Philips CD-i (an abbreviation of
Compact Disc Interactive) is an
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
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. This was facilitated by the use of an additional
hardware modem that
Philips initially released in Britain in 1995 for
$150 US. Competitors included the Tandy VIS and Commodore CDTV.
Work on the CD-i began in 1984 and it was first publicly announced in
1986. The first
Philips CD-i player, released in 1991 and initially
priced around US$700, was capable of playing interactive CD-i
discs, Audio CDs,
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,
Philips $1 billion.
2 Player models
2.2 Other manufacturers
3 TeleCD-i and CD-MATICS
4 Technical specifications
5 Market competition
7 See also
9 External links
See also: List of CD-i games
Philips at first marketed CD-i as a family entertainment product, and
avoided mentioning video games to not compete against game
consoles. 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, and the games were the best-selling software. By
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.
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. Earlier CD-i games included entries
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.
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
agreement that produced a prototype console called the SNES-CD).
Nintendo never released such a
Philips was still contractually allowed to continue using Nintendo
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
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
The Berenstain Bears and various others
which usually had vivid cartoon-like settings accompanied by music and
Although extensively marketed by Philips, notably via infomercial,
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,
BV, to French publisher
Infogrames in 1997.
A large number of full motion video titles such as Dragon's Lair and
Mad Dog McCree
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
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
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.
Australia Andy Stout, a writer for the official CD-i magazine,
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
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 ...
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.
With the home market exhausted,
Philips tried with some success to
position the technology as a solution for kiosk applications and
industrial multimedia.
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.
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
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.
In addition to Philips, several manufacturers produced CD-i players,
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
TeleCD-i and CD-MATICS
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
A presentation controller for the
Philips CD-i. The CD-i's controllers
were heavily criticized.
16/32-bit 68070 CISC Chip
Clock Speed of 15.5 MHz
Graphics Chip: SCC66470, later MCD 212
Resolution: 384×280 to 768×560
Colors: 16.7 million w/ 32,768 on screen
MPEG 1 Cartridge Plug-In for VideoCD and Digital Video
Sound Chip: MCD 221
ADPCM eight channel sound
16-bit stereo sound
Digital Out 
CD-RTOS (based on Microware's OS-9)
1 MB of main RAM
CD-I KeyControl (keyboard)
I/O port splitter
Gamepad controller (Gravis PC GamePad)
IR wireless controller
RAM expansion and Video-CD (MPEG-1) support with DV Cart
Panasonic M2 is an interactive kiosk. 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 CD expansion, 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, and NEC
Philips had aggressively promoted CD-i, by August 1993
Computer Gaming World
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. 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. 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." 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
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.
After its discontinuation, retrospectively, the CD-i was
overwhelmingly panned by critics about its graphics, games, and
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." The CD-i's various controllers were ranked the fifth
worst video game controller by
IGN editor Craig Harris. PC World
ranked it as fourth on their list of "The 10 Worst Video Game Systems
of All Time". Gamepro.com listed it as number four on their list
of The 10 Worst-Selling Consoles of All Time. In 2008,
the system on its list of The worst game console(s) ever.  In
GameTrailers ranked the
Philips CD-i as the fourth worst console
of all time in its Top 10 Worst Console lineup.
Games that were most heavily criticized include Hotel Mario, Link: The
Faces of Evil, Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon, and Zelda's Adventure.
Seanbaby rated The Wand of Gamelon as one of the worst video
games of all time. However, Burn:Cycle was positively received by
critics, and has often been held up as the standout title for the
In October 1994
Philips claimed an installed base of 1 million units
for the CD-i, but in July 1996 they said they had still sold
only 200,000 units.
High Sierra Format
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Time". GamePro.com. Archived from the original on May 8, 2007.
Retrieved November 25, 2007.
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Philips CD-i, Philipscdi.com.
^ "COMPANY NEWS; New
Philips CD - The New York Times". Nytimes.com.
April 2, 1992. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
^ a b "Inside Scoop". GamePro. No. 97. IDG. October 1996.
^ a b c Miller, Chuck; Dille, H. E.; Wilson, Johnny L. (January 1994).
"Battle Of The New Machines". Computer Gaming World.
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No. 15. Imagine Media. March 1996. p. 31.
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Imagine Media (11): 63.
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player, but ended up an under-powered game machine.
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Age. Melbourne. Green Guide, p.16.
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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.
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