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Introducing: The Philips CD-i

>> Wednesday, July 4, 2007

CD-i veterans and Philips employees aside, new visitors to Interactive Dreams may not have a clue what the Philips CD-i was about. This introduction below is a summery of what previously has been published by other sites like Le Monde du CD-i. It deals with a very basic start, some of which is used at Wikipedia (a main start for anyone who wants to know what CD-i was) Here's an introduction to CD-i, 'the Interactive-Dreams way':

Let me be clear from the start the Philips CD-i was not meant as a real games console. Instead, Philips launched the CD-i format in 1990 to introduce a multimedia machine competing with the CD-ROM format, offering videos, photos and music on a CD to play on your television. One of the key selling points to convince people CD-i was better than CD-ROM, was by claiming you don't have to use a seperate computer anymore. In 1990, this was a unique experience to offer on a simple format just like the audio CD. The format has been developed in an alliance of Philips, Sony and Matshushita, known as The Green Book. The Audio CD format was standardized in The Red Book; CD-ROM was standardized in The Yellow Book.

The CD-i (Short for Compact Disc Interactive) was invented around 1985 but commercialized in 1990, so it took a long while to arrive at the consumer market. The Digital Video add-on was released in 1993. CD-ROM was aimed at the 'professional' user, CD-i was there for the 'casual' consumer. It all went a little different.

Any company was allowed to produce a CD-i player, as long as the Green Book specifications were met: Motorola 68000 processor at 15Mhz, 1 MB of memory (RAM), one drive at single speed, 8 KB of internal memory and the operational system CD-RTOS. So, CD-i was not able to play just CD-i's. The CD-i player was able to play the following kinds of discs:

-CD-i Ready
-CD Graphics (CD+G)
-CD Bridge:
1. Video CD
2. Photo CD
-Audio CD

Philips produced several types of CD-i players, to serve every kind of consumer. why are there so many CD-i players? It has been the policy of Philips I guess, but most of all, more brands were involved with CD-i than just Philips. That's why you can also get a Sony CD-i player, a Grundig CD-i player, a Goldstar CD-i Player, and so on. But Philips was responsible for 90% of all CD-i hardware, I guess. More types appealing to more people, like portable systems, developers system, high-end consumer systems..... For you who just want to play some games, I recommend the 470 or 490 player (basically the same). If you don't know what I'm talking about, be sure to check out the CD-i Player index of the ICDIA website.

Important to know is that every CD-i player plays the same discs. Just be sure some games need the Digital Video Cartridge. CD-i is a 16 bit machine, and the Digital Video Cartridge was something of an upgrade with a 32 bit RISC processor so the CD-i could play full motion video in MPEG1 format. Some games use digital video to show off some fast-pace gameplay. And it is just to play movies, to play the Video CD format, and so on. The front boxart of the CD-i disc normally sais it's a base case title (stating Compact Disc interactive) or a title requiring the Digital Video Cartridge (stating Digital Video on CD-i).

The CD-i 210 was the highest selling. It is mainly a stripped down version of the CD-i 220 (Matchline product). The 210 was sold at a price of 800 dollars.

In 1994, Philips introduced the CD-i 450, built to compete with real videogames systems like 3DO, Super Nintendo and Sega Mega Drive. The 450 player also marked the return of Magnavox to the videogames platform. It is a cheap version of the CD-i format (only 400 dollars).

Originally CD-i was meant to offer educational and reference software. The educational part of software was very important for CD-i. Philips aimed at children playing and learning at the same time with CD-i. They hoped CD-i would be highly adapted in school programs. Philips also developed for adults several programs about culture, art, encyclopedias, documentairies, courses and so on. Really, games were not on the mind of Philips. They only developed some basic board games like Battle Ship, Jigsaw, Text Tiles, simple games like that. Slowly Philips funded more projects to develop games on CD-i, with Alien Gate by The Vision factory as a remarkable change in the quality games possible on CD-i.

