The Pioneer LaserActive was a high-end video player and game console released in 1993. It played LaserDiscs, LaserActive games, and had add-on support for Genesis and TurboGrafx-16 games. The LaserActive was hyped to compete with the 3DO at the huge MSRP of $969.99. At CES in 1993, the 3DO was on display but the LaserActive was displayed at an invite-only event and hype died for the console a few months before its September release. Quite notable about LaserActive, besides the unsightly price tag, was the fact that the Genesis and TurboGrafx-16 add-ons were actually developed jointly with Sega and NEC. In previous eras of gaming, similar pirated adapters would be released that were both unauthorized and illegal.
The Pioneer CLD-A100 was the only LaserActive model (besides the NEC PDE-LD1, which was a clone). It played regular laserdiscs as well as LaserActive games which were 540Mb LD-ROM laserdiscs. It is the second most expensive console ever released, with an MSRP of $969.99 and expansions (called PACs) going for around $599.99 (The most expensive console ever was the RDI Halcyon which retailed for $2,500). The console has a large, motorized tray in the front that accepts 12" laserdiscs as well as a smaller door for 5" CDs. The bottom of the unit has a large expansion slot for the Sega, NEC, and Karaoke modules produced. Locking mechanisms were used to prevent a game from being ejected while in use. The system came with a remote, but no controller. The controllers were bundled with the PACs.
A LaserActive with both the Sega and NEC PACs can play around 1,500 games, but only a dozen or so laserdisc games were ever released exclusively for the console. LaserActive games were graphically and audibly superior to games that came out around the same time, but due to the format it lacked the precise controls of competing consoles. The discs held 540Mb worth of code for the game but the LaserActive software could store over 100,000 still images and an hour of audio in addition to that, making it hard to compete with audibly and visually.
The LaserActive weighs in at 25lbs and measures 6x17x15".
3D glasses were available for the LaserActive called the LaserActive 3-D Goggles; GOL-1. A required adapter, the ADP-1, was necessary to use them. The adapter allowed two sets of glasses to be connected. Many LaserActive games supported the goggles. They are extraordinarily rare today.
The add on components were referred to as PACs by Pioneer. They were inserted into the single expansion slot in the lower part of the console and look similar to modern day optical disk or floppy disk drives. The base console itself could only play laserdisc movies, thus a PAC was required even to play Laseractive games. To make matters worse each Laseractive game could only be played on a specific PAC. If a consumer wanted to play all the games specifically built for the system but didn't care about either Genesis or Turbografix games than they still would of had to buy both.
The Sega PAC, PAC-S10, allows the LaserActive to play 8" and 12" Mega LD discs, as well as existing Genesis and even Sega CD games. Mega LD discs were loaded with MPEG-1 FMV backgrounds used in conjunction with Genesis or Sega CD games. The 2d sprites from the Genesis games would be pasted on the motion background from the laserdisc. The PAC has 2 Genesis controller ports on the front and included a Pioneer branded 6-button Genesis controller. It also included a Mega LD called Pyramid Patrol, and a Sega CD compilation disc featuring Streets of Rage, Revenge of Shinobi, Columns and Golden Axe. The Sega PAC was so popular that more than half of US LaserActive owners purchased this add-on for $599.99. About 20 LD-ROM games were released for the Sega PAC.
The NEC PAC, PAC-N10, allowed the LaserActive to play HuCards, Super CD-ROMs, and LD-ROM^2 discs. It came with a 2 button controller and an LD-ROM^2 that included the same games that came with a NEC TurboDuo (Gate of Thunder, Bonk's Adventure, Bonk's Revenge and Bomberman). It also came with an educational game named Econosaurus that used the LD-ROM^2 format. The device is region locked, so it will not play PC-Engine games on a US console. It retailed for $599.99, the same price as the Sega PAC, but was much more poorly received. It is widely sought after due to its rarity.
Nine games were released on LD-ROM^2 for the NEC PAC.
The Karaoke PAC, PAC-K10, was a novel concept for gaming consoles at the time. It allowed the system to play all LaserKaraoke titles and sing along to music videos. The PAC included a microphone and features 2 mic inputs with separate volume controls, and a tone control. It was compatible with about 200 karaoke titles and, like the other PACs, was region locked. It retailed for $349.99.
Computer Interface PAC
The Computer Interface PAC, PAC-C1, allows remote control of the LaserActive via a 25-pin serial port where it can be hooked up to a PC or Mac. It came with a 33-button remote to replace the included 24-button one. The PAC included software to create LaserActive software called LaserActive Program Editor. On the bundled floppies were example programs that interacted with Tenchi-Muyo! laserdiscs.
The LaserActive is a very innovative device; not many consoles are able to play as wide a variety of games as it can. It failed due to an outrageous price as well as very poor marketing and managed to sell merely 10,000 units. At the Consumer Electronics Show in 1993, Pioneer inexplicably showcased the hardware behind closed doors. The reasons for this were unknown and the 3DO took center stage. When the console was released in September 1993, not enough consumers had heard about it or cared about it. The price tag was almost impossible to justify at $969.99, and PACs costing $599.99. A Sega Genesis was $229.99 at the time and a Sega CD $89.99. That's about half the price of what the Sega PAC cost, in addition to nearly $1000 for the LaserActive itself. Most gamers ignored the NEC add-on due to the lack of notable software releases.
In addition to the fact that the PACs cost more than their respective console equivalents, the LaserActive wasn't an extraordinary laserdisc player for the high end AV market. It did not have a jog dial or a digital display. The software library of Mega-LD and LD-ROM^2 titles is too small to even mention. The system launched to an audience that didn't receive it and died out to the 3DO in 1994.
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