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Thread: What if the Nintendo 64 had been CD-based?

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    Default What if the Nintendo 64 had been CD-based?

    It's a question I'm sure has been on thousands of retrogamers' minds. Let's say that the Nintendo 64 had been a CD-based console. Nothing else has changed about the system, it still has the same processor, controller, etc. It still launches on September 29, 1996, into the same console market. How does this change the outcome of the console race in its generation? What are the effects on later generations?

    In reality, the PS1 sold 102.49 million units, the Nintendo 64, 32.93 million, and the Sega Saturn 9.26 million.

    I think it would have greatly benefited Nintendo; Sony would have still been successful but not market-dominant, and the Saturn would have still failed. The optical drive probably would have necessitated a launch price of $299, matching the PlayStation's launch price, thus making the N64 more expensive than the PlayStation or Saturn for a time. Both of those consoles were at $199 by September 1996. Stuff like Final Fantasy would have stuck with Nintendo, in fact, there would have been A LOT more third party games coming to N64. Also, imagine Super Mario 64 with more levels, even more expansive Zelda games, Perfect Dark perfected, all thanks to the 700 MB CDs. Plus games at $40-50 like PlayStation instead of $60-80.

    Sony had a year's head start over Nintendo and loads of third-party support. I feel like the PlayStation would have still been very successful against a CD-based N64. My guess is that both PS1 and N64 would have ended up selling 65-75 million units, being superseded by new consoles around 2001 but still getting games until 2003-2004. If anything, things would have been even more difficult for Sega, and they probably would have canned the Saturn in 1998 like they did in real life. Microsoft would have still probably entered the console market with moderate success. Nintendo, seeing that piracy wasn't the system-killer they made it out to be, would probably go with DVD's for the GameCube, and indeed their future consoles would probably be more similar to others on the market, with them differentiating themselves primarily through their unique IPs. Would wii have seen the motion controls of the Wii? Not really sure.
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    i think if the use of CDs came with a different controller i could see Sony and Nintendo selling roughly the same amount of units.
    the more people io talk to over the years the more people i find had an issue with the controller.

    sure that didnt stop a lot of people from buying the thing but it was definitely a part of its sales i'm sure.

    I didnt buy a N64 new because of the controller, and when i got my playstation it was the first dual shock bundle that was available

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    I'll say no...

    Back then, the general aesthetics of N64 screamed TOY. You had multi-colored, large controllers, as well as consoles, and the games remained as carts. It cost more in general than the PS1 or SAT, both of which came off more as gaming/entertainment choices. At the time, there was hardly any discussion about the medium of choice. That being said, PS1's often broke down or CD's got scratched. This was never an issue on the N64, being fully solid state. Granted kids mangled the analog stick plenty, but for the most part the N64 was solid.

    Anyway, my point is that from a consumer's standpoint, I do not believe the CD would have done much differently for the 64. It's possible that certain 3rd party games that utilized lots of FMV and/or CDDA on their PC offerings could have done the same on this console. IF they wished to. The N64 was a vastly different system to program on, and games did not port as easily as they might have on Saturn or PlayStation. So I'm not sure the cartridge ever made that much of a difference? EA had no problems putting Madden games out, after all. I personally don't think the CD/cart made a big difference. Also, N would have insisted on exceptional copy protection, even if they agreed to use a CD, which was a big reason they didn't.
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    It would not matter because the

    0. PSX released via 1993 and even before that teams was working on games for the hardware while in dev.

    Yes the "CD64" would have probably outshine SONY only for the Nintendo name. Remember SONY also did two things.

    1. Gave free marketing to anybody making SONY games.
    2. Had use of 3d designers, who was mostly about story telling and movies.


    ..........................

