You know the Wii? For over half a decade, we’ve heard about how the Wii’s tech is so old and outdated, it could have been released five years earlier. Surprisingly though, nobody ever rode that train of thought to its logical destination…
The following is a timeline and fictional data from an alternate universe, where a piece of gaming hardware as similar to the Wii as feasible was released by Nintendo in November 2001. I thought this would be interesting to make, and, halfway through the project, I thought I'd share my work with you, if only to to show what I do with my spare time.
For the purposes of this alternate history, this pseudo-Wii will be named the Dolphin.
Main Differences between the GameCube and Dolphin
- Twice As Expensive at Launch
- About twice as Powerful
- Discs are Triple the Capacity
- Widespread and Day One Online Play
- Online Store(s)
- Internal Memory
- The controller, though similar to the GameCube's features a Select and Home button
Main Differences between the Wii and the Dolphin
- Due to the higher cost of memory in 2001, no launch model of the Dolphin features a full 512 MB of internal memory.
- No Motion Controls
- Plans for the Creation of the Dolphin Begin (Point of Divergence)
- Seeing the early success of the PlayStation, it is decided the Dolphin would use discs rather than cartridges
- The Dolphin is meant to be in the spirit of the SNES, also including the best of the N64. Third party support is a priority, so standard sized discs are a must.
- The NES and SNES were more expensive for their time than the GameCube, and yet did better. Furthermore, the PlayStation's cost in 1995, $299, was about $349 in 2001 dollars. Cost, though a consideration, was not the chief priority. "Lateral Thinking with Withered Technology" is largely discarded. Almost as if in protest, Gunpei Yokoi, a champion of “lateral thinking with withered technology,” dies in a car crash.
- Encouraged by the rise of online multiplayer PC games such as Quake and Starcraft, Nintendo decides that a strong online component is necessary for a 21st century game console. Internal developers associated with multiplayer games, including the teams behind Mario Kart and Star Fox, begin experimenting with online play.
- Later in development, news that the Dreamcast would include online functionality makes it even more of a priority.
- Knowledgeable from their experiments with Satellaview, Nintendo decides to also allow for the online sale of games. Recognizing the slow speed of the internet and high cost of data storage at the time, it is agreed to limit the size of downloads to smaller and retro games.
- The Dolphin is first mentioned to the Public.
- The Dolphin is officially unveiled at Space World 2000. Audiences were shocked by a trailer of a darker, grittier Zelda.
- March – The Virtual Console is announced. It would support classic NES and SNES games, selling them digitally for the price of $5 and $10 apiece respectively.
- E301 – The Dolphin would have two tiers: a $400 model with 8 MB for saving data and a $450 model with 256 MB of internal memory for downloading software. "400 US Dollars" becomes a popular meme on websites such as GameSpot and Newgrounds. Memory could be expanded using external hard drives.
- E301 Metroid Prime was announced
- August – The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker revealed
- November 16 – The Dolphin launches in Japan. Launch titles include Luigi’s Mansion, Pikmin, and Wave Race: Blue Storm from Nintendo and Super Monkey Ball. All of those titles save for Wave Race are hits on some level. Virtual Console titles include Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, and Donkey Kong for the NES and F-Zero and Super Mario World for the SNES.
- November 18 – The Dolphin launches in North America. The initial lineup is similar to Japan’s, but with the notable addition of Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader. This game is eventually considered a classic, despite the lack of online play.
- December – Super Smash Bros Melee is released to critical acclaim, thanks in part to its then-revolutionary online component in addition to the stellar production and breadth of content. Melee goes on to be the best selling title on the Dolphin, and the best selling fighting game of all time.
- April – The Dolphin version of Animal Crossing is released in Japan. New Dolphin features such as the built in clock and the ability to visit a friend’s town online. Unlike in OTL, there are no NES unlockables.
- May – The Dolphin launches in Europe
- May – Responding to poor initial sales and the success of cheaper systems, the price is cut by the equivalent of $50 worldwide, to a minimum of $350.
- E302 –It, Super Mario Sunshine, and Metroid Prime would be released over the next year. Resident Evil titles were also announced.
