Nintendo 64 Historical Launch

The Nintendo 64 is a home video game console, released in 1996 (1997 in Europe), by Japanese manufacturer Nintendo in 1996 (1997 in Europe). collaboration with Silicon Graphics. It was the last of the fifth-generation consoles to be released.

The Nintendo 64 has several peculiarities: it is a “64-bit” console unlike its main competitors called “32-bits”; the company preferred cartridge support, which was more profitable for Nintendo but more demanding for development and more expensive than the CD support offered by its competitors; it innovates by introducing an analog stick on its controller that will prove indispensable for real-time 3D games; it is also the first console to have four controller ports for multiplayer games (not requiring an adapter


In the early 1990s, with the success of the NES and Super Nintendo consoles, Nintendo dominated the global video game market, despite the unbridled competition it had in Sega2. The emergence of the CD-ROM led Nintendo to partner with Sony to develop a CD player for the Super Nintendo, the SNES-CD, to compete with NEC’s PC-Engine and Sega3’s Mega-CD. But a dispute led Nintendo and Sony to abandon their joint project, which Sony recycled to develop its own console, the PlayStation4. Nintendo then turned to the Dutch firm Philips to pursue its project. The PlayStation announcement in 1991, coupled with the failures of Sega’s Mega-CD and Philips’ CD-i, persuaded Nintendo to permanently bury the Super Nintendo’s CD-ROM expansion and turn to the development of a brand new console.3,5

Desiring to short-circuit the new generation of 32-bit consoles, Nintendo announces a long-term collaboration with the American company Silicon Graphics (SGI), which specializes in workstations for synthetic imaging, in order to develop a 64-bit console, codenamed “Project Reality,” at Shoshinkai on August 23, 19933,6. At that time, Silicon Graphics had built a solid reputation for its special effects machines from the Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park movies, and Nintendo promises that the performance of its future console will be far superior to those 7.8.

James H. Clark, the founder of Silicon Graphics, originally proposed his technology to Tom Kalinske, the president of Sega of America. After Sega Japan executives refused sGI technology, James H. Clark contacted Hiroshi Yamauchi, Nintendo’s president, in early 19939.

The following year, Nintendo began building a group of development studios to design the first games to be released on Project Reality7. At the end of March 1994, Rare and Williams Electronics Games (with its subsidiary Midway) were the first companies to sign10. As a foretaste, Rare and Midway will release two arcade games at the end of that year, Killer Instinct and Cruis’n USA, presenting the technology used as similar to that of the future home console7. If the audience is impressed, it will be revealed in hindsight that the console will have a much less powerful hardware than that of these arcade systems7,10. The year 1994 was also marked by the success of the game Donkey Kong Country on an aging Super Nintendo. Developed by Rare, the game is a first embodiment of Nintendo’s collaboration with Silicon Graphics, calculated on SGI workstations and pushing the limits of the console.


The console was finally released on June 23, 1996 in Japan, with a catalogue of only three games: Super Mario 64, Pilotwings 64 and Saiky Habu Shgi. Despite this, 300,000 units are sold at launch thanks, mainly, to Super Mario 64 which sells almost as many copies7,13. But until the release of the console in the United States, no other title adds to the catalog7.

By the time the Nintendo 64 was released in North America on September 29, 1996, the PlayStation and Sega Saturn had been available for more than a year. In addition, to counter Nintendo, Sony had decided to lower the price of its console to less than $200. To stay competitive, Nintendo is forced to lower its price to $199 instead of $249.

The Nintendo 64 did not reach Europe and Australia until March 1, 1997. This delay between the American and European launch is explained by the fact that Nintendo of Europe had just reorganized and that the supply of consoles was very poorly realized.

However, the French release of the console was postponed until 1 September 1997 due to a social plan within Nintendo France16. This postponement did not prevent several supermarkets from importing foreign machines (German, Spanish, English…) and marketing them at an average price of 1490 F, during the summer of 199717. The console and its controller, in official version, are sold in France at 990 F.

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