    Think your a game dev, and your saying "People will keep on buying Nintendo only games but Sony will give me free marketing and my team was already set for this CD-SNES thing"

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    Nintendo was against CDs at the time for 3 main reasons:

    1. Increased cost. Iirc, it launched at $199 here in the US and double speed CD drives at the time were $100+ dollars even at it's launch. They likely could have done $249 at a loss, or more likely $300 without a loss as Nintendo likes to make money on the hardware that they sell.
    2. CD access time. Miyamoto and quite a few others are on record saying that it killed the game experience in their view, at least, with double speed drives.
    3. Piracy!

    I'm sure there are other points but those are the main ones. Piracy seems to have been their biggest concern really, it's even why they went with mini-Dvds on the Gamecube, and those discs spun in reverse vs every other drive + there was heavy encryption on top of everything else.

    A zip drive like the 64DD with it's unique discs, now, maybe Nintendo would have done that at launch if they looked at it early enough. I think that would have made the games much cheaper than carts but still not as cheap as CDs, would have fast access time [slower than cart but MUCH faster than CD], and if designed right, would be very hard for pirates to harm their bottom line. The 64DD disks were 64MB vs the launch carts being 8MB. They could have found a way to up that to 256MB for it's zip disks if they went that route most likely. That would have been interesting if Nintendo went this route instead of carts.
    Last edited by Peonpiate; 08-09-2022 at 09:52 PM.

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    GameCube discs don't spin backwards. Open your GameCube when you're playing a game and you can see it spinning the "right" way.

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    I just wonder if the games would've looked just as shitty. N64 graphics were terrible. I think they would have been at least as bad as the PS1.
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    SGI apparently went to Sega first, and Kalinske pushed for it to be the saturn hardware. Sega of Japan chose the hardware we now know as saturn made by the japanese team. If Sega of America had won their argument, the saturn would have been N64 hardware on cd!!! SGI were sure they had a deal, and asked Kalinske what to do, and apparently he said you might want to check with Nintendo!

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    Quote Originally Posted by PreZZ View Post
    SGI apparently went to Sega first, and Kalinske pushed for it to be the saturn hardware. Sega of Japan chose the hardware we now know as saturn made by the japanese team. If Sega of America had won their argument, the saturn would have been N64 hardware on cd!!! SGI were sure they had a deal, and asked Kalinske what to do, and apparently he said you might want to check with Nintendo!
    Wow, Sega almost came in a strong second in the generation. Sony did so much right that anything from Sega - or Nintendo - was never going to beat them, but come on... a CD64 would have been vastly better hardware than the Saturn, and you know Sega wouldn't have insisted on the draconian anti-piracy measures that ended up hamstringing Nintendo.
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    Playstation 5 and Switch would likely not exist, Nintendo would probably be the sole console. The reason I say this is Microsoft is having trouble against Playstation, if Playstation did not exist because Nintendo didn't backstab Sony, Nintendo would not have spent several generations pandering with gimmick consoles. Not only would there be Nintendo exclusives, there'd be powerful hardware capable of playing all major AAA games, and all Japanese and indie games.

    This iteration of Nintendo would be the best console publisher, it can still happen if Sony and Nintendo merge into one, but this will never happen.
    Everything in the above post is opinion unless stated otherwise.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AceAerosmith View Post
    I just wonder if the games would've looked just as shitty. N64 graphics were terrible. I think they would have been at least as bad as the PS1.
    I would have to disagree there. N64 may have aged poorly now, but the graphics were head and shoulders above the PS1. Take any 3D-platformer, it's not even close, N64 characters were actually rounded, unlike the boxy PS1. PS1 games were often slow and jittery, not quite as bad as the 3DO, but N64 games had good framerates. The type of media wouldn't have mattered, if the console used the same graphical hardware.

    Quote Originally Posted by WelcomeToTheNextLevel View Post
    Wow, Sega almost came in a strong second in the generation. Sony did so much right that anything from Sega - or Nintendo - was never going to beat them, but come on... a CD64 would have been vastly better hardware than the Saturn, and you know Sega wouldn't have insisted on the draconian anti-piracy measures that ended up hamstringing Nintendo.
    Sony had a TON of capital at its disposal; Sega did not. The arcade business was up and down, and they barely made much of a profit aside from the Genesis in North America. Saturn was DOA outside of Japan, and that was well before the N64.

