http://groups.google.com/group/rec.game ... ode=source
Although experts acknowledge that the video games business is surprisingly
incestuous by even Jerry Springer’s standards, recent developments taking place
within two of Seattle’s biggest corporations have made that fact clear for the
whole world to see. Next Generation Online exclusively reports on how Nintendo
and Microsoft wound up eyeing the same company’s chipset for the year 2000’s
biggest game console.
Few in the video game industry are aware of a rift that formed between Nintendo
and partner Silicon Graphics, Inc. just as their jointly-developed 64-bit game
console rolled off production lines. Already beginning to feel financial
strains due to changing market conditions for their high-end graphics
workstations, Silicon Graphics found itself arguing over component profits with
notoriously tight-fisted Nintendo as the system’s American launch MSRP
was lowered at the last minute before release. Although the companies
maintained their working relationship, the decidedly traditional and hard-
lined management at Nintendo had taken offense, and no longer considered SGI a
lock for development of Nintendo’s post-N64 game console.
Then several important events took place during 1997 inside of Nintendo, SGI
and one of their former competitors. Weak Japanese sales of the N64 and its
software lowered the company’s confidence in the N64 platform, and American
sales were projected to fall off as key internal software titles were
continuing to miss release targets by entire seasons. Demonstrably strong sales
of PlayStation games in the inexpensive CD format had weakened the appeal
of Nintendo’s third-party development contracts, and Nintendo started to
believe that it was in the company’s immediate interest to prepare a new
console for release as soon as Fall of 1999. At the same time, a number of
Silicon Graphics key Nintendo 64 engineers left the company to form the new
firm ArtX, with the express intention to win a development contract for
Nintendo’s next hardware by offering Nintendo the same talent pool sans SGI’s
manufacturing and management teams.
As it turns out, most of the industry’s top 3D chip experts have been lured
away from smaller firms by accelerator developers NVidia, 3Dfx and NEC, so
Nintendo’s pool of potential partners was already shrinking when it began to
shop around for a new console design team. Enter CagEnt, a division of consumer
electronics manufacturer Samsung, and here’s where the confusion begins: CagEnt
was formerly owned by 3DO, where it operated under the name 3DO
Systems and developed the M2 technology that was sold to Panasonic for $100
Million some time ago. When 3DO decided to exit the hardware business, it sold
off the 3DO Systems division to Samsung, which named it CagEnt and gave it
roughly two years to turn a profit. CagEnt owned three key technologies: a DVD
playback system, a realtime MPEG encoding system called MPEG Xpress, and a
completed game console with a brand new set of console-ready chip
designs called the MX. Adrian Sfarti, who had formerly developed the graphics
architecture design for SGI’s Indy workstation, was the head of the MX project.
The MX chipset was a dramatically enhanced version of the M2 chipset sold to
Panasonic and Matsushita, now capable of a 100 million pixel per second
fillrate and utilizing two PowerPC 602 chips at its core. (CagEnt’s executives
also boasted of a four million triangle per second peak draw rate, though the
quality of those tiny triangles would of course have been limited). Nintendo
executives Howard Lincoln and Genyo Takeda were among a group of
visiting dignitaries to tour CagEnt’s facilities, culminating in late 1997 or
early 1998 with a formal offer from Nintendo to acquire CagEnt outright. At
this point, Nintendo had terminated its development contract with SGI (see
SGI/MIPS Loses Nintendo Business).
As purchase negotiations continued, Nintendo worked with CagEnt engineers on
preliminary plans to redesign the MX architecture around a MIPS CPU, as
Nintendo’s manufacturing partner NEC has a MIPS development license but none to
produce the PowerPC 602. Nintendo and CagEnt flip-flopped on whether the
finished machine would include a built-in CD-ROM or DVD-ROM as its primary
storage medium, with Nintendo apparently continuing to insist that ROM
cartridges would remain at the core of its new game system. Yet as DVD and MPEG
technologies would have been part of the CagEnt acquisition, Nintendo would
probably have found some reasonable use for those patents eventually. The
MX-based machine was to be ready for sale in Japan in fall 1999 -- in other
words, development of games for the new console would begin within literally
months, starting with the shipment of dev kits to key teams at Rare and
Nintendo’s Japanese headquarters.