- E302 – Nintendo announces The Nintendo eShop service for the Dolphin. Original titles up to 40 MB in size can be released via a new channel that will be made available on a future update. Furthermore, plans were being made with Sega to release Master System and Genesis games, Hudson to release TurboGrafx-16 titles, and with 3rd parties in general to release their classic games, including arcade titles on the virtual console.
- August – Super Mario Sunshine is released in Japan and North America, and would release in Europe by the end of the year. Despite not being as critically or commercially successful as its predecessor, 64, it still manages to be one of the best selling Dolphin games.
- August – Madden becomes the first major sports game to make use of the Dolphin’s online play. In the future, many sports games take advantage of this capability, helping turn the Dolphin into a console of choice for many sports fans.
- September – Star Fox Adventures is released, to mixed to positive reviews. Despite having some of the best graphics to ever grace a home console, fans are disappointed at a lack of a traditional Star Fox game with online multiplayer.
- October – Mario Party 4 released. Several Mario Party games were made for the Dolphin, and despite mixed reviews were generally decent sellers.
- November – Metroid Prime is released in America to critical raving. Despite negative comparisons to Halo, especially due to a lack of any multiplayer, the game becomes the best selling entry in series history.
- November - Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance is ported to the Dolphin.
- December – The first 3rd party and former competitor games are brought to the virtual console. The first round includes Sonic the Hedgehog, Xevious, and Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior.
- February - The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is released in Japan, quickly followed by a worldwide release. Unlike in OTL, the music is fully orchestrated, taking advantage of the space left over by the simple textures. The game is considered one of the Dolphin’s best, and ends up selling in line with previous Zelda games despite early skepticism.
- March– The Nintendo eShop opens in Japan, followed by a worldwide opening over the course of two months. Early titles are priced from $5 to $15, and include a Dr. Mario game from Nintendo, and Tetris, Bejeweled, Pacman, and Bomberman games from third parties. Most notable, however, is Pokemon Battles, a game that made use of the Game Boy Player peripheral. It allowed for players of Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire to compete in battles online. Many people would buy the Player over the actual Advance simply to take advantage of this feature.
- March – The Game Boy Player is released in Japan, followed by a worldwide June release
- May – A $50 price drop is announced, coinciding with similar price drops for the Xbox and PS2. The Dolphin now costs $300/$350, compared to the competitors’ $180.
- E303 – Various 3rd party titles are unveiled, including Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes and Resident Evil 4, which is promised as an exclusive. Upcoming Nintendo games are also announced. The bombshell announcement was that MGS3 would be a multiplatform title.
- June – The Dolphin version of the Japan-only N64 title Animal Crossing is released in North America as an eShop title. This game is eventually released in Europe. It becomes one of the top eShop titles in these regions, and is eventually rereleased in Japan as an eShop title.
- June – The Dolphin receives a version of the Arcade game Soulcalibur 2, along with the PS2 and Xbox. Unlike those versions however, the Dolphin version includes Link as a playable character and online play, making it the definitive version of the game. Soulcalibur 2 becomes the second most popular fighting game on the Dolphin after Melee, and one of the more popular 3rd party games on the system.
- August – F-Zero GX is released, and becomes notorious for its high level of difficulty and intense online races. Whereas Mario Kart becomes the casual racer of choice, F-Zero’s online and amazing visuals give it a niche home among hardcore gamers.
- September – Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour is released. Thanks to its strong online component, it joins the growing ranks of online games supporting the Dolphin.
- October – Grand Theft Auto 3 and Vice City receive late ports to the Dolphin and Xbox
- November –Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and Need for Speed: Underground are released
- November – Mario Kart: Double Dash is released. Arguably the Dolphin’s biggest game of the year, it goes on to be one of the few best selling games for the system, helping to popularize online gaming for a wider audience.
- February - Pokemon Coliseum is released. Although Pokemon Battles is already popular, this game’s online is also fairly popular, especially thanks to new modes and the far more impressive graphics. The new single player quest is also appreciated.
- March – Another $50 Price Drop takes place, lowering the bar to $250
- March – Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes is released as a Dolphin exclusive. A demo is included for Metal Gear Solid 3, which would be released as a multiplatform title near the end of the year.
