The Specs Of A Nintendo Console That Never Was

The Specs Of A Nintendo Console That Never Was

A quick recap for those who may not know: the Sony PlayStation only came about because a deal between Sony and Nintendo to produce a CD-based console fell through. Nintendo then went ahead with plans to make their own CD drive, and stick it on the SNES. That ill-fated attachment never appeared on the market, but enough progress was made that some technical docs for the product are still out there in the wild.

GREE's Steve Lin, who is also a mean retro games fanatic, has been posting all kinds of old and rare Nintendo stuff on his Twitter feed lately. Much of it you will have seen on Total Recall before, but these SNES CD-ROM documents are brand new, and are one hell of a thing to see after all these years.

Steve Lin [Twitter]

UPDATE: Well, whaddya know. Someone else who had the entire document has kindly passed it along to Kotaku. Thanks! There's some good stuff in there, like the fact the plastic casing around the CDs wasn't just to protect them, but to serve - like it did with the Famicom disk system - as a crude form of copy protection.

You can check the whole thing out below! Note that if Google's pdf viewer is making things difficult, you can view each page individually by right-clicking on it and opening the image in a new tab.

Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends. You can find more stories like this one here.


    One wonders what the console market would look like now if Sony hadn't decided to take their jilted console and turn it into the Playstation.

      worse, much worse. competition breeds the last of us.

      Very much worse. Without competition, producers can get really lazy and just sell crappy hardware/software for ridiculous prices. It's why everyone should probably hope that Nintendo goes software only. If they do, and licence all their IP's exclusively to either Sony or Microsoft, it'll give a third of the market to the chosen recipient crushing the other.

        Thereby resulting in no competition again.

        The other thing worth considering is that the Dreamcast would likely have been more successful if the Playstation hadn't turned up, so its quite possible that Sega would still be manufacturing consoles today.

          Ooops. That was meant to be 'doesn't go software only'
          I'd rather not be paying those ridiculous prices... Australia has it bad enough already...

      Who knows, perhaps Sega would still be in business. I really wish Sega would go back to their hardware business actually.

        Sega are still in business. Albeit mainly as a publisher. There hardware is handled by Naomi these days.

          Sorry yes I should have been more clear. Yes they never stopped producing games, but what I meant to say is I wish they were still making consoles in this day and age to compete with the PlayStations and Xbox's of this world. I really loved the Master System 2 and the Megadrive.

            I suppose they could have. Because Xbox and ps4 are using fairly generic equipment now and Sega like the rest were using run of the mill parts in their day.

    A mate I went to school with had a floppy drive attachment for his snes!

      I have that and many games for it.

        I've ended up with one but it just comes up with a disk drive error :(

          I'll buy it : )

            I'll sell it to you if I end up with a functioning one to replace it :P

      Same here. He'd rent games and copy them. For some reason he told the guy at the game rental store. I've never seen so much disappointment on someone's face. So much sadness.

    I still have the Nintendo magazine that had the full preview of this console and a look at what could have been. The idea of a console game coming in a CD was thrilling.

      Hopefully more thrilling than it was for every one else that tried. Sega, atari

        I was such a Nintendo fanboy back then that when the 64 was announced I was proclaiming the benefits of cartridges. Which, to be honest were legitimate benefits, but my opinion was arrived at through extreme bias.

          I wish Nintendo had dropped carts and gone with CDs on the 64. I remember those days and although the N64's games were usually a cut above Sony's. their library was dwarfed by the sheer volume of output on Sony's machine!

            I'd be standing there saying: oh, what's that, a loading screen? I wouldn't know about those because the 64 uses cartridges.

              Yeah because that storage capacity on those cartridges was so cheap and thus plentiful and cheap for manufacturers eh?

                Do not awaken my Nintendo fanboy, it's been dormant for so long and I don't know what it's capable of.

              Meanwhile all the Sony people were playing Final Fantasy VII... :P

                Man, I could not stand that one group of guys at school who did nothing but stand around endlessly gushing about Final Fantasy.

                Well, right up until they moved on to Warcraft 3. And since then, nothing but WoW...

                Sorry about my memory being vague on this. But at one point FF7 nearly did end up on the N64.

