The History of Nintendo Video Games Consoles
Nintendo Entertainment System
Now You’re Playing With Power!
After a series of arcade game successes in the early 1980s, Nintendo made plans to produce a cartridge-based console. On July 15, 1983 the NES was released in Japan. The system was designed by Masayuki Uemura. Along with the system were three ports of Nintendo’s successful arcade games Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., and Popeye. The NES instantly became popular.
Because of the NES success in Japan, Nintendo became interested in the North American market. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in June 1985, Nintendo showed its American version of the Famicom, the NES. It then became available to the public in the U.S. on October 18, 1985. Along with the system, Nintendo released eighteen launch titles: 10-Yard Fight, Baseball, Clu Clu Land, Donkey Kong Jr. Math, Duck Hunt, Excitebike, Golf, Gyromite, Hogan’s Alley, Ice Climber, Kung Fu, Mach Rider, Pinball, Stack-Up, Tennis, Wild Gunman, Wrecking Crew, and Super Mario Bros. The following year the NES also became available to the European market.
In the early 1990’s as technology became more advanced and competition from Sega started to hit the world, Nintendo started plans for a new system. The NES’ popularity began to fall because of the newer technology available, forcing Nintendo to phase out the NES and focus more on its next system. Nintendo of America officially discontinued the NES by 1995. It wasn’t until October 31, 2007 that Japanese support for the system was discontinued.
Nintendo has sold over 60 million NES units worldwide making it one of the best selling consoles of all time. It helped revitalize the US video game industry following the video game crash of 1983. It helped set the standard for consoles in many categories including game and console design.
Nintendo Entertainment System Technical Specs:
- CPU type: Motorola 6502 8-bit (MOS)
- CPU speed: 1.79 MHz
- RAM: 16 Kbit (2 Kbyte)
- Video RAM: 16 Kbit (2 Kbyte)
- Picture resolution: 256 x 240 pixels
- Colors Available: 52 colors
- Max colors at once: 24 colors
- Max sprite size: 8 x 8 pixels or 8 x 16 pixels
- Max sprites: 64 sprites
- Min/Max Cart Size: 192 Kbit – 4 Mbit
- Sound: PSG sound
- Picture Scroll: 2 h.v
In the late 1980’s, Nintendo’s NES was starting to get dated. It was a very successful system but with competition starting to heat up from companies like Sega with its Genesis, it was time for Nintendo to focus on a new home console. It was very important for Nintendo to focus on the new 16-bit technology that the Sega Genesis already had. Nintendo came up with the Super Nintendo which had advanced sound and graphics but a relatively slow CPU for its time. It also had a “Mode 7? chip built in which helped simulate 3D rendering.
In August 1991, Nintendo released the Super Nintendo Entertainment System or Super Nintendo for short. The price at release was $199. It was a redesigned version of the Super Famicom which was released a year earlier in Japan. The Super Nintendo was later released in Europe a year after it was released in North America. The Super Nintendo system shipped with a copy of the game Super Mario World. The other games available at launch were Pilotwings and F-Zero. The game Super Mario World came out with great reviews and was a system seller.
The Super Nintendo picked up right where the NES left off as far as popularity. In Japan, Super Nintendo sold out the 300,000 units Nintendo shipped to retailers within hours. In North America it was similarly as popular. It wasn’t all glory for Nintendo however. They had much fiercer competition this time around. The Sega Genesis was marketed towards older gamers and sold systems. About a year after the Super Nintendo came out in the U.S. it was equally as popular as the Sega Genesis. For the next few years a 16-bit battle between Nintendo and Sega went on. Nintendo eventually prevailed the 16-bit era largely in part to amazing 1st party games. In the mid 90’s as the technology started getting dated again Nintendo started to focus on a new system. Super Nintendo’s were still being made and Nintendo released the SNES2, a redesigned version of the SNES. Nintendo finally ceased production of the SNES in America in 1999.