Although the asking price for CagEnt was extremely low by industry standards,
talks unexpectedly broke off in early 1998 when Samsung and Nintendo apparently
disagreed on final terms of CagEnt’s ownership, leaving Samsung’s management
desperate for a suitor to buy the company. CagEnt aggressively shopped itself
around to other major industry players. SGI’s MIPS division, reeling from the
loss of its N64 engineers to ArtX, allegedly considered
acquiring CagEnt as a means to offer Nintendo the technology it had already
decided it liked. Sega, 3Dfx and other companies toured CagEnt’s facilities and
finally CagEnt found a suitor.
In early April, Microsoft’s WebTV division ultimately acquired all of the
assets of CagEnt and hired on most of its key personnel. WebTV and Microsoft
apparently intend to use the MX technology at the core of their next WebTV
device, which as might be guessed from the graphics technology, will no longer
be limited to simple web browsing and E-mailing functionality. The next
generation WebTV box will be Microsoft’s low-cost entry into the world of
game consoles, melding the functionality of a low-end computer with a
television set-top box and game-playing abilities. Having worked with Sega
behind the scenes since 1993 or 1994, Microsoft has been quietly gathering the
knowledge it needs to market and develop games for such a device, and now it
has the hardware that even Nintendo would once have wanted for itself.
As for Nintendo, all signs point to a very unpleasant near future for the
Japanese giant. Lacking internal hardware engineers with the necessary
expertise to develop the next high-end chipset, Nintendo is now all but forced
to either partner with ArtX, or one of the 3D accelerator makers who have been
sucking the industry dry of all its most talented people, or perhaps join with
one of its other major rivals. The latest word has it that ArtX and
Nintendo are in talks to work together, perhaps under circumstances similar to
those under which Nintendo would have acquired CagEnt. Unlike CagEnt, however,
ArtX does not have a finished console or even half-completed chip designs to
sell Nintendo, and it would be unlikely that Nintendo would be able to scrape
together a reasonable system by Christmas 2000 with ArtX’s present limitations.
Additionally, SGI’s recent series of strategic lawsuits
against Nvidia and ArtX seem to be intended to serve as garlic and crosses to
stave off any Nintendo alliance with its tastiest potential allies: Nintendo
might well fear developing a new console only to find out that its core
technologies or employees are depending upon infringed patents, regardless of
the merits of those patents or the lawsuits.
Meanwhile, the company continues to harbor tremendous concerns for the future
of the Nintendo64 platform, which appears to be sinking deeper and deeper in
Japan by the day. Nintendo’s negotiations with CagEnt shed light upon the
tremendous dependence the Japanese company now has upon Rare, which has been
responsible for a number of the Nintendo 64’s best-looking games and at least
two of the machine’s most popular—Diddy Kong Racing and Goldeneye 007.
As Nintendo’s Japanese development teams have never been known for their
ability to stick to release schedules, the company’s third-party rosters have
remained bare and its management has remained dogmatically fixated upon silicon
chips as its sole means of profit, Nintendo’s problems have set the stage for a
truly interesting set of negotiations come this E3.
To sum up, readers need to understand that decisions and relationships made
early in the design process of a new console can dictate a company’s standing
in the industry for the following five years. Ripple effects from these
decisions can be felt in a company’s bottom line can be felt for even longer.
Nintendo has found itself in the unenviable position of being without an
established partner and with the clock ticking down. If Nintendo should
choose to go with ArtX (assuming it’s able to fight off SGI’s lawsuit), it will
need to complete a chip design is an extremely short period of time. If it
doesn’t go with ArtX, Nintendo will have to find a technology that is already
suited to the console market or one that can readily be changed to suit a
similar purpose. Either way, at this point the chances of Nintendo hitting its
desired 2000 release with a new system are extremely slim.
Next Generation Online will be first as always with the latest information on
this matter, as soon as it breaks.
