The Nintendo 64 is one of the most beloved consoles of the '90s, and played host to some truly amazing games, such as Goldeneye 007, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Super Mario 64 and Star Fox 64. However, compared to the incredible commercial success of its forerunners - the NES and SNES - it was seen as something of a disappointment.
Nintendo's decision to stick with expensive cartridges over cheaper, higher capacity CDs cost it the support of a lot of publishers and developers, and resulted in many high-profile defections - such as previously staunch allies Namco, Squaresoft, Konami and Capcom, who all flocked to Sony's PlayStation.
As you'll no doubt be aware, the original PlayStation is celebrating its 20th birthday this year, and our friends over at Push Square have run a piece by famed UK games journalist Paul Davies regarding the impact of the machine. In it, he mentions a trip to Japan to see the N64 for the first time, and a chance meeting with Shiny Entertainment founder Dave Perry.
Shiny had previously supported Nintendo's SNES and was, at the time, one of the hottest developers on the face of the planet thanks to its incredible success with the Earthworm Jim series. However, Shiny never released any games on the N64 - something that was a direct result of Nintendo's choice of storage medium:
At the Shoshinkai Show in 1995, where N64 was first shown, I'd managed to muscle in on the 'after party' at a nearby hotel. I had a conversation with Martin Hollis from Rare, excited about Goldeneye. The proper way to behave here was to be fawning over the achievement of Mr Miyamoto and Mr Takeda, to discuss a lot of what company president Hiroshi Yamauchi had been saying about PlayStation being this blight on the world of video games with its too many titles overcrowding the store shelves, most of which were mediocre. Then I beamed at Shiny Entertainment's David Perry, a basic, 'what did you think?!' question, expecting an 'Oh my goodness, Nintendo – just wow' response. Instead, he seemed genuinely angry about the decision to go with the cartridge format. He was declaring quite loudly that he was never going to support N64. It was a portent of things to come, I just didn't know it at the time.
It's an interesting anecdote that shows just how much Nintendo's decision to stick with carts impacted the development community. Perry's reaction might seem extreme or even arrogant - even though it was a direct response to Nintendo's own arrogance - but it's worth keeping in mind that at the time Shiny, like so many other third party developers, were feeling the pinch due to Nintendo's policies regarding carts. Cartridges had to be manufactured at a high cost to the developer or publisher, which meant that retail prices had to be high to cover the expense and ensure a profit was made. However, towards the end of the SNES' lifespan Nintendo took advantage of the fact that it controlled the supply chain by selling its own first-party games at lower prices, effectively pricing companies like Shiny out of the market.
Perry went public with his grievances in the trade press at the time, and certainly wasn't the only developer angered by Nintendo's monopolistic practices. That background should give his reaction to the N64 a little more context - and it's worth remembering that he was just one voice among many who were less than pleased with cartridges at the time.