Geek Trivia

What Was The Killer Application That Drove 1990s CD-ROM Drive Sales?

Office 95
Doom
Myst
America Online
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Answer: Myst

It wasn’t operating systems, large office application suites, or digitized encyclopedias driving the wave of CD-ROM drive adoption in the early 1990s, not by a long stretch. Back when CD-ROM drives were still an expensive add-on or after-market upgrade to desktop computers, there was one application that stood out among all others as the killer app that got people interested in CD-based computer media: Myst.

Although the game’s design and mechanics might seem quaint and even outright outmoded to modern gamers, the 3D-rendered and video-heavy interactive title was a bestselling titan of the game industry throughout the entire 1990s (and wasn’t dethroned as the top selling PC game until 2002). Given the sheer size of the game—it had over an hour of video—there was simply no way the game could be released on floppy disks as even individual video clips within the game exceeded the storage limits of a single floppy disk, and asking consumers to install a game via several hundred floppy disks onto their very limited hard drives would have been absurd.

In short, to play Myst  you needed a CD-ROM drive, no questions asked. In the face of the overwhelming positive press, positive critical reviews, and enormous user praise, consumers found little reason to not justify purchasing a CD-ROM drive as an excuse to play the game.

Image courtesy of Cyan Worlds/Brøderbund.