Super Nintendo Technical Specs:
- CPU: 16-bit Custom 65C816 running at 1.79, 2.68 or 3.58 MHz (changeable)
- RAM: 1 Mbit (128 Kbyte)
- Memory Cycle Time: 279 ms
- Picture Processor Unit: 16-bit
- Video RAM: 0.5 Mbit (64 Kbyte)
- Resolution: 256×224, 512 x 448 pixels max hi res and interlaced modes
- Colors Available: 32,768 colors
- Max colors on screen: 256 colors
- Max sprite size: 64 x 64 pixels
- Max sprites: 128 (32 per line)
- Min/Max Cart Size: 2 Mbit – 48 Mbit
- Audio RAM: 512 Kbit
- Sound chip: 8-bit Sony SPC700
- Sound channels: 8, uses compressed wave samples
- Controller Response: 16 ms
- Pulse Code Modulator: 16-bit
- Power Input: 120V AC, 60Hz, 17 Watts
- Power Output: 10V DC, 850 mA (NTSC), 9V AC (PAL)
During the mid- 1990’s Nintendo needed to start thinking of a sucessor to the Super NES. Again competition was fierce with Sony’s new Playstation system and Sega’s new Saturn system. Nintendo teamed up with Silicon Graphics (SGI) and focused on designing a powerful system. Originally Silicon Graphics was going to team up with Sega to make their next console but Sega passed. In the early stages of design, the project was named “Project Reality”, then changed to “Ultra 64? but because of a trademark issue with Konami it was changed again one last time to Nintendo 64.
In February 1995, Nintendo had announced a delay of Nintendo 64 until September 1996 in North America. It was at that time that Nintendo also announced the name change. It was finally released on October 1, 1996. As typical it sold very well at first. However due to the competition of the Sony Playstation it was never as successful as Nintendo’s previous consoles. It did feature some great revolutionary games like Super Mario 64 and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Both games featured 3D graphics unlike anything seen before in Nintendo games.
In the end The Nintendo 64 was successful overall but due to Nintendo’s choice of making it a cartridge based system it lacked some things that other systems had. Although cartridges are much faster than CD’s, they don’t store nearly as much information. The choice of making the N64 cartridge based also turned off developers who dedicated more time to focusing on the Playstation. In 2001, the Nintendo 64 was replaced by the disc-based Nintendo GameCube.
Nintendo 64 Technical Specs:
- CPU: MIPS 64-bit RISC CPU (customized R4000 series)
- Clock Speed: 93.75 MHz
- Co-Processor: 64-bit RISC processor running at 62.5 MHz RCP SP
- Memory: Rambus D-RAM 36 Mbits
- Transfer Speed: Maximum: 4,500 M bits/sec. running at 500Mhz.
- Resolution: 256×224 – 640×480 dots with flicker free interlace support
- Color: Maximum: 16.8 million colors with 32,000 on screen colors at once
- Video Output: RF, RGB, and HDTV compatible
- Audio: Stereo 16-bit/64 PCM channels sampled at 44.1 kHz
- Benchmark performance: Main CPU clocked at 125 MIPS
- Controller: Input for four controllers; Analog/Digital; Total of nine buttons
- Dimensions: 10.23? wide x 7.48? deep x 2.87? high
- Weight: 2.42 pounds
In the late 1990’s, Nintendo focused on new hardware to replace the aging N64. To get more developers on board, Nintendo made the decision of scrapping the cartridge based consoles like the hardware of the past and went with an optical format. At first the system was codenamed ‘Dolphin’ with the GPU codenamed ‘Flipper’ but Nintendo then changed the name to Gamecube. Nintendo’s fourth console was released on November 18, 2001 in North America. When it was released in the states, there were twelve available games including Luigi’s Mansion, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader, Wave Race: Blue Storm and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3.
The choice of the smaller optical disc format turned out to be sucessful because it meant that no licenesing fees had to be paid to the DVD Consortium and it helped prevent unauthorized copying of games. The main disadvantage of the smaller optical discs however is that it held 1.5GB of data compared to DVD’s 4.7GB. The system has 4 controller ports for multiplayer and 2 memory card slots for saving data. The controller has a wing grip design, designed to fit well in the player’s hands. Nintendo also released the ‘Wavebird’, one of the first wireless controllers that had a great reception by the public.
Overall the Gamecube was not as sucessful as some of Nintendo’s previous systems. It fell to third place in the console war between the Xbox and Playstation 2. The great thing that the Gamecube has however is the same amazing 1st party games that Nintendo has been making for years. Some of the highlights of them are Super Smash Bros. Melee and Metroid Prime. At one point in its life The Gamecube was online compatible by using a Gamecube Modem Adapter or Broadband Adapter. However only four online games ever came out for the system. Today there are over 700 games available in its library.
