Nintendo's 7 Biggest Failures and What They Taught Us

From the Virtual Boy to the disastrous deal with Sony that led to the PlayStation – Nintendo has had a few big misses

64DD (1999)

64DD (1999)

When Nintendo officially unveiled its Nintendo 64 console at the Shoshinkai show in November 1995 it confirmed something industry analysts had been dreading: the machine would be cartridge rather than CD-ROM-based. Nintendo said this was to keep the cost of the machine down to its promised sub-$250 price point, but with the PlayStation, Saturn and 3DO all out, it was clear the rest of the industry was moving toward optical media. It seemed instantly dated – not to mention horribly uncool. Originally announced in 1995, the 64DD was meant as modern augmentation of the cartridge format offering 64 megabytes of writable magnetic disk storage. It would plug into the expansion port on the base of the console, and Nintendo promised a range of larger games as well as easy storage for save files, and the capability of adding new levels to games via an internet connection.

But the device was delayed several times, and eventually arrived in Japan in 1999, complete with a subscription to the early Randnet internet service provider. But few games appeared for it, and the main draw of what was once known as Zelda 64 – originally planned as a 64DD exclusive – turned up in pretty spectacular form, as the cartridge title Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in November 1998, leaving little reason for the 64DD's existence. As for the worldwide market, Nintendo of America president Howard Lincoln quickly realized that the device had very limited appeal, and having observed the failure of Sega's 32X add-on for the Genesis decided against a US launch. That pretty much ended the 64DD dream.

What we learned: Hardware add-ons are very rarely a good idea. They split the user base of the original machine, they require a huge gamble from developers, and by the time they arrive, the console cycle has usually moved on to a new generation. However, one good thing did come out of the 64DD – its writeable disk and real-time clock led to the development of cute pet/artificial life sims like Animal Forest and Cabbage, which would lead respectively to Animal Crossing and Nintendogs.

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