Also, a rather interesting post showed up on usenet in 1999 regarding M2, why it never came out, CagEnt and MX.
http://groups.google.com/group/rec.game ... ode=source
I'd still rather have seen the original M2 make the scene as a game
Me too. BTW, the M2 didn't launch because it was too expensive. It was
very competitive price wise (the thing was made up of three chips plus RAM
plus glue so it wasn't expensive at all) but Panasonic got cold feet. They
believed Nintendo was going to dominate the market and they thought
bringing out a unit that was twice as powerful as the N64 (and a lot easier
to develop for) wasn't good enough. They didn't anticipate that cartridges
were going to really stunt the N64's growth. In hindsight, I can safely
say the M2 would have buried the N64 if Panasonic actually launched it.
The reasons are pretty simple. The dev system was dirt cheap and easy to
use (Sony released the Net Yarouze because it got some early info on the
M2's dev system which was essentially an M2 unit with an extra ROM and a
parallel port cable for the PC). A developer familiar with an API like
Glide would be right at home so ports of 3DFX games would be easy. The OS
made streaming a dream. Today I have trouble getting Windoze with a
PII-450 and a TNT card to do what I could on an M2 four years ago. Every
developer that used the final M2 system preferred it to any other console
for ease of development. Unfortunately, everything in the universe (or so
it seemed) conspired to keep the unit off the shelf. The main causes were:
1. Panasonic was overly worried about Nintendo. They couldn't see that
cartridges were going to doom that system to being a (relative) niche
2. Trip Hawkins had a mid-life crisis and wanted to get out of the console
hardware business. He wanted to go back to what he believes he knows best-
games. Of course looking at some of the stinkers coming out of Studio (New
World and Cyclone excluded) you have to wonder. He basically told
Panasonic they would have to pay for any help with M2 (in addition to the
$100 million). Trip wouldn't be evangelizing the system anymore and 3DO
could theoretically nickel-and-dime Panasonic to death. After all, the
braintrust for the M2 was still at 3DO (before being amputated into
Cagent). Panasonic would have to put their faith in something they didn't
invent nor knew all that much about. For all they knew, there could have
been a fatal flaw in the system that wouldn't reveal itself until after
they spent a billion dollars on a launch.
3. The guy who was head of the Interactive Media division of Panasonic
(actually MEI) was retiring shortly after the time M2 was originally to
have launched. Only he could authorize the money (500 million to a billion
dollars) needed to launch the unit. He didn't want to commit his company
to such an expensive venture and then leave. So he didn't do it. His
successor inherited M2 and was reluctant to commit to it since it wasn't
"his baby". He was interested in MX but apparently he couldn't work out a
deal with Cagent (the M2 hardware group) for it. This was probably due to
an arrogant individual at Cagent who shall remain nameless who said "I
don't like MEI's table manners, so I don't want to deal with them." I
swear to God that I'm not making the last sentence up!
These are, I feel, the main reasons we never saw the M2. Scary isn't it?
It wasn't technology or costs or the market. It was key individuals that
deprived the world of a great game console. We often hear how an
individual can have a profound impact for good on the rest of the world (or
at least a large chunk of it). If it weren't for John Carmack, game
developers be doomed to using an inferior version of Direct3D for game
development instead of having a choice (Thanks, John!). Unfortunately, an
individual can bring an equally negative effect on the world. An
individual can undo the work of thousands of man-years with the stroke of
pen. Remember that when you work on a project. Don't let a few
individuals (if you can) undo what you and your fellow workers have slaved
months and years for.
Don't even get me started on how the M2/Sega deal fell through.
Also, an article from 1998 about Microsoft getting into the game console industry with a next-generation WebTV box using the MX chipset (which they acquired when they bought CagEnt) before they made the first Xbox. It also makes mention of the Nintendo / CagEnt MX hook-up.
http://www.windowsitpro.com/Article/Art ... 17783.html
April 28, 1998
Microsoft reportedly working on game console
Microsoft Corporation reportedly intends to allow its next-generation WebTV device to compete with the Nintendo 64 and Sony Playstation game consoles. The story is rather complicated, but it goes something like this: A few years ago, a company called 3DO was working its own next-generation game console, which was dubbed the M2. The M2 contained three key technologies which were pretty impressive for their day: DVD playback, MPEG3 decoding, and a new chipset called MX. When it became clear that 3DO was going to have to exit the hardware market for financial reasons, it sold the M2 technology to Samsung, which created a division called CagEnt that had two years to make money with it.