- April – Pikmin 2 is released. It receives generally positive reviews, though it is panned for not including an online component.
- June – Four Swords Adventures is released to generally favorable reviews. However, the title is both a critical and commercial disappointment by series standards, ending the future of this particular subseries.
- E3 – A new Zelda game is unveiled, featuring an older Link and realistic graphics. This game would eventually become Twilight Princess.
- July – Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is released. On a system better known for its multiplayer action than its RPGs, it becomes one of the system’s best examples of the genre.
- November – Metal Gear Solid 3 and Dragon Quest 8 are released as multiplatform titles. Although they do better on the PS2, these versions do well enough to ensure the multiplatform nature of future installments of the series.
- November – Mario Power Tennis is released to general acclaim. Critics particularly compliment the improved online over earlier Dolphin titles.
- November – Metroid Prime 2 is released. Although well received, it is marred by negative comparisons to Halo 2, especially the online component.
- November 18 – Alien Hominid is released for the eShop, and quickly becomes one of the system’s best known titles. This is the beginning of an occasionally troubled but ultimately positive relationship between Nintendo and websites
- March – Resident Evil 4 is released. The game becomes one of the best selling and most critically acclaimed titles on the Dolphin.
- April - Star Fox: Assault is released to sales success, but mediocre reviews. Like Metroid Prime 2, it pales in comparison to Halo 2, another sci-fi shooter.
- June – Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas receives a late port, along with an Xbox version
- E305 – Twilight Princess is shown again. Rumors begin about the next generation of Nintendo hardware.
- September- Mario Superstar Baseball is released
- October - Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness is released. Although it breaks even, it lacks the critical and sales success of its predecessor.
- November – A $50 Price Cut takes effect, lowering the price to $200. This price is within the range of competitors for arguably the first time.
- November - Super Mario Strikers is released. Like many other Mario Sports titles, it is a moderate hit, thanks in part to its online component.
- December - Kingdom Hearts 2 is released as a PS2/Dolphin title.
- February – To celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda, a compilation game is released for the Dolphin. The disc contains every main console Zelda up through Wind Waker, and is remembered as one of the great compilations of gaming history.
- March – Final Fantasy 12 is released as a PS2/Dolphin title.
- April – Mother 3 is released as a GBA/eShop title. Only the eShop version goes global.
- E306 – The last round of Dolphin games is revealed. Its next generation successor, Revolution, is announced, but little information is revealed.
- November – The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is released. Despite fan clamoring for a darker Zelda, this game receives similar reviews and sales as Wind Waker.
- December - WarioWare: Smooth Moves is released
- April – Super Paper Mario is released. The game is positively received as a spinoff of a spinoff of a spinoff.
- May – Mario Party 8, the last Mario Party for the Dolphin, is released
- E307 – Most of the show emphasizes the Revolution over the Dolphin.
- August 2007 – The final major 1st party release, Metroid Prime 3, is launched.
- October 2007 – Guitar Hero 3 is released as a multiplatform title. Like the PS2 version, the Dolphin version is popular due to the system’s low cost.
- November – The Revolution comes out led by Super Mario Galaxy, ending the reign of the Dolphin. However, the Dolphin will continue to sell, receiving many multiplatform and budget games for years to come.
- November - The Price of the Dolphin is cut to $150
- November – Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games is released as a Dolphin/Revolution title.
- Lego, Guitar Hero, sports, and movie tie-in titles are released.
- September - The Price is cut to $100, equal to the PlayStation 2
- Production of the Dolphin ends
- The last sports titles and tie-ins are released
Notable eShop Games
- Animal Crossing (Nintendo)
- Bejeweled (PopCap)
- Bomberman (Hudson)
- Dr. Mario (Nintendo)
- Ms. Pac-Man (Midway)
- Pokemon Battles (Nintendo)
- Space Invaders (Taito)
- Tetris (Tetris)
- Alien Hominid (The Behemoth)
- Bubble Bobble (Taito)
- Zuma (PopCap)
- Bejeweled 2 (PopCap)
- Frogger (Konami)
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (Capcom)
- Pokemon Mystery Dungeon (Nintendo)
- Mother 3 (Nintendo)
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All (Capcom)
- Uno (Gameloft)
- Diner Dash (Hudson)
- Peggle (PopCap)
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations (Capcom)
Point of Divergence Effects
Effects on Nintendo
- Online Play becomes a greater priority and component of Nintendo gaming
- New Hardware is delayed by a year
- The Dolphin enjoys weaker initial sales, but superior latter sales to the GameCube
- $400 becomes the new standard for a new console
- Nintendo systems become less popular among children early on, but eventually gain popularity later in life, from 2005 onwards
- Animal Crossing gains a reputation as Nintendo’s main eShop franchise, thus giving the series a permanent home on Nintendo’s downloadable services.
