N64 DD: The system we never knew / by charles desrochers

Since we're in the thick of the Holiday buying season I thought it would be fun to check out another list this week. Most publishers design their release schedule around this time of the year, giving customers enough time to buy their games for personal enjoyment and gifting so the logical list would be top 5 best/worst holiday releases. While doing a small amount of research though I came across the N64 DD, a system that bombed so hard that I had never even heard of it until today. 

 

Remember that little slot on the bottom of the N64 that you couldn't figure out what went there for the life of you? Yeah, that's what this thing was for. It served as an expansion of types, doubling the system's Ram performance while also giving it online access and expanded developer capability. It was ultimately meant to connect Nintendos around the world on the Randnet, a devoted network for the system, and possibly boost the systems shelf life but instead what happened was development got pushed back so long, 1996-2000 that by the time it came out Nintendo ended up almost scrapping it completely.

Rather than sell the system they put in place a subscription plan that would send the expansion and any games that would subsequently come out for it, which totaled 9 if you count the 4 Mario Artist titles. Offered only in Japan, the subscription ran a steep $30 a month. That's pretty pricey considering many months the subscribers got nothing. That's like paying someone to mow your lawn but they only have to actually do it if they really feel like it.

The games were to be innovative and unlike any we'd seen up to that point. Animal Crossing was said to be inspired by 64DD's connectivity and Sim64 eventually came out towards the end of its life, hoping to realize the systems goals, but failed to drive any such numbers. So in retrospect the system was a flop but I'd like to think that it was for reasons other than design or practicality. Reviews all said that it was very easy to setup and access and that the tech worked; load times were at most 5 seconds and storage was boosted considerably as well. Where it failed was it was too ambitious for it's own good. The idea was before its time but rather than scrapping and waiting for the technology to catch up the 64DD was dragged through development kicking and screaming until finally being shelved in 2000. 

Being an avid Nintendo fan growing I'm pretty sure I would have bought this and whatever games were out for it. I hated CD's and I couldn't stand my friends who played Playstation, to me it wasn't Nintendo which meant it wasn't really video games. I like the name recognition and trust that came with that and I think that if the system came out with the N64 like it was planned then it may have had a chance. Instead though we'll just have to tip our caps and pour a 40 for the system that never had a chance.