Nintendo has always been interested in experimenting with technology and the effects it can have on the video game experience for users and the development process. The N64 era was no different.
The Nintendo 64 Disk Drive never saw release outside Japan, despite its highly publicized announcement, development, and the aspirations Nintendo had for it. Nintendo planned to use it to bolster the 64’s existing power to compete more aggressively against CD technology and the possibilities it provided. It would allow the system to use additional data, access and use real-world time for in-game purposes, and even the Internet! There were originally going to be sixty-plus games that took advantage of the accessory but the troubled and long development, along with a rapidly changing market, altered the 64DD’s fate drastically.
In the end, its time was almost as short as Captain Toad and his little backpack, but less cute. The 64DD attached to the bottom of the console, like the Gamecube’s Game Boy Player. It featured a slot on the front for a 64 Megabyte rewritable disk, which finally fulfilled the console’s numeric name.
The Disk Drive was only available for two years and only ended up with nine games. There were some pretty neat releases for it though, including Mario Artist: Paint Studio and SimCity 64. There was also a service called Randnet, which was an online service. Nintendo may seem behind the times with the world wide web today but back then they were much more ambitious. Randnet was a subscription-based service that allowed users to browse the Internet, send messages, create custom avatars, design postcards that were physically mailed out, and more. They had plans to add online multiplayer, the ability to watch the games of other players, and even the ability to download and play NES games.
Many of the planned games were reworked for standard cartridges with reduced features and changes. Some of the games were outright canceled or had ideas shifted to other games. This was a weird time for Nintendo and gone were the days where they confidently and aggressively held the majority of the market, which had been the case for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
It remains a unique and curious piece of hardware that collectors and those interested in video game history share an interest in. Thanks to a private collector and YouTuber Shane Luis, we now have new information and sharp photographs of a Nintendo 64 Disk Drive Development Kit.
This would already be interesting on its own but it being new and in pristine condition is marvelous. This is a really historic find and it’s great the private collector reached out to Shane Luis to have it captured on camera and documented for us all to enjoy and study for years to come. Shane uploaded all of the information, including documents, to one of my favorite websites, which is Internet Archive. You can check through all of the pictures and documents on there, along with almost anything else from the past you can imagine. It’s surreal to look through old GamePro magazines and see what was and what could have been.
The 64DD may have been a flop at the time but its legacy has impacted Nintendo in several ways. Animal Crossing is a cultural phenomenon now but it started off a neat little experiment on the N64 when Nintendo was researching uses for the real world clock and interacting with other players. We also might not have WarioWare if it weren’t for the 64DD. The mini-game concept and style featured in WarioWare came from Mario Artist: Polygon Studio and as we all know, Wario is numbah one.