
Finally, another German correspondent confirms the release of the
Shiftrix/Lettrix two-pack on our "Only CBM Knows for Sure" list. He's
spotted it in a local shop.
It's apparently been there since 1991, he writes, but is still selling for
29 DM (about $20).