In theory, this educational and reference approach was very innovative, never seen before and without Internet as a real competitor in the early ninetees a good idea. Unfortunately, even before launch the japanese developers stepped out of the alliance and Philips decided to go for it alone. There are only a few left-overs of the japansese involvements, like the Sony CD-i player and Panasonic CD-i prototypes. I think, if Sony (pics here) and Matsushita continued support in CD-i, the term "Interactive" would have been cool now instead of 'obscure' as what it is these days...

Still, in my opinion the list of CD-i games is very good, and if you are willing to search, you can find a lot of high action arcade games on CD-i:

The 7th Guest: An instant succes on CD-i promoting the just available Digital Video Cartridge. Classic puzzles in a full motion rendered 3D mystery house. The 7th Guest is a horror story told from the unfolding perspective of the player, as an amnesiac. The game received a great amount of press attention for making live action video clips a core part of its gameplay, for its unprecedentedly large amount of pre-rendered 3D graphics, and for its adult content. In addition, the game was very successful, and is widely-regarded as a killer app that accelerated the sales of CD-i.

Mad Dog Mc Cree: Live action shooting offered by American Laser Games, straight from the arcades. CD-i offered the best graphics available out of all console versions. This is what made "Interactive Movies" popular. Mad Dog McCree is the first live-action laserdisc video game released by American Laser Games. It originally appeared as an arcade shooting game in 1990. It gained a lot of attention for its real-video style, bearing similarities to recent Hollywood westerns.

Litil Divil: Starring Mutt, this is what the mascot of CD-i could have been. Along with Marvin from The Apprentice he is the best known CD-i character. Litil Divil is also a puzzle game full of cartoon graphics, mazes and ofcourse: puzzles to solve.

Solar Crusade: The sequel to Chaos Control was the very last CD-i game ever released by Infogrames in 1998. This marked the end of the life of CD-i. It's a very cool and fast 3D shooting game, on-rails so you control the cursor to shoot your opponents.

Dragon's Lair: Thanks to Digital Video this shows the power of CD-i: Real TV animation in a cartoon movie you can control by clicking the right button on the right moment. You influence the story of the cartoon but if you choose wrong you are killed. Frustrating but beautiful at the same time.

Secret Mission: One of the best games which don't need a Digital Video cartridge. A puzzle game much like the style of point and click adventures, previously popular on CD-ROM only.

The Lost Ride: Another rail-shooter built as a roler-coaster: Shoot your way to the end of a beautiful rendered maze in Digital Video. This game also featured a rare technique on CD-i: Seamless Branching.

Micro Machines: A classic 2D racing game, top-view. Everybody knows Micro Machines, it has been released on virtually every platform, including CD-i.

Tetris: The game that made the Nintendo Game Boy hugely popular, even got an official version made by Philips.

Burn:Cycle: a 1994 CD-i title that encompasses puzzle play and 3D graphics with live action footage. The game's star, Sol Cutter, is a small-time data thief whose latest steal at the beginning of the game comes with a nasty sting. The Burn:Cycle virus has been implanted in his head and has given him a two-hour realtime deadline to find a cure before his brain deteriorates completely. You, as the player, must guide Sol out of Softech and into the Televerse in order to find his cure. Various obstacles and games stand in his way, and there is the overarching realisation that Burn:Cycle has been planted by someone with malicious intent. Finding this within the time limit completes the game.

International Tennis Open: Can you imagine this was one of the most realistic tennis sims on any console? This is what makes Infogrames' Tennis pretty popular.

Most people remember the CD-i because of the link with Nintendo. Click the link to read more about the involvement of Nintendo with Philips CD-i.

Zelda - The Wand of Gamelon

Link - The Faces of Evil

Zelda's Adventure

Hotel Mario; the only game starring Mario which has been officially released.

