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
  • JP: April 25, 1992 [1]
  • EU: July 10, 1992
Discontinued1998 [2]
Media CD-i, Audio CD, CD+G, Karaoke CD, Video CD
Operating system CD-RTOS
CPU Philips SCC68070 @ 15.5 MHz
Memory1 MB RAM
Display384×280 to 768×560
GraphicsPhilips SCC66470
SoundMCD 221, ADPCM eight channel sound
Online servicesCD-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 Dutch company Philips, who supported it from December 1991 to late 1998. 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. 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 co-developed by Philips and Sony.

CD player an electronic device that plays audio compact discs

A CD player is an electronic device that plays audio compact discs, which are a digital optical disc data storage format. CD players were first sold to consumers in 1982. CDs typically contain recordings of audio material such as music or audiobooks. CD players may be part of home stereo systems, car audio systems, personal computers, or portable CD players such as CD boomboxes. Most CD players produce an output signal via a headphone jack or RCA jacks. To use a CD player in a home stereo system, the user connects an RCA cable from the RCA jacks to a hi-fi and loudspeakers for listening to music. To listen to music using a CD player with a headphone output jack, the user plugs headphones or earphones into the headphone jack.

Philips Dutch multinational electronics company

Koninklijke Philips N.V. is a Dutch multinational conglomerate corporation headquartered in Amsterdam, one of the largest electronics companies in the world, currently focused in the area of healthcare and lighting. It was founded in Eindhoven in 1891 by Gerard Philips and his father Frederik, with their first products being light bulbs. It was once one of the largest electronic conglomerates in the world and currently employs around 74,000 people across 100 countries. The company gained its royal honorary title in 1998 and dropped the "Electronics" in its name in 2013.

CD-ROM pre-pressed compact disc containing computer data

A CD-ROM is a pre-pressed optical compact disc that contains data. Computers can read—but not write to or erase—CD-ROMs, i.e. it is a type of read-only memory.


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. [3] This was facilitated by the use of an additional hardware modem and "CD-Online" disc (renamed Web-i in the US [4] ), which Philips initially released in Britain in 1995 for $150 US. [5] [6]

Internet Global system of connected computer networks

The Internet is the global system of interconnected computer networks that use the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to link devices worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of private, public, academic, business, and government networks of local to global scope, linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless, and optical networking technologies. The Internet carries a vast range of information resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext documents and applications of the World Wide Web (WWW), electronic mail, telephony, and file sharing.

Online console gaming involves connecting a console to a network over the Internet for services. Through this connection, it provides users the ability to play games with other users online, in addition to other online services.

Development of the CD-i format began in 1984 and it was first publicly announced in 1986. [7] [8] The first Philips CD-i player, released in 1991 and initially priced around US$1,000 (equivalent to $1,839in 2018), [9] 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. Philips also licensed the CD-i format to other manufacturers for use, and there were also CD-i players by Sony under the "Intelligent Discman" brand. [10] Philips marketed the CD-i as a "home entertainment system" in Europe, but more as a games and educational machine in the U.S. The CD-i was abandoned by 1996 [11] [12] and was a commercial failure, estimated to have lost Philips as much as one billion U.S. dollars in the American market. [13] [14] [15]


CD+G is an extension of the compact disc standard that can present low-resolution graphics alongside the audio data on the disc when played on a compatible device. CD+G discs are often used for karaoke machines, which use this functionality to present on-screen lyrics for the song contained on the disc. The CD+G specifications were published by Philips and Sony in an updated revision of the Red Book specifications.

Photo CD system designed by Kodak for digitizing and saving photos in a CD

Photo CD is a system designed by Kodak for digitizing and saving photos onto a CD. Launched in 1991, the discs were designed to hold nearly 100 high quality images, scanned prints and slides using special proprietary encoding. Photo CDs are defined in the Beige Book and conform to the CD-ROM XA and CD-i Bridge specifications as well. They were intended to play on CD-i players, Photo CD players, and any computer with a suitable software.

Video CD

Video CD is a home video format and the first format for distributing films on standard 120 mm (4.7 in) optical discs. The format was widely adopted in Southeast Asia and superseded the VHS and Betamax systems in the region until DVD finally became affordable in the region in the late 2000s.


Philips at first marketed CD-i as a family entertainment product, and avoided mentioning video games to not compete against game consoles. [16] 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, [17] 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. [16]

Video game electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device such as a TV screen or computer monitor

A video game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a two- or three-dimensional video display device such as a TV screen, virtual reality headset or computer monitor. Since the 1980s, video games have become an increasingly important part of the entertainment industry, and whether they are also a form of art is a matter of dispute.

Board game Game that involves counters or pieces moved or placed on a pre-marked surface or "board", according to a set of rules

A board game is a tabletop game that involves counters or pieces moved or placed on a pre-marked surface or "board", according to a set of rules. Some games are based on pure strategy, but many contain an element of chance; and some are purely chance, with no element of skill.

Connect Four game

Connect Four is a two-player connection game in which the players first choose a color and then take turns dropping one colored disc from the top into a seven-column, six-row vertically suspended grid. The pieces fall straight down, occupying the lowest available space within the column. The objective of the game is to be the first to form a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line of four of one's own discs. Connect Four is a solved game. The first player can always win by playing the right moves.

