CD-ROM comes home; still too soon! (Taking Sides)
by Rhett Anderson, Randy Thompson
We've been hearing about the imminent mass marketability of CD-ROM technology for years. Companies have bet and lost fortunes gearing up for this invasion. Commodore's CDTV (a respectable machine, but one that seems to have no hope of starting a revolution) is probably the CD-ROM machine best known to Amiga owners. But there are others. And Commodore can take heart that they were also consumer flops. NEC's TurboGrafx game machine was swamped by the Sega Genesis. And Philips' CD-I was dealt a crushing blow by widespread consumer apathy.
What has gone wrong with this market? Plenty. The most important problem is that no one can figure out why they would want one of these machines. That's about to change, thanks to two companies that have both a convincing message to tell and the clout with which to tell it. Sega and Nintendo will soon release CD-ROM machines. Why can they succeed where the others failed? Because their message is clear to game players. Buy a CD-ROM unit, and you get more levels, more graphics, more sound. You get improved gameplay, too, since the CD-ROM machines from the game companies add processing power to the cartridge machines that they plug into.
Nintendo and Sega won't have to worry as much about sticker shock as Commodore and Philips did, either. The CD-ROM units are add-ons to popular game systems. Buy the Genesis or Super Nintendo this Christmas; buy the CD-ROM unit during the next holiday season.
Right now there are two main categories of software that require the massive amount of storage that CD-ROMs provide. The first is data-intensive software, which consists of a large database of raw information such as encyclopedias, medical information, atlases, and other reference works. People who want access to this kind of data already own a personal computer or are willing to buy one. They don't want a CDTV or a CD-I hooked up to their televisions.
Looking over at Mr. Thompson's side, we see an "I told you so." Well, Mr. Thompson, you didn't tell me so, because I agreed with you five years ago. But things have changed. CD-ROMs are already popular. There are hundreds of discs available for the PC. And Apple even distributes its system software on CD-ROM. Mr. Thompson's "I told you so" reminds me of the "I told you so's" I heard when the videogame industry died out. Most of those people got mighty quiet when Nintendo and Sega restored that market. I suspect Mr. Thompson will soon be put into the same place.