One U.S. Import Japan Likes: Trip Hawkins

Video-game legend Trip Hawkins has hit new heights of stardom, or desperation. The persuasive CEO of San Mateo (Calif.) startup 3DO is appearing in Japanese TV ads, plugging Matsushita Electric's Real video-game system, which was designed by his company. "It plugs into the future!" he exclaims in cameos spliced into scenes of American kids playing games. Matsushita hopes his charisma will spotlight the system's Mar. 20 debut in Japan.

From a Japanese perspective, the 15-second spot puts Hawkins in good company. George Lucas flogs Matsushita's products on TV in Japan, while Jodie Foster, Harrison Ford, and Charlie Sheen peddle canned coffee, beer, and cigarettes, respectively.

More imaginative is Hawkins' latest sales incentive in the U.S., where the Matsushita CD-ROM-based players were launched last fall. Sales were so slow around Christmas that Matsushita temporarily halted production. For each player Matsushita sells in the U.S., Hawkins is offering the manufacturer two shares of 3DO stock--worth about $48. The deal was contingent on cutting the machine's $700 list price to $500. Matsushita did that last month--and is mulling further reductions. It needs to move quickly before Sony launches a game player later this year.

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