Nintendo Gamecube Technical Specs:
Central processing unit
486 MHz IBM “Gekko” PowerPC CPU
- PowerPC 750CXe based core
- 180 nm IBM copper-wire process. 43 mm² die. 4.9 W dissipation
- Roughly 50 new vector instructions
- 32-bit ALU. 64-bit FPU, usable as 2×32-bit SIMD
- 64-bit enhanced PowerPC 60x front side bus to GPU/chipset
- 64 KiB L1 cache
- 1125 DMIPS
43 MiB total non-unified RAM
- 24 MiB MoSys 1T-SRAM
- 3 MiB embedded 1T-SRAM
- 16 MiB DRAM
Graphics processing unit (GPU) and system chipset
- 162 MHz “Flipper” LSI. 180 nm NEC eDRAM-compatible process.
- 4 pixel pipelines
- TEV “Texture EnVironment” engine
- Fixed-function hardware transform and lighting
- 648 megapixels/second
- 8 texture layers per pass
- Bilinear, trilinear, and anisotropic texture filtering
- 24-bit RGB / 32-bit RGBA color depth
- 720×480 interlaced or progressive scan
- Integrated audio processor
- Matsushita 1.5 GB optical disc
- Two Memory card slots
In 2001, around the same time that the Gamecube was released, Nintendo put some focus on a new form of player interaction. Instead of designing a console on pure power alone, Nintendo decided to focus more on player interaction. There was an idea of putting a touchscreen on the Wii controller but the idea was later rejected. The first time Nintendo spoke of the console was at the 2004 E3 press conference. The system was then unveiled to the public at E3 in 2005. The console was known by the code name of “Revolution” until April 27, 2006 right before E3 when Nintendo announced the name of the system as Wii.
The name was chosen by Nintendo because “Wii” sounds like “we” and it is a console for everyone. At E3, the Wii won the Game Critics Awards for Best of Show and Best Hardware. In September 2006, Nintendo announced release information for many big market countries. Finally on November 19, 2006 the Wii was released. The console instantly had worldwide success selling out at many locations. This new concept of game interaction really caught on to the public and gained much attention. Because the system was designed with everyone in mind, many people of all ages are enjoying the systems interaction capabilities.
A distinguishing feature is the wireless controller called the Wii Remote, which can be used as a handheld pointing device and can detect acceleration in three dimensions. The Wii is also backwards compatible with Gamecube games meaning that the Wii can play all official Gamecube software without purchasing any additional add-on hardware for the system. The Wii has a built-in operating system called the Wii-Menu which is designed around the concept of channels. There’s the Disc Channel, Mii Channel, Photo Channel, the Wii Shop Channel and additional channels are available for download. Since release, over 20 million Wiis have been sold making it the best selling console of the current generation while competing against the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.
Nintendo Wii Technical Specs:
- CPU: PowerPC-based “Broadway” processor, clocked at 729 MHz
- GPU: ATI “Hollywood” GPU clocked at 243 MHz
- 88 MB main memory
- 3 MB embedded GPU texture memory and framebuffer
Ports and peripheral capabilities:
- Up to four Wii Remote controllers (connected wirelessly via Bluetooth)
- Nintendo GameCube controller ports (4)
- Nintendo GameCube Memory Card slots (2)
- SD memory card slot
- USB 2.0 ports (2)
- Sensor Bar power port
- Accessory port on bottom of Wii Remote
- Multi-output port for component, composite or S-Video
- 512 MB built-in NAND flash memory
- Expanded storage via SD card memory (up to 2 GB)
- Nintendo GameCube Memory Card
- IBM’s Wii “Broadway” CPU
- ATI’s Wii “Hollywood” GPU Slot-loading disc drive compatible with 8 cm Nintendo GameCube Game Disc and 12 cm
- Wii Optical Disc
- Mask ROM by Macronix
- 480p (PAL/NTSC), 480i (NTSC) or 576i (PAL/SECAM), standard 4:3 and 16:9 anamorphic widescreen
- AV multi-output port for component, composite, S-video, RGB SCAR and VGA
- Main: Stereo – Dolby Pro Logic II-capable
- Controller: Built-in speaker
- 18 watts when switched on
- 1.3 watts in standby
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