The Nintendo 64 (N64) is one of the most influential and popular games consoles of its time, rivalling both the Sega Saturn and Sony’s PlayStation. The console differentiated from the new hype in the market wherein most consoles on the market preferred to use CD rather than cartridge to support the games, as Nintendo chose to stand with their cartridge format.
The N64 started, ultimately, with a disagreement. The company SGI had created a new gaming chip which they offered around to the lead companies within the gaming fields i.e. Sega and Nintendo. SGI had offered the chip to Sega, who had turned it down after discovering many technical issues with it. However, after Nintendo had agreed to work with SGI, Sega argued that they had claimed the rights to the chip. SGI later announced their partnership with Nintendo, with the intention of creating arcade machines and later incorporating the product into some sort of home console. This partnership greatly helped Nintendo’s efforts, as they had no previous experience working with 3D graphics, as Sony and Sega both did. Despite this, the console is often praised for the realistic 3D graphics, and the fact that it was the first true 64-bit system. (Some would title the Atari Jaguar with this, though, in truth, it was only a console with two 32-bit processors emulating 64-bit graphics).
Nintendo took a different stance on the N64 when branding and naming the product. Code-named ‘Project Reality’ in production, the name was initially set to be called the ‘Ultra Famicom’ in Japan and the ‘Nintendo Ultra 64’ elsewhere, to incorporate their previous methods with the Famicom/NES and the Super Famicom/ SNES. Though, the company decided that the brand would thrive better under streamlined branding, therefore, naming the system the Nintendo 64 worldwide.
Initially, the N64 was set to be released just before Christmas in 1995, though this was delayed. Many explanations have been given for this, one source claiming that this is because the company was worried about the competition with the Sega Saturn and PlayStation over the holiday period. Others say that the delay was due to technical faults with the system that kept appearing, so the company announced that the product would be launched in the April of the upcoming year. To keep their custom, Nintendo invested in adverts with slogans such as ‘Wait for it…’ and ‘Is it worth the wait? Only if you want the best!’. Furthermore, upon release the price of the console was dropped to match the price of the Saturn and the PlayStation reducing to $199.99 earlier that year.
To rival their opponents, Nintendo invested heavily in the promotion and advertisement of the console. The first of the campaigns costing the company $5 million, and encouraged children to buy ‘Fruit by the Foot’ snacks, as tips for N64 games were labelled on the lids. There were over ninety tips available, containing three variations that had 30 tips to each of these. A further $10 million was spent on a campaign that promoted the systems ‘Futuristic Peripherals’.
The N64 received many positive reviews, only being criticised for the lack of games for the system. To add to this, there was heavy demand upon release showing through how within three days 350,000 of 500,000 units had sold. Furthermore, a whopping 3.6 million units selling within a year of release in America alone! At first, the sales of the N64 presented as well above its rivals, though this was only short lived. The PlayStation quickly took over as the best-selling console of its era, with the N64 falling short of this it still outsold the Sega Saturn.
It may not have been the best-selling console of its time, but the N64 left quite a legacy on the gaming industry. Huge games such as Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and GoldenEye 007 prove great and influential in their own genres.
Along with these hit titles, 388 games in total were released for the console. This fact giving it a smaller games library than its competitors and previous consoles. Despite this fact, the N64 has been acclaimed for the high-quality of the games and how well these were received in sales. An example of this is Super Mario 64 selling 11 million units with the PS1’s top selling games only reaching an average of 9-10 million sales.
Accessories for the system include a rumble and transfer paks as well as the 64DD. The 64DD was a disk drive addition to the console that converts the console to an internet appliance, allowing users to use their N64 as a multimedia workstation, whilst also expanding the platform for the use of games. However, this was not very popular, and only 9 games for this were produced in total – with four of these being Mario artist games.