The Philips CD-i, released on November 2, 1991, not only boasted games in its library, but also some encyclopedia and "Edutainment" products, as well as feature-length movies (which required an additional video card), providing digital home video releases before DVD entered the market. This device is probably best remembered for the late-night commercials that ran in the early 1990s showing off its awesome power as a hapless man searched for the "meaning of life". The system eventually gives him his answer, after forcing him to play tennis and other video games. The system used compact discs for its software releases, and also featured full motion video content. Philips' attempt to enter the gaming market would be trumped by Sony's PlayStation, which unlike the CD-i, featured 3D-graphics rendering technology and significantly more support from first and third party developers.
The system also suffered from a bit of an identity crisis. Upon release, Philips did not wish to compete with the likes of Sega and Nintendo in the home console market; instead, Philips positioned the console as a "multimedia system" that could play videos, run applications, and could act as an educational tool. This led to a swath of educational game releases, which has never been a bestselling niche in the entertainment software market. Philips tried to position the system as a console that could compete with the likes of the Sega CD and 3DO, but by then most consumers did not view the console as a serious contender to incumbents, not to mention its high starting price and underwhelming library of games.
The CD-i also has the notable (and dubious) distinction of being the only non-Nintendo console to have Mario and Zelda titles developed for it, due to a contractual obligation Nintendo had with Philips dating back to the SNES CD project. In total, four such titles existed on the system: Link: The Faces of Evil, Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon, Zelda's Adventures and Hotel Mario. A fifth title, Super Mario's Wacky Worlds, was planned but never released. None of the titles were developed by Nintendo, but by third parties or by Philips themselves.
Phillips sold many varied models on the CD-i system, designed for consumer, professional and development users.
CD-i Player 200 Series
Models: 205, 210, 220
The 200 Series models were designed for general public consumption and made available at major home electronics stores worldwide.
CD-i Player 300 Series
Models: 310, 350, 360, 370
The 300 Series models were portable versions of the players, designed and marketed for strictly those in the professional fields.
CD-i Player 400 Series
Models: 450, 470, 490
The 400 Series models were slimmed-down players that were aimed at educational markets. The 450 model was their budget model - the infrared controller was not standard, but optional - to compete with the other major game consoles
CD-i Player 600 Series
Models: 601, 602, 604, 605, 615, 600, 670
The 600 Series models were designed for professional applications and development. These units included support for floppy disk drives, keyboards, and many other popular computer peripherals.
- 16-bit 68070 CISC Chip (68000 core)
- Clock Speed of 15.5 MHz
- Resolution: 384×280 to 768×560
- Colors: 16.7 million with 32,768 on screen
- MPEG-1 Cartridge Plug-In for VideoCD and Digital Video
- CD-RTOS (based on Microware's OS-9)
- 1.5 MB of main RAM
- Single-speed CD-ROM drive
- Weight with DV cart 1.460 kg, without DV 1.210 kg
- ADPCM eight-channel sound
- 16-bit stereo sound
- CD-i mouse
- Roller controller
- CD-i trackball
- I/O port splitter
- Touchpad controller
- Gamepad controller (Gravis PC GamePad)
- IR wireless controller
- S-video cable