I hope this selection will convince you the Philips CD-i actually has some good games to offer. But it's true Philips wasn't the most popular in creating videogames and even with all the efforts of funded third party projects, the title library on CD-i remained low. One interesting aspect of CD-i is that it could play Video-CD; but only if you upgraded the CD-i player with a so-called Digital Video cartridge (MPEG1 decoder):

The best games on CD-i required a Digital Video Cartridge. Check out this list if you want to know which games do.

And.... all kinds of accessories were available for use with CD-i. Can you tell which ones are used for what purpose ;) The roller controller was there for children and they could easily scroll the cursor with the big blue ball, and the roller controller was not breakable, at least for a kid ;) The splitter was needed to play two-player games on newer models from the CD-i 4xx series. Using the splitter you were able to connect a second controller. Also, to connect the player to the Internet, the splitter was needed to connect the CD-i modem to the CD-i player.

Philips even produced a portable version of the CD-i and OEM'ed the LG CD-i player (370). The portable players were very expensive, so not a lot of consumers actually bought it...

CD-i was the first console to enter the Internet right from your couch, right on your own television.

I hope we'll continue the History story of CD-i soon; it's a beautiful story!

Credits: This post is inspired by the history of CD-i posted by Le Monde du CD-i. However, the pictures are available on virtually every CD-i website, which makes it hard for me to credit the originals.

7 reacties:

Daan,  July 4, 2007 at 8:29 PM  

yeah, you're right, those B/W pics come from ICDIA, I guess. Also some credit for CD-i Collective, never forget that struggle between both ;)
It's nice to have an introduction up, you should link that in the sidebar!

Blake Snow October 25, 2007 at 3:47 PM  

Burn Cycle is also my favorite on the system.

phobiazero,  January 18, 2008 at 8:14 PM  

i loved Mad Dog McCree with that blue gun. it was as cool as the original arcade! Nice memories!

Anonymous,  August 13, 2010 at 1:13 AM  

Hello, I'm willing to sell the following titles:

A great day at the races; The renaissance of florence; Battleship; Compton's interactive encyclopedia; Jigsaw; Caesar's world of gambling; Sargon chess; Pinball; Video speedway; Golden Oldies; and Backgamon

If anyone is intrested please contacte me at

Finn,  October 25, 2011 at 1:39 AM  

As far as game play childhood memories go, my fondest ones aren't of sonic and Mario but of laser lords, burn cycle, Alice in wonderland, defender of the crown, 7th guest and lord of the rising sun.... oh mystic midway also ha ha
and something that helped me with homework days was Smithsonian :o) it was a shame cd-i could not progress as a major competitor for today, we still pull the cd-i out for my nieces who adore the games and i see so much of the cd-i in what is being accomplished with other electricals today.
Just wanted to give my nod to one of the best devices of the 1990s x

Marc,  February 9, 2018 at 8:06 AM  

Hello there,
I have a question,but first let me introduce myself.
In the 90's I worked for two companies (wigant interactive media and Codim interactive media at Eindhoven).
We produced educational and commercial CDi's for companies and schools.
I also made the music for these productions.
But I don't have a player,anymore.
I would like to rip the audio and video from my CDi-discs (about 20).
However, I don't know how.
Is there special software to do this?
Computers don't recognize the CDi disc.
Does anyone know how to do this?

CD-i Fan May 27, 2018 at 9:09 PM  

Hello Marc,

I certainly know how to do this, I also know people from Codim and depending on the timing we might even have been coworkers.

Can you contact me via e-mail using cdifan (at) gmail (dot) com?