                The cartridge space was only a minor factor. Yamauchi (when we was still there) angered Square by saying "[People who play RPGs are] depressed gamers who like to sit alone in their dark rooms and play slow games"

                Which was pretty rich as the man himself never played video games. Someone (can't remember who) tried to get him to play a verson of Go on the original NES (Famicom) but he gave up after 15 minutes.

                Last edited 17/02/14 2:05 pm

                  Henk Rogers - the founder of Bulletproof Software who was instrumental in snaring Tetris for the Gameboy

            Nintendo kept exclusive publishing rights which had the upside of you were garaunteed a level of quality in your games but the downside of you had a limited library and it also pushed developers away to more open platforms like PlayStation and Xbox.

      You should scan the pages in and store them somewhere. I still have all my old NMS (Nintendo Magazine System) issues at home and as soon as I can find a way to quickly and reliably scan them in, I'm gonna do it!

        It'll probably break your heart to learn that I don't really care about preserving them. Once my kids have enjoyed them as a look into the past I'll probably toss them. I see no reason to preserve them.

          You're right, that would break my heart ;P

          I'm sure someone would take them off your hands if the offer came up. I'd do it, but I don't have a scanning rig, so my interest is low until that point :\

            Don't worry, I won't put them in them bin. I'll give them away to someone who appreciates them. Probably through gumtree or freecycle.

              If you ever want to get rid of them. Let me know - I have a huge mag collection. Including ultra low print run Aussie stuff that I'm slowly scanning. I've even got micro computer spot and gamesmen newsletters.

                Do you have that horrible PBL magazine from the early-mid 90's (Australian one) whose sole selling point was they had female staff?

                I think it lasted a handful of issues

                  Possibly? What was it called? I have hundreds of mags. Though all female staff doesn't ring a bell though...

    I love historical console stuff like this. I had good fun watching the Angry Video Game Nerd's review of the NWC cartridges (and finding about their $12,000 cost on eBay) and spent hours reading a few good articles on Starfox 2 (A.K.A Starwing 2).

    Bootleg games are also fun to read about -- mostly the ones that made it onto physical cartridges

    My mind reels at the thought of 64DD coming out on time and if it was fully embraced. People laugh at Nintendos internet capabilities, but they were way ahead of everyone in Japan. Maybe it’s lack of success was why they were reluctant to keep trying.

      So much this. Not even just with the internet stuff, but the content creation and game expansion ideas. They were friggen cool, would've been great to see them realise their potential.

      Who was laughing? In Japan it was a big deal and people were living being able to read the news and even do online banking.

      The only problem people had with it were those caught in the Tetris licensing fiasco where Nintendo basically got caught in their own trap trying to use the term "computer" to invalid the (unauthorised) sublicensing that lead to the creation of the first Tetris cartridge.

    And then a failed follow up deal spawned the CDi.

    Which is, of course, why it had some Zelda and Mario games.

    Even back in the ol' Famicom days Nintendo were trying new ideas. When I had the original NES as a kid I often wondered why there was a port at it's underside.

    I later found that it was basically a direct expansion bus for accessors like a modem, keyboard, etc. In Japan such accessories were avaliable and everyone did everything from getting the news to online banking. Never could understand why such things at least made it into America.

    But yeah, the CD addon for the SNES was one of Nintendo's biggest snafus (besides the Virtual Boy and less I say of that the better) not because of the technology but in the way Nintendo handled it.

    From what I remember, Nintendo start off with Sony first and things were going OK. But Sony eventually wanted more freedom with the games but Nintendo basically wanted to micromanage them.

    Sony kept demanding more freedom and eventually Nintendo decided to secretely form a deal with Phillips for the same idea. From what I learn the first Sony found out was during a electronics showcase/expo where Nintendo announced Philips as the partner for the addon.

    Needless to say, the deal pretty much died there and then but Sony got to keep their progress and eventually that is how we got the Playstation.

    But you know what they say, the Karmar train will eventually get you and it ran over Nintendo twice. First, the deal with Philips also fell through and second the Zelda CDi Games!

    Last edited 17/02/14 1:51 pm

      Virtually all consoles at the time had expansion ports. Twas nothing new though others didn't use it to the extent that Nintendo did.

        Or Sega. Megadrive/Genesis anyone?

        The Nerd even once described having them all plugged in as the console "being on life support."

        Last edited 17/02/14 5:26 pm

      I think Nintendo won by there fallout with Phillips. It was a pretty costly failure for Phillips.

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