CagEnt's MX chipset from the M2 technology utilized two PowerPC 602 microprocessors at the time: the same CPU that powers Apple Macintosh computers. In late 1997, Nintendo visited CagEnt in search of a new 3D chipset since its relationship with Silicon Graphics had fallen apart and sales of the Nintendo 64 were slower than expected. In early 1998, Nintendo officially terminated its relationship with ailing Silicon Graphics and offered to buy CagEnt outright.
While details of the sale continued, Nintendo worked with CagEnt to wrap its MX chipset around a MiPS processor, as the company's consoles use NEC MiPS CPUs, not PowerPC. The plan was for the new MX-based machine, complete with hardware 3D, DVD-ROM, and cartridge capabilities to be ready in time for Christmas 1999. Unfortunately for Nintendo, talks with Samsung broke down within a few months.
That's where Microsoft stepped in.
In Early April, the company bought CagEnt through its WebTV division, acquiring all of the assets of CagEnt and its key personnel. Microsoft's plan is to use the MX technology as the core of its next WebTV device, which will clearly be used for more than Email and Web browsing. In fact, Microsoft has quietly been gaining the knowledge it needs to compete in the game console market through its parternship with Sega and it's likely that a Microsoft-backed, Windows CE-based WebTV device could even be co-created with that company.
All this puts Nintendo in a bind, of course, and the company will be unable to create a new console in time for Christmas 1999 now. Its current plan is for the next device to reach stores in late 2000 instead, though its unclear who they will be able to partner with to make such a goal.
Article from 1999 on X-Box (before it was Xbox with Nvidia & Intel) where it's understood that CagEnt under WebTV, within Microsoft, is the force that could produce the X-Box.
They would later work with GigaPixel in late 1999/early 2000, I guess in a combined effort, to make Xbox chipset. However WebTV+CagEnt+GigaPixel) were the losing team inside Microsoft. They lost at the last minute in a surprise reversal. The winning team worked with Nvidia (who got the GPU contract instead of GigaPixel) on the released version of Xbox.
Part of a vortexonline.com rant from 2000 on MX and Dolphin:Microsoft's X-Box: Fight for the future?
By Robert Lemos, News.com
Published on ZDNet News: Sep 27, 1999 12:00:00 AM
This month's reports that Microsoft is working on a game console to rival Sony's PlayStation 2 came as little surprise to at least one industry executive.
"I guarantee you that if there's a group that knows how to build a video game machine, it's the one inside (Microsoft subsidiary) WebTV," said Hugh Martin, former CEO of 3DO Systems Inc., which challenged the established video game industry more than five years ago.
Martin, now CEO at Optical Networks Inc., should know. You see, those WebTV engineers used to work for him at 3DO.
If WebTV does produce the rumored console, it will mark the end of a long trek for those engineers.
When Martin was at 3DO, it was a hot startup, bringing a 32-bit game console to market almost two years before Sony produced the PlayStation. But in 1996, 3DO faced the truth: It had lost the war, selling only a million units. It scrapped its plans for a 64-bit next-generation device, known as the M2, and sold its hardware division to Samsung, a Korean consumer electronics manufacturer.
Samsung had its new company, now called CagEnt, poised to excel in the PC graphics market, scoring deals with arcade machine maker Konami and semiconductor manufacturer Cirrus Logic. By spring 1997, however, both deals had crumbled and an ailing Samsung was looking to sell CagEnt.
After a near-miss with Nintendo, Samsung sold the group to WebTV, which was by then a Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT) subsidiary. The engineers, and almost all of the advanced graphics technology -- moved with the company. "Those guys are still there," said Martin. "They are inside WebTV in Palo Alto (Calif.)."
WebTV is open about why they bought CagEnt.
"(CagEnt) had both the intellectual property and people that we were interested in," said Alan Yates, director of marketing at WebTV Networks. While he would not confirm the existence of the X-Box project, Yates admitted, "You will see future versions of WebTV that will use the video capabilities that we acquired, as well as the 3-D capabilities."
