Arming for disk battle

A battle of the giants in the interactive compact disk hardware market will begin in the next few weeks as products for two competing systems are launched in Canada.Consumer marketPhilips Electronics, which pioneered the development of interactive compact disk technology with...

A battle of the giants in the interactive compact disk hardware market will begin in the next few weeks as products for two competing systems are launched in Canada.

Consumer market

Philips Electronics, which pioneered the development of interactive compact disk technology with its cd-i (compact disk interactive) standard, is finally moving in a big way into the consumer market with the roll out of two models under its Magnavox banner.

(Philips launched cd-i about three years ago, but, to date, its Canadian focus has largely been on the commercial market.)

Going head to head with the Magnavox products will be the first device in Canada able to run 3do software, the Panasonic REAL 3do Interactive Multiplayer.

Real 3do will be launched in Toronto Aug. 31.

The Magnavox CD-I 450′s suggested retail price is $399.

This includes all 27 volumes of Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia, which is contained on one compact disk (by itself worth $399), and a two-player tennis game.

Cartridge

However, to watch full-motion videos and interactive titles, one must buy a digital video cartridge costing another $359.

Another model, the Magnavox CD-I 550, which has the full-motion cartridge built in, will be coming out shortly. It is priced at $699.

Local marketing executives for Panasonic, a Matsushita brand, said the price of the 32-bit Real 3do machine had not yet been established.

However, the Consumers Distributing retail chain is listing it at $619.98. The optional full-motion video module costs another $249 in the u.s.

Since Philips closed its consumer electronics division in Canada in June 1993, its consumer products have been handled by Concepts Distribution of Mississauga, Ont., which has the same ownership as the Multitech Warehouse Direct retail chain.

Concepts President Dan Behune said a major ad campaign, embracing tv, print – national and retail – and trade magazines, as well as an extensive public relations effort, would be conducted for the Magnavox players.

Additionally, an ‘interactive sweepstakes’ cross-promotion with a host of Procter & Gamble brands is already under way.

The list of hardware retailers that will carry the brand includes Multitech and Consumers Distributing.

The cd-i interactive software will be sold by a number of major retailers including hmv and Sam the Interactive Man.

‘We’re also going after the more traditional software channels,’ says Behune, noting he recently signed agreements with two video store chains, Video One and Jumbo Video.

Further, he says Blockbuster Video is conducting a marketing test scheduled to roll into Canada soon, and adds his firm has a distribution agreement with Fidelity Electronics, a major computer software distributor and one of the largest distributors of Nintendo products.

cd-i advertising in Canada is being handled by Lackey Business Communications, of Mississauga.

Its president, Derek Lackey, described the target market as ‘young men in their 20s and 30s, preferably with children under 10.’

‘They’re mature but young and hip,’ says Lackey, adding the advertising has an ‘in your face’ style.

U.S. creative

Most of the creative, he says, is being provided from the u.s., where the total campaign will cost more than $40 million.

In Canada, ‘in excess’ of $2 million will be spent.

Neither Panasonic’s Canadian ad agency, DDB Needham Worldwide, nor its public relations firm, Heather Reid & Associates, were able to provide details about their campaigns at press-time.

Philips has about 200 cd-i software titles available, with another 100 due by Christmas.

The software categories include games, children’s and adult educational programs, music videos and feature films.

Bethune says about 50 films are already available from the libraries of such firms as Paramount, Orion, mgm and Polygram Video.

He says interactive music disks configured for cd-i will include Todd Rundgren’s No World Order, which permits the user to rearrange the music digitally.

The catalogue of cd-is featuring traditionally formatted music and video images includes such artists as Pink Floyd and Tina Turner.

The software stable for 3do appears to number well under half that of cd-i.

It is understood there are about 60 games titles available, although that number is expected to grow to about 100 by Christmas.

About 75 of the titles will be truly interactive.

Japan debut

The 3do system’s worldwide debut took place in March in Japan.

It first appeared in the u.s. in October.

About 150,000 units have been sold worldwide, mostly in Japan.

A public company founded by Trip Hawkins, former owner of Entertainment Arts, 3do shares were at one time trading at US$44.47.

Currently, their price is around $14.15.

One analyst attributed the drop last October to the discovery by traders that shipments to wholesalers of the Panasonic machine were far lower than had been expected.

However 3do’s public relations manager, Cindy McCaffrey, claims 3do has a bright future.

McCaffrey claims Philips’ cd-i technology is ‘outdated’ and ‘has passed the window of opportunity, whereas 3do is state-of-the-art technology, and also built with the future in mind.’

A list of manufacturers, among them Goldstar, Samsung, Sanyo, at&t and Toshiba, are said to be planning to produce players for the cd-i and 3do systems.

However, none of their local representatives were able to provide information on the subject.