- Nintendo systems become more popular among sports, fighting, and racing fans, who appreciate the integrated online play that the Dolphin offers and Nintendo’s own offerings.
- Nintendo ultimately makes more money from the Dolphin than they do from the GameCube in OTL, selling a total of over 30 million units thanks to various changes. Thus, they can invest in a more powerful 7th generation system, preventing the rise of motion controls.
Effects on Third Parties (General)
- Games sell better on Nintendo systems, leading to more multiplatform efforts
- Developers experiment with online play more extensively
- Some developers switch to downloadable games a generation early
- Developers are slower to jump to the 7th generation, as games can be developed for two aging platforms instead of just the PS2. Therefore, the 7th generation gets off to a slower start.
- Fighting games find a home on the Dolphin thanks to its online play, and transition from the arcade era more smoothly.
- Puzzle games find a home on the eShop, allowing for more smaller developers to form and exist.
Effects on Third Parties (Specific)
- Hudson Soft fares better than in OTL. Mario Party games have superior sales thanks to the Dolphin’s greater success than the GameCube and eShop games like Bomberman Party become steady sources of revenue. Thus, the company continues to exist through 2012, albeit as a child company of Konami.
- The Behemoth develops a close relationship with Nintendo as they develop their game for the eShop. Although The Behemoth still goes on to make an HD port for the 360, this is indicative of a better relationship between Nintendo and indie developers than in OTL.
- Capcom still “betrays” Nintendo by porting games like Resident Evil 4 to the PS2. However, the sales are equal or inferior to those on the Dolphin, and the game lacks the same level of critical acclaim thanks to inferior graphics. Capcom also discovered that by using the eShop, they could release games like the Ace Attorney series with relatively low risk involved.
- Konami develops a closer relationship with Nintendo, thanks in large part to Kojima’s relationship with Miyamoto, releasing games such as Metal Gear Solid 3 and the Pro Evolution Soccer series on the Dolphin along with the PS2.
- Square Enix releases many of their latter 6th generation games as multiplatform titles, including Final Fantasy XII, Kingdom Hearts 2, and Dragon Quest VIII. The sales of these games are slightly better than in OTL, though not remarkably so. These games undoubtedly sell better on the PS2, with proportions similar to OTL’s FF13 sales on the PS3 and 360.
- Starting in 2002, Electronic Arts adds online play to as many of their games as possible, including Madden, Need for Speed, and Medal of Honor. More games are brought to the Dolphin.
- Take-Two enjoys their profits from the Dolphin ports of their GTA games, and, like in OTL, plans to make GTA4 a multiplatform release.
- LucasArts releases games like the Star Wars Battlefront series on the Dolphin as well as other platforms. These games sell well on the Dolphin, once again due to their online play.
- Namco Bandai becomes particularly fond of Nintendo after the success of SoulCalibur 2 on the Dolphin. Games like Tekken 5 would also be released on the Dolphin.
Effects on Other Hardware Developers
- Effects are minimal at first, due to the low sales of the Dolphin
- Later on, 7th generation consoles are designed with elaborate online play, digital stores, and with no incentive to keep prices low, much like in OTL.
Effects on Gaming Culture
- Much of the “Brah” crowd migrates to the Dolphin for its online sports and racing games. Thus, Nintendo’s “kiddy” image is, though still existent, at least diminished.
- Due to the primitive nature of the Dolphin’s online play, websites devoted to creating communities arise earlier than in OTL.
- The Digital Distribution age begins half a decade earlier. Some gamers and concerned parents actually pick the Dolphin as a cheaper alternative to other systems.