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Games 0-F

3rd Degree - PF Magic
7th Guest, The - Philips Freeland Studios
Accelerator - SPC/Vision
Adventure of the Space Ship Beagle, The - Denshi Media Services
Affaire Morlov, L' - Titus
Alfapet - Adatek
Alice in Wonderland - Spinnaker
Alien Gate - SPC Vision
Alien Odyssee - Argonaut
Aliens Interactive CD-i - Dark Vision Interactive
Ange et le Demon, L' - Smart Move
Apprentice, The - SPC Vision
Apprentice 2, The - Marvin's Revenge - SPC Vision
Arcade Classics - Philips ADS / Namco
Asterix - Caesar’s Challenge - Infogrames
Atlantis - The Last Resort - PRL Redhill (Philips ADS)
Axis and Allies - CapDisc
Backgammon - CapDisc
Battle Chess - Accent Media (for Interplay)
Battleship - CapDisc
Big Bang Show - Infogrames
BMP Puzzle - Circle (for ZYX)
Brain Dead 13 - Readysoft
Burn:Cycle - Trip Media
Caesar's World of Boxing - Philips POV
Caesar's World of Gambling - CD-I Systems
Cartoon Academy - Bits Corporation
CD-i mit der Maus - SPC Vision
CD Shoot - Eaglevision Interactive Productions
Change Angels Kick-off - HMO
Chaos Control - Infogrames
Christmas Country - Creative Media
Christmas Country - The Lost Levels - Creative Media
Christmas Crisis - DIMA
Clue - 3T Productions
Clue 2 - The mysteries continue - 3T Productions
Connect Four - CapDisc
Creature Shock - Argonaut (for Virgin)
Crime Patrol - CapDisc
Crow, The - Philips POV
Cyber Soldier Sharaku - Japan Interactive media
Dame was Loaded, The - Beam Software
Dark Castle - Philips POV
Dead End - Cryo
Defender of the Crown - Philips POV
Deja Vu - Icom Simulations
Deja Vu 2: Lost in Las Vegas - Icom Simulations
Demolition Man - Virgin Interactive Entertainment
Demon Driver - Haiku Studios
Discworld - Teeny Weeny Games
Dimo's Quest - SPC Vision
Domino - Wigant Interactive Media
Down in the Dumps - Haiku Studios
Dragon's Lair - Superclub / INTL CDI
Dragon's Lair 2- Time Warp - Superclub / INTL CDI
Drug wars - Crime Patrol II - CapDisc
Dungeons & Dragons - PF Magic
Earth Command - Visionary Media
Effacer - CapDisc
Escape from Cybercity - Fathom Pictures
Evidence - Microids
Falco & Donjon & The Sword of Inoxybur - BMi / Zephyr Studio
Family Games I - DIMA
Family Games II - Junk Food Jive - DIMA
Felix the Cat - Philips Sidewalk Studio
Flashback - Delphine/Tiertex (for US Gold)
Flinstones Wacky Inventions - Philips Funhouse
Fort Boyard: The Challenge - Microids
Frog Feast - Rastersoft

CD-i Games Index G-M

Go - CapDisc
Golden Oldies - SPC Vision
Golden Oldies II - SPC Vision
Golgo 13 - Japan Interactive Media
Great day at the races, A - CD-I Racing, Dove Films, Total Vision
Guignols de l'Info, Les - Canal+ Multimedia / INTL CDI
Heart of Darkness - Amazing Studio (for Virgin)
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The - Philips Kaleidoscope
Holland Casino CD-i - HMO
Hotel Mario - Philips Fantasy Factory
Inca - Coktel Vision
Inca 2 - Coktel Vision
International Tennis Open - Infogrames
Jack Sprite vs. The Crimson Ghost - PF Magic
Jeopardy - Accent Media
Jigsaw - Novalogic
Joe Guard - DIMA
John Dark: Psychic Eye - CapDisc
Joker's Wild!, The - Accent Media
Joker's Wild Jr., The - Accent Media
Kether - Infogrames
Kingdom - The far reaches - CapDisc
Kingdom 2 - Shadoan - CapDisc
Labyrinth of Crete - Philips Funhouse
Laser Lords - Spinnaker
Last Bounty Hunter, The - CapDisc
Legend of the Fort - Microids
Lemmings - DMA Design / Psygnosis
Lettergreep - Wigant Interactive Media
Lingo - SPC Vision
Link - The faces of evil - Animation Magic
Lion King, The - Virgin Interactive Entertainment
Litil Divil - Gremlin Graphics
Litil Divil 2: Limbo Years - Gremlin Graphics
Lords of the rising sun - Philips POV
Lost Eden - Cryo (for Virgin)
Lost Ride, The - Formula (Lost Boys)
Lucky Luke - The video game - SPC Vision
Mad Dog McCree - CapDisc
Mad Dog McCree II: The lost gold - CapDisc
Magic Eraser - Circle (for ZYX)
Mah-Jong - Japan Interactive Media
Making the Grade - 3T Productions
Man Before Man - Cryo
Marco Polo - Infogrames
Mario Takes America - CIGAM
Master Labyrinth - AVM AG/HQ
Mega Maze - CapDisc
Memory Works, The - Compact Disc Incorporated
Merlin's Apprentice - Philips Funhouse
Microcosm - Philips Freeland Studios
Micro Machines - Codemasters
Monty Python's Invasion from the Planet Skyron - Daedalus CD-i Productions
Mutant Rampage - Body Slam - Animation Magic
Myst - Sunsoft (for Cyan)
Mystic Midway - Rest in pieces - Philips POV
Mystic Midway 2 - Phantom Express - Philips POV

