Origins of the Pippin Video Game Console

In the early 90's, Apple started development on its tragically doomed debut into the video game console market. Dual released in Japan and the U.S. in 1995 the console was marketed as the Pippin in Japan, and as the @world in the United States. While the system was technologically superior to its main competitor on the market, the 3DO, and the Sony PlayStation that would later dominate the market, the strategies used in marketing the device to consumers caused it to crash and burn with only about 5,000 units sold in the U.S. market. It faired slightly better in Japan, but never really got a foothold on the competition.

Bandai Pippin by Apple computer (Japan model)
The Japanese Bandai Pippin (Atmark Player) and wireless controller.

Apple’s Marketing Strategies

The team in charge of marketing the Pippin tried a number of strategies, none of which ever caught the hearts of consumers. They began their marketing journey simply by marketing the machine as what it was meant to be, a video game console, but at the time the internet was really beginning to take off. The company decided to scrap there original strategy and market the Pippin as a video game console and internet browsing device. They touted the fact that the Pippin allowed users to browse the internet from their television set, but the internet was a new phenomenon at the time and consumers were not ready to adopt the technology, especially at the price.

With a price tag of $599, roughly equivalent of $830 today, consumers were not willing to take a chance on a relatively new technology presented in an unfamiliar way. Since the Pippin was essentially a Macintosh computer at heart, Apple tried one more strategy to launch sales. They began attempting to market the Pippin as an all-in-one computer alternative, selling the machine as a computer, internet browser and video game console wrapped in one package. While this kind of ambitious marketing has served Apple well in other avenues, it still did nothing to help increase sales volume on the Pippin and likely drove off consumers who weren’t ready to accept this kind of mix-matched technology together.

What the Pippin Console Could Do

Due to the fact that the console was really a stripped down MiniMac, its software running capabilities were impressive for its time. It was capable of producing graphics that blew away the 3DO and could solidly compete with the Sony PlayStation, but the capabilities of the machine were never efficiently put to work. Very little software was designed for the console, which was one of the major contributing factors to its demise. Had there been a range of impressive titles available at the time of launch, the Pippins fate might have been quite different.

Despite the fact that there were only 18 titles available in the U.S. at the time of the Pippins release, six of which came with the console, it was far ahead of the game in terms of accessories that could be purchased to compliment the system. Some of the available additions included a Pippin keyboard with drawing tablet, an adapter to attach the Pippen to a Macintosh computer, and modems to allow the device to access the internet. The amount of external devices produced to compliment the system exceeded sales of the unit by such a large amount, that many were sold off for parts to help recoup the cost of production when it was realized that the device was not going to meet sales goals.

Collector’s Information

For those interested in purchasing a Pippin console for collectors purposes, it is possible to still find the units. However, they still command a pretty penny at action. The more common white Japanese model will run a collector around $200 new in box, while the rarer U.S. release often fetches over $300 for a complete unit. For a console collector it may be worth it for such a unique piece of video gaming history, but for the average consumer this one is probably best left to the archives.

Apple Pippin @Mark (USA model)
The US Apple Bandai Pippin

Hardware

 

The Pippin AtMark PCB.

  • 66 MHz PowerPC 603 RISC microprocessor
    • Superscalar, three instructions per clock cycle
    • 8 KB data and 8 KB instruction caches
    • IEEE standard single and double precision Floating Point Unit (FPU)
  • 5 MB combined system and video memory, advanced architecture
    • Easy memory expansion cards in 2, 4, 8, and 16 MB increments.
  • 128 K Flash memory accessible storage space.
  • 4 x CD-ROM drive
  • Two high-speed serial ports, one of which is GeoPort ready, the other is LocalTalk
  • PCI-compatible expansion slot
  • Two “AppleJack” ruggedized ADB inputs
    • Supports up to four simultaneous players over Apple Desktop Bus (ADB)
    • Supports standard ADB keyboards and mice with mechanical adapters

Video

  • 8-bit and 16-bit video support
  • Dual frame buffers for superior frame-to-frame animation
  • Support for NTSC and PAL composite, S-Video and VGA (640x480) monitors
  • Horizontal and vertical video convolution

Audio

  • Stereo 16-bit 44 kHz sampled output
  • Stereo 16-bit 44 kHz sampled input
  • Headphone output jack with individual volume control
  • Audio CD player compatibility
 

System software

  • 3 MB ROM version 7.7.D (version number on ROM boards is development 1.1, 1.2; production 1.3).
  • Runtime environment derived from System 7, System 7.5.2 (if used, Enabler 1.1).
  • PowerPC native version of QuickDraw.
  • Reduced system memory footprint (most computer extensions features removed).
  • Disk-resident System Software stamped on CD-ROM with title.
  • System boots off of CD-ROM by default (but can boot off any SCSI device).
  • Pippin System Software upgrades released through CD-ROM stamping operations.
  • 68k emulator.
  • Macintosh Toolbox intact.

Software titles: Japan

Very few titles were produced for the Japanese version on release in early 1995. While some promised titles may not have been released, the number that was released is less than 80 titles.

Software titles: USA

When Bandai released the U.S. version, it had only 18 titles sold separately, and six CDs came with the Pippin itself. Upgrades to the Pippin Browser were released as a new CD over time, and so was an update to TV Works (a text and drawing program).

  • CineNoir
  • Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia
  • Cool Crafts
  • Exotic Sushi
  • Gus Goes to Cyberopolis
  • Gus Goes to the Kooky Carnival in search for Rant
  • Home Improvement 1-2-3
  • Katz Pippin Demo CD 2.0
  • Movieoke
  • Mr. Potato Head Saves Veggie Valley
  • Navigator
  • Pegasus Prime
  • Power Rangers Zeo Vs. The Machine Empire
  • Playskool Puzzles
  • Racing Days
  • Super Marathon
  • Terror T.R.A.X.
  • TV Works

Software titles: other

As mentioned before, a third party made a custom Pippin bootable CD with the Macintosh GUI on it. There were also a few demo CDs made by Bandai and Katz Media. Others may exist that have not circulated.

Accessories

 
  • AppleJack controller
  • AppleJack Wireless (IR) controller
  • Pippin keyboard with drawing tablet
  • Pippin Modems (14.4, 28.8, 33.6 kbit/s)
  • Pippin memory (2, 4, 8, 16 MB)
  • Pippin Floppy Dock
  • Pippin MO 256 MB optical disk
  • Pippin ADB adapter (for connecting Macintosh devices to Pippin)
  • Pippin to Macintosh (ADB) adapter (for connecting Pippin devices to Macintosh)

 

Source: Apple Bandai Pippin Wikipedia page

Pippin: Technical Specifications from Apple.com

Pippin: Questions and Answers (Part 1 of 2) - This article is part one of answers to questions concerning the Apple Pippin.

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