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Nerding Out #2 - The SNES CD

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Hey guys, welcome to another edition of nerding out! Today we're going to look at the 16-bit console era, and Nintendo's strategies moving forward into the PSX/N64/Saturn era of gaming

Once upon a time, SEGA was a serious contender in the video game console market. I'm sure you all remember the SEGA Genesis (Or Mega Drive for those of you from Europe or Japan) And what a success that console was! Despite its slow start, it overtook Nintendo in overall marketshare by 1994. The Mega Drive's first year (1988 in Japan) saw it ship only 400,000 units, but the release of Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991, coupled with Sonic replacing Altered Beast as the bundled game for the Mega Drive, gave it a steady boost in sales, particularly in the US, a market SEGA knew it had to take, and a market that Sonic was specifically tailored towards. By 1992 (Sonic 2's release year) SEGA had a 55%-45% advantage over the SNES, and by 1994 (Sonic 3's release year) 55% of all 16-bit consoles in consumer homes were Mega Drives. A pretty stark contrast to how younger gamers today look back and see the SNES as the clear cut winner of that console war.

And so if you're a tech company like SEGA, looking to have the latest and greatest technology available, what do you do? Release the SEGA CD. The SEGA CD launched in late 1991 and early 1992 in America (Known as the Mega CD in Europe and Japan) The idea was to give the Mega Drive the power and storage capacity of CD-ROMs, as 8 MB cartridges were ridiculously expensive to produce and couldn't hold a candle to the audio and visual quality a CD could provide. And powerwise, the SEGA CD made the SNES look like a joke. Despite this, the SEGA CD bombed. It was plagued with shovelware and a high pricepoint which made it so that very few people could afford it. Even a Sonic game couldn't save it, especially since Sonic CD came to PC not long after. However, at the time Nintendo couldn't have known the SEGA CD would do so badly, and they were extremely nervous about it since the SNES was loosing ground and fast.

Nintendo teamed up with Sony to create the SNES CD, a console that was basically a copycat of the SEGA CD, except much more powerful. It was to be a 32-bit system, and you can see some magazine previews of the machine here:






Here we can see some concept art of the machine, using the same front-loading mechanic the original SEGA CD had:


And Nintendo was serious about this thing, here's an image of a US patent for it:


Here we have a pretty generic CD used on the hardware:



540 MB of storage wasn't half bad for the time, especially when you consider that in 1994 Sonic 3 & Knuckles at 8 MB was too expensive to put on one cart, and thus split in half (Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles)

Showing off the docking concept:


At some point, Nintendo and Sony had a disagreement on how to split revenue and royalties for the machine. Sony decided it could make its own console instead. The Sony Playstation.


Behold, the original Playstation in all its ugly!


I don't even know how you're supposed to hold that controller


Notice the cable's input. I'm not real savvy on old tech but I can tell you for sure there's no way they planned on that being the final input. Its too much like working with a PC, consoles are supposed to be accessible.


I'm still not seeing how you're supposed to hold that Sony. And I don't think Sony knew either because the final controller is waaaaaay different.


Another potential look for the Playstation. At this point its cartridge based it looks like. I'm not sure why Sony decided carts would be a good idea except for maybe they realized the cost where SEGA didn't.


y helo thar Sony SNES. Somehow I don't think they were gonna end up with this design either.

Ultimately, the Sony ordeal left a bad taste in Nintendo's mouth and they chose to go with a cartridge solution for the N64, while SEGA made the Saturn cheap and virtually piracy-proof in an attempt to make up for losses from the SEGA CD and the 32X flops. (32X is basically arcade hardware brought to a home console) Sony made the SNES and grabbed all the 3rd party support, including Squaresoft which created Final Fantasy 7, one of Sony's landmark titles of the era.

And now you know.

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i think it would have been cool if nintendo and sony would have stayed together but, whatever.. and im pretty sure nintendo were the ones to back out and not sony. oh and that Play Station and all of its ugly could play super nintendo games.

and that playstation controller is lame :P

here is video that explains it all basically.


Edited by Crim
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Nintendo decided on the wrong partner there :x

Seriously though, looking at how the two work over the years, sony and nintendo are two completely different companies.

Also holy fuck magazines back then detailed on everything down to the very last MB/spring wah.png

Anyway, awesome read, once again! :D

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yea, its a little off, but its definitely interesting.

and luke, nintendo did partner up with the wrong company, expecially considering they tossed CD out all together. Just think what it would be like if sony was still supporting nintendo and not making their own consoles and games.. Sega would still be in console business i bet.

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I'd hate to imagine what sony may do to nintendo >_< lol

tbh I hate the way sony goes about doing things and so much prefer nintendo's way, but that's just me and my preferences :P lol

Would really be interesting if sega were still in the console business though :( (along with sony even)

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I bet sony wouldn't be the way they are now if they had stayed with nintendo. And i also agree with you on how nintendo goes about things compared to sony..

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