Nintendo was responsible for so much in gaming that it's not even funny. Atari had managed to slip quietly away without so much as a whimper, and who knows why? The 2600 was in many homes, but the 5200 and even the 7800 never even made a dent. Then along came Nintendo. When the Nintendo Entertainment System launched, it upped the ante in console gaming. Namely, consoles had better be closer to the arcade games we had become used to. And it was. I remember very clearly the first time I saw Super Mario Bros. on the NES. I was blown away. It looked like the arcade game. It was amazing. I needed to get used to the digital control pad, but who cared? I could have an arcade game in my house.
Next, Nintendo brought us into the world of 3D gaming with the Super Nintendo. Not many games took advantage of its polygonal capabilities (probably because 16-bit polygons look crappy next to a 16-bit 2D sprite), but there were some, and we new what was around the corner.
Now here's where life gets tricky. Sega, knowing its Genesis was inferior to the SNES, introduced an add-on - the Sega CD. Nintendo, showing all the business savvy of a beached whale, immediately went into hysterics. Believing themselves to be crushed, they began researching a CD add-on of their own. Doing so could prove to be expensive, so they hired a little electronics company known as Sony to do it for them. Known tentatively as the "PlayStation," Sony went to work, without knowing the full effect these events would have. Sega CD flopped. Nintendo backed out of its deal with Sony. Not wanting to waste money, Sony went ahead with the PlayStation project, on their own.
Once the PlayStation began to turn some serious buckage, Nintendo knew it wasn't competing. So, they brought us the Nintendo64. Believing themselves to be one-upping Sony with 64-bit graphics, Nintendo made a surprise move. They stayed with cartridges. They must have thought people would get sick of CD load times. However, the memory constraints of a cartridge can't compete with a CD-ROM for ability to immerse one in a game. 70-hour RPGs are possible with a CD, but the soon to be released Resident Evil 2 will be the N64s largest cart to date at 64M. (Before anyone throws a fit, Legend of Zelda: the Ocarina of Time was measured in megabits, not megabytes. A bit is a one or a zero. A byte is eight ones or zeroes. This measurement is common in N64 games to make the game sound larger than it is.)
And so it goes. The N64 has maintained a steady number two in console gaming, right in front of the disastrous Sega Saturn. Was the N64 a success? Probably so. Enough to keep Nintendo afloat, and it has brought us some cool games, which is the important thing. However, Nintendo's business strategy since the ill-fated Sega CD has been reactionary. The release of the specs for the Dolphin come on the heels of Sony's PlayStation2 specs, which a projected release date of Christmas 2000 probably kills the 64DD. And of course, the specs they released (the release was limited) were better than PSX2. The interesting thing is, Nintendo has skipped the CD format altogether, opting for a DVD-ROM drive for the Dolphin. So much for backward compatibility. But Nintendo may mean business this time. Partnering themselves with Matsushita (Panasonic) and IBM brings some much-needed muscle to the table. But so do Sega (Microsoft and AT&T) and Sony (Toshiba, and of course, Sony).
There's a console war heating up, folks, and that's good news for us.
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