Nintendo 64 (N64) || 1996-2001


Development

Intro

Released in 1996, the Nintendo 64 (N64) was one of Nintendo's biggest console releases. Released in the fifth generation of gaming, competing with the PlayStation and Sega Saturn, the N64 was grounding breaking both in console design and the game library it provided. The N64 was Nintendo's need to develop a successor for the SNES, especially since it now faced competition in the console world from other developers. Also, with the risk of losing market dominance, Nintendo also faced backlash from third-party developers because of Nintendo's past efforts against licensing. What was one of the strengths of Nintendo consoles in having strong licensing for the NES and SNES became a weakness for them. Over time, the N64 was a huge collaboration effort between many developers and the outcome produced was one that changed gaming.

"Project Reality"

Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI), a huge leader in graphics visualization and supercomputing, wanted to expand its business into the video game industry. After many heated debates and negotiations between Nintendo and Sega, Jim Clark, founder of SGI, ultimately decided to partner with Nintendo. The reasons for this partnership was tha tNintendo was willing to license the technology on a no-exclusive basis and that Nintendo was a more appealing business partner for their ability to drive volumne. Jim Clark met with Nintendo CEO, Hiroshi Yamauchi, in early 1993, which initiated "Project Reality." Over the years, Project Reality was a product that would use core componentry that SGI dubbed "Reality Immersion Technology."" This technology would be the first to use various new CPUs, coprocessors and embedded software. Overall, without going too into the technicalities of it, Project Reality was technology that focused on graphics supercomputing and had APIs based upon Performer and OpenGL and used many supercomputer and technical parts developed by companies like Toshiba and Sharp. With this graphics platform at their disposal, developers were able to create 3D based graphics and gameplay. This added feature was crucial in bringing in many new ideas for the medium such as having the idea of a player controlled camera and more.

Technical Specifications
CPU 64 bit processor
Memory Up to 64 megabit
Storage 64 megabytes (noticing a trend?)
Interesting Designs Introduced many new ideas such as 3D game design.
Units Sold 32.93 million

"The Dream Team"

Throughout the N64's development, Nintendo established a group of elite developers to help them on the unfinished console. This was a huge team of companies and included SGI, Rare, Time Warner Interactive, and many more. The roster was somewhere between 10-20 incorporations and was dubbed "The Dream Team." This team went on to design the N64 as well as other features such as the system's game controller. This controller was an SNES controller modified to have a Z trigger and an analog joystick. The Dream Team often helped by prototyping games and finalizing the console hardware. The Dream Team also helped in creating content for the N64, such as LucasArts developers porting Star Wars games to the console.

64

The N64 was groundbreaking in that it was the first 64 bit processor console. Originally named the "Ultra 64" in development, this name was later scrapped because there could be potential trademark issues with Konoma's ownership of the "Ultra Games" trademark. While this was confirmed false by Nintendo, they did wanted to market the console with a single worldwide brand and logo for the console. Nintendo wanted to drive the point home that the N64 was the first of its kind and wanted to emphasize the power behind the console. As a result, it was called the Nintendo 64. The prefix for the model numbering scheme for hardware and software across the platform was "NUS-" which was a reference to the original name of "Nintendo Ultra Sixty-four."


History/Impact

A New Dimension

On release, the N64 sold out in units. It was incredibly hyped, even though Nintendo mainly marketed the system towards pre-teens. Despite a hyped launch, the N64 only debuted with just 2 games in its library. The reasoning for this was that Nintendo wanted to have a few great games at launch rather than some great games and many lackluster games. Market studies indiciated that worldwide demand for the system far exceeded the number of units Nintendo could have at launch, potentially leading to consumer and retailer frustration. This type of sentiment was consistent throughout the consoles lifespan. While the N64 did not have many games, the games it did have made huge impacts on the video game industry that can still be seen today. With the 3D graphics and gameplay, it added a new dimension to video game design. Games like Super Mario 64 created realistic movement and gameplay combined with fast graphics processing. The system showed to be one of the fastest and most graceful game machines on the market during its time. Many critics also praised Nintendo's "penchant for perfection" in game quality control. The N64 was a platform that gave a glimpse of what modern gaming could be, and the games that came with it brought in new developments and lights that evolved and changed game design for years to come. The console still remains as one of the most recognized systems in history, and the games in it, like Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, are widely considered to be the most influential and greatest games of all time.


Games

Last Console: SNES
Next Console: Gamecube