Compact Disc Interactive

Compact Disc Interactive

Games N-Z

Name that tune - Philips Fantasy Factory
New Day - Bits Corporation
NFL Hall of Fame Football - Philips POV
Othello - HMO
Pac Panic - Philips ADS / Namco
Palm Springs Open - ABC Sports / Fathom Pictures
Pool - SPC Vision
Pinball - CapDisc
Plunderball - ISG Productions
Power Hitter - ABC Sports / Fathom Pictures
Power Match - Two's Company
Pursue - BEPL
Pyramid Adventures - Compact Disc Incorporated
RAMRaid - PRL Redhill
Return To Cybercity - Fathom Pictures
Riddle of the Maze, The - Fathom Pictures
Riqa - Bits Corporation
Rise of the Robots - Mirage Technologies
Sargon Chess - Spinnaker
Scotland Yard Interactive - AVM AG/HQ
Secret Mission - Microids
Secret Name of Ra, The
Shaolin's Road - Infogrames
Skate Dude - Viridis
Smurfen, De - De Telesmurf - Infogrames
Solar Crusade - Infogrames
Solitaire - BEPL
Space Ace - Superclub / INTL CDI
Space Ranger - Studio Interactive
Special Operations Squadron - SPC Vision
Sport Freaks - SPC Vision
Star Trek - Philips POV
Star Wars: Rebel Assault - LucasArts
Steel Machine - SPC Vision
Striker Pro - Rage
Strip Poker Live - Greenpig Production
Strip Poker Pro - Interactive Pictures
Super Fighter - The Super Fighter Team / C&E
Super Mario's Wacky Worlds - NovaLogic
Surf City - Philips Sidewalk Studios
Tangram - Eaglevision Interactive Productions
Taco's Toyroom Troopers - Creative Media
Tankdoodle - Creative Media
Tetris - Philips POV
Tetsuo Gaiden - Creative Media
Text Tiles
Thieves' World - Electronic Arts
Tic-tac-toe - BEPL
Tox Runner - ISG Productions
Treasures of Oz - Philips Kaleidoscope
Ultra CD-i Soccer - Krisalis
Uncover featuring Tatjana - SPC Vision
Uninvited - Icom Simulations
Video Speedway - ISG Productions
Vinnie the Pinguin - Pandemonium Labs
Voyeur - Philips POV
Voyeur 2 - Philips POV
Whack-a-Bubble - Creative Media
What's it worth - Marshall Cavendish Multimedia / Spice
Who shot Johnny Rock? - CapDisc
Wordplay - BEPL
World Cup Golf - US Gold
Zaak Sam, De - Toneelschool NL
Zelda - The wand of Gamelon - Animation Magic
Zelda's Adventure - Viridis
Zenith - Radarsoft
Zombie Dinos From The Planet Zeltoid - Philips POV

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