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. [18] 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: The Wand of Gamelon , Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda's Adventure . 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). [19] While Philips and Nintendo never released such a CD-ROM add-on, Philips was still contractually allowed to continue using Nintendo characters.

Nintendo Japanese video game company

Nintendo Co., Ltd. is a Japanese multinational consumer electronics and video game company headquartered in Kyoto. Nintendo is one of the world's largest video game companies by market capitalization, creating some of the best-known and top-selling video game franchises of all-time, such as Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Pokémon.

<i>Mario</i> (franchise) video game franchise

The Mario franchise is a media franchise, published and produced by video game company Nintendo, starring the fictional Italian character Mario. It is primarily a video game franchise, with the franchise's other forms of media including several television series and a feature film. It was originally created by game designer Shigeru Miyamoto with the arcade game Donkey Kong, released on July 9, 1981. The games have been developed by a variety of developers including Nintendo, Hudson Soft, and AlphaDream. Most Mario games have been released for Nintendo's various video game consoles and handhelds, from the third generation onward.

<i>Hotel Mario</i> 1994 video game

Hotel Mario is a puzzle video game developed by Fantasy Factory and published by Philips Interactive Media for the Philips CD-i in 1994. Players control Mario, who must find Princess Toadstool by going through seven hotels in the Mushroom Kingdom; each hotel is divided into stages, and the objective is to close all doors on each stage. Each hotel ends in a boss fight with one of Bowser's Koopalings, culminating in a battle with Bowser.

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.

An authoring system is a program that has pre-programmed elements for the development of interactive multimedia software titles. Authoring systems can be defined as software that allows its user to create multimedia applications for manipulating multimedia objects.

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, [20] 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. Plans for the CD-i 2 were certainly present and Argonaut Software was even designated to design chip sets for the successor to the CD-i. However, the then president Con Boonstra saw no interest in the media area for Philips and so Philips sold everything, including the media subsidiary Polygram. The Dutch half of Philips Media was sold to Softmachine, which released The Lost Ride on the CD-i as the last product. Philips then also sold its French half of the gaming subsidiary, Philips Media BV, to French publisher Infogrames in 1997. [21]

Dutch eurodance duo 2 Unlimited released a CD-i compilation album in 1994 called "Beyond Limits" which contains standard CD tracks as well as CD-i-exclusive media on the disc. [22] [23]

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. [24]

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. [25] With the home market exhausted, Philips tried with some success to position the technology as a solution for kiosk applications and industrial multimedia. [26]

Player models

Philips models

The Philips CD-i 910 CD-i-910-Console-Set.jpg
The Philips CD-i 910
Philips CD-i 400 series Philips-CDi-400-Console-Set.jpg
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.

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; [27] and the CD-i 180/181/182 modular system, the first CD-i system produced in collaboration with Kyocera in 1988, before the actual debut of CD-i. [28] [29]

Other manufacturers

In addition to Philips, several manufacturers produced CD-i players, including Philips subsidiary Magnavox, [24] GoldStar / LG Electronics, Digital Video Systems, Memorex, Grundig, Saab Electric, Sony (Intelligent Discman, a hybrid home/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

Recognizing the growing need among marketers for networked multimedia, Philips partnered in 1992 with Amsterdam-based CDMATICS to develop TeleCD-i [30] (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.


In 1995 Philips introduced CD-Online, a service which provided the CD-i with full internet access (with a 14.4k modem [31] ), including online shopping, email, and support for networked multiplayer gaming on select CD-i games. [32] The service required a CD-i player with DV cartridge, and an "Internet Starter Kit" which initially retailed for £99.99. [33] 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 ... [34]

The CD-Online service went live in the UK on October 25, 1995 [35] and in March 1996 in the Netherlands (for 399 guilders). [31] The system was reportedly scheduled to launch in the US as "Web-i" in August 1996. [36]

Technical specifications

A presentation controller for the Philips CD-i. The CD-i's controllers were heavily criticized. Philips-CD-i-Paddle-Controller.jpg
A presentation controller for the Philips CD-i. The CD-i's controllers were heavily criticized.
CD-i Mouse CDi Mouse Picture 2.jpg
CD-i Mouse


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. [39] 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. [16] 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." [40] 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. [20]

After its discontinuation, retrospectively, the CD-i was overwhelmingly panned by critics who blasted 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." [41] The CD-i's various controllers were ranked the fifth worst video game controller by IGN editor Craig Harris. [42] PC World ranked it as fourth on their list of "The 10 Worst Video Game Systems of All Time". [43] listed it as number four on their list of The 10 Worst-Selling Consoles of All Time. [44] In 2008, CNET listed the system on its list of the worst game console(s) ever. [45] In 2007, GameTrailers ranked the Philips CD-i as the fourth worst console of all time in its Top 10 Worst Console lineup. [46]

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. [47] However, Burn:Cycle was positively received by critics, and has often been held up as the standout title for the CD-i. [40] [48] [49] [20]

In October 1994, Philips claimed an installed base of one million units for the CD-i. [50] In 1996, The Wall Street Journal reported that total US sales amounted to 400,000 units. [15]

See also

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