    Quote Originally Posted by kupomogli View Post
    Playstation 5 and Switch would likely not exist, Nintendo would probably be the sole console. The reason I say this is Microsoft is having trouble against Playstation, if Playstation did not exist because Nintendo didn't backstab Sony, Nintendo would not have spent several generations pandering with gimmick consoles. Not only would there be Nintendo exclusives, there'd be powerful hardware capable of playing all major AAA games, and all Japanese and indie games.

    This iteration of Nintendo would be the best console publisher, it can still happen if Sony and Nintendo merge into one, but this will never happen.
    There would have been competitors, there's simply way too much money to be made on video games. Microsoft were well into gaming (on PC) by time Bill Gates decided to go with Xbox. Apple had somewhat of a history there. Sony was going to produce a game console, whether the Nintendo Playstation happened or not.
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    Assuming that load times for an N64 CD would be on par with the Playstation, I think possibly image and the controller would have continued to hold the N64 from reaching the top spot. Software wise I think Sony would probably have pushed more of the "cool" factor as Nintendo was indeed starting to look more like a "kiddie"company around this time. I'm not sure how expensive it was to develop for either a Playstation or the N64 (the interwebs aren't really providing me much info on hard numbers for dev kits, other than 12,000 Sterling for a PSX dev kit that fit into a standard PC. I think the N64 had SGI-like workstations from the get go) but if memory serves the PS1 was easier to program for. On top of that, Sony would have dropped some cash to make sure titles were exclusive to their system, especially stuff that would fall in line with the "cool" factor. I don't know how aggressive Nintendo would have been to get titles on the console but I have a feeling not much would have changed from the line-up of titles. Maybe more but that would still be down to prices and capability to pump out something that could use the N64 hardware on top of dev costs.

    While I loathed (and still do) the PSX controller and Dual Shock, its concept paved the way for future systems while the N64's "trident" seemed to be a bane to many a gamer back in the day. That alone might have kept developers from porting fighting games over to the N64. Those that did might have had their N64 games cast with negativity from reviewers due to the layout of the N64 controller. We might have seen more 3D platformers come out than what already had on the system!

    In the end, I think the race might have been a little closer but I think Sony's little station would still have gotten the glory. They had the swagger and the desire to be on top while Nintendo was just....being Nintendo.

    Just my 1 zenny (not enough time for another) on this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg2600 View Post
    I would have to disagree there. N64 may have aged poorly now, but the graphics were head and shoulders above the PS1.
    I remember when the N64 was a current system, as a child, and I hated the graphics. I just wanted to go back to my Genesis and avoid the crappy 3D graphics that were being pushed at the time.

    Today, I have some nostalgia for the old limited 3D graphics of the time. Specifically with PS1 era graphics which I didn't really like at the time but now appreciate. I still prefer the look of PS1 games to N64 games, just as a type of visual style. There's even modern indie games made today that mimic the look of PS1 era graphics, but nobody seems to mimic the N64 graphics too much.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg2600 View Post
    I would have to disagree there. N64 may have aged poorly now, but the graphics were head and shoulders above the PS1. Take any 3D-platformer, it's not even close, N64 characters were actually rounded, unlike the boxy PS1. PS1 games were often slow and jittery, not quite as bad as the 3DO, but N64 games had good framerates. The type of media wouldn't have mattered, if the console used the same graphical hardware.

    I always felt the N64 games looked like the screen was smeared with Vaseline. That is just a personal preference.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep038 View Post
    I always felt the N64 games looked like the screen was smeared with Vaseline. That is just a personal preference.
    Yeah...but the polys on many PS1 games look like you could shave with them. The softer look of the N64 made the 3D in games where developers actually did a good job in coding looked decent to me. You could tell which devs could work that hardware and who couldn't.

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