Yates added that, while the technology was there to make an X-Box device, "our strategy right now is very, very clear: to provide additional functionality for TV."
That may change, and quickly, analysts said. With Sony using the PlayStation 2 as a "Trojan horse" to become the center of home entertainment, Microsoft should be looking at games as well.
"For Microsoft to get plugged into (the gaming console market) would not be a big stretch for them," said Jae Kim, analyst with entertainment technology watcher Paul Kagan Associates. "At the very least, it would provide another gateway into the living room."
Game developers think so, too.
"Can you see 200 million connections to the Internet and Microsoft not being a part of it?" asked one gaming industry source on condition of anonymity.
http://www.vortexonline.com/rants/032300.html (link is dead)
"This time Matsushita had a very viable solution for Nintendo, the MX console. What was the MX? Well, details are sketchy, but it was supposed to be the successor of the M2. Sporting two Power PC CPUs that each alone had several times the power of the M2, and pushing a lot more polygons, this system was designed for speed. Nintendo actually entered into negotiations with Matsushita about using the technology. However, Nintendo was still a fan of MIPS CPUs and wanted to use them. The architectures where not compatible, and the MX went down just like its younger brother. Or did it? Perhaps, part of it lives in the Dolphin. Rumors persist that some of the foundations of the Dolphin are based of early MX designs. Only Nintendo knows for sure."
Finally, an older 1996 report from Intelligent Gamer Fusion magazine (posted to usenet) about MX, the *possible* use of on-chip (embedded) framebuffer RAM to help boost MX performance to 15-20 million polygons/sec
http://groups.google.com/group/rec.game ... ode=source
That to me sounds like MX could have been approaching almost PS2 or Gamecube level graphics drawing performance (in 1996) and intended for release a few years later after M2. This version of MX sounds more like an M3!As for MX (see IG's Fusion
issue 10), the current
concept being tossed around is the idea of actually including the
video RAM frame buffer within
the actual MX chipset rather than externally -- as transferring data
from separate RAM chips to
the math processors is one of the most vital time delays in any
computer or game console, having
the RAM bundled with the fast MX chipset would mean incredible
speedups in processing.
Developers claim that such an MX chipset could deliver -- believe it
or not -- 15-20 million
polygon per second performance.
The drawback? The failure rate of such combined chips could be
prohibitively high -- between the
RAM and the high-intensity math processor, the chips could fail in
production at a rate of 20% or
greater depending on how much RAM was included on a chip.
Additionally, the heat generated
by such a configuration would mandate special cooling measures.
Regardless, the premise is food
for thought and some additional RAM may well wind up in the final MX
Was there anything beyond M2 and MX? well if MX was M3 or not I'm not sure. I think people at 3DO would've said 'M3' was MX. but supposedly there was something beyond the '64-bit' M2 and MX generation(s). Something codenamed S42. I am not sure if this is just a BS magazine rumor or not, but Intelligent Gamer / IG Fusion magazine was pretty damn interesting. Someone on usenet typed up what was in an early 1996 issue of the magazine, their first report on MX, I think (a few months before the on-chip RAM for MX report). I remember reading the actual magazine report myself, and this seems to be almost word for word what was there
http://groups.google.com/group/rec.game ... ode=source
so: Opera/3DO/M1 ===> Bulldog/M2 ===> MX (M3?) ====> S42 (M4?) ????
Also mentioned in the article is how two new chipsets are
supposedly under development. One is an enhanced M2 codenamed MX and is
described as 'M2 on steroids'. BTW it is mentioned that the M is really
most likely a common moniker used for version 2 type projects meaning it
stands for mark, thus 'Mark 2'. And in MX the X is obviously a variable.
MX so far 'offers twice the performance of the M2 chipset...currently
intended for PC and arcade use...'. Finally the totally newer chipset is codenamed S42 - S being just another letter like M and 42 being the one
calculated as the meaning of life by the computer Deep Thought in the
Hithchiker's Guide to the Galaxy. S42 being post 64bit era forecasting
that probably is the equivalent of the M2 when the Opera was being made.
I wonder if any of 3DO Systems / CagEnt's technology, under WebTV at Microsoft, made it into Xbox 360?