Yesterday, video game YouTuber Shane Luis (also known as Rerez) shared a series of tweets in which he helped a private collector verify, photograph, and unbox a development kit for a Nintendo 64DD (disk drive.) This Japan-only peripheral represents an interesting "what could have" been scenario for Nintendo's big break into 3D graphics.
What is the Nintendo 64DD?
The Nintendo 64DD was a console attachment, much like the Sega 32X add-on, that was designed to add new functionalities to the original console. Announced in 1995, a year before the actual console's release, this add-on adds a disk drive to the console, capable of accepting 64MB capacity disks for games. In addition, the 64DD had a real-time clock allowing for persistent game worlds (a concept Animal Crossing fans should be familiar with,) and an Internet connection with a dedicated online service. These features may seem boilerplate today, but in the era of the N64 and PS1, some of these features were very impressive.
Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. A long series of delays resulted in it only being launched in December 1999 in Japan only, and it would officially be canceled in October 2000, just a couple of months after the GameCube and Game Boy Advance were announced. Many of the games that were planned for the 64DD wound up becoming regular N64 titles, such as Zelda 64 (released as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time,) the first Paper Mario game, and Pokemon Snap. Out of the nine games that were released, there were a few different Mario Paint games, Sim City 64, and Doshin the Giant, where players controlled the friendly giant to help develop a variety of civilizations.
When combined all together you're ready to start developing 64DD games!— Shane Luis (@RerezTV) March 24, 2021
Unfortunately this system was never used and the 64DD platform failed to take off. If the 64DD was a success who knows what might have happened! pic.twitter.com/GWDjC2J3GA
What did we lose out on with the Nintendo 64DD's failure?
Three of the main design features of the Nintendo 64DD were its dual storage strategy of cartridges and disks, the real-time clock, and Internet connectivity. The first feature was an attempt and combining low-capacity yet fast cartridges with high-capacity and cheaper disks. That aspect hasn't gone anywhere, but its other two features are ones much more common in modern consoles. The very first Animal Crossing game, which was a Japan-exclusive, was going to be a 64DD game before it was moved to the Nintendo 64 with an embedded real-time clock in the cartridge in 2001, before releasing an updated version on the GameCube the same year and the first American version in 2002. Internet connections, meanwhile, are also a major feature today, allowing quick patches to released games as well as more player interaction. While it may have been ahead of its time, the Nintendo 64DD showcased several features that would become prolific in today's gaming culture.