Forums - Gaming Discussion - Alternate history: N64 goes with CDs instead of cartridges

What do you think would've been the outcome?

N64 would've won the gen 40 62.50%
PS1 still would've won 24 37.50%
DonFerrari said:

Replying to me is always right =]

But I get why you are in doubt on it, because I agree with what you listed.

And it is funny that all around we have people still thinking PS1 and PS2 sold well due to piracy. Devs wouldn't support the system if they couldn't sell they software on it. Looking at a system that sold almost 1B SW on a little over 100M HW and saying it sold well due to piracy is lunacy.

Yet Devs also supported games on PC which was also heavily based around piracy back in the 90s.. what's your point? 

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Soundwave said:
Nautilus said:
You guys need to remember that the games format wasnt the only problem Nintendo had back in the day.Sure, it was probably one of the biggest, but not the only one.They had bad relations with developers(due to the cuts and restrictions that they imposed if Im not mistaken) and bad relations with retailers, even if this final point was due to the high cost of the cartriges.

Probably there is more, but you get the gist of it.Having said that, the PS1 won because of the many developers that jumped ship and went to the PS1, like Square.

Even this is not entirely true. By the N64 era, Nintendo has already started to repair their relationships with companies like Namco and Capcom. 

Namco had a long grudge against Nintendo, but they ironed that out and agreed to let Nintendo even make a Ridge Racer game (RR64, developed by NST for the N64). With Capcom they started to woo them back by getting RE2 ported somehow onto a massive cart and then a deal for Resident Evil 0, which got moved to the GameCube and they made a bigger deal for RE exclusivity.

Developers don't make decisions based on "like" or "dislike" this isn't junior high, this is a business. If Nintendo had CDs, they would've kept Final Fantasy most notably and dominated Japan at the very least, which makes it virtually impossible for any Japanese developer to keep their games off the system not matter how much they like another company. 

Oh, they do.Even if only on a small level.Square had been wanting to leave Nintendo for a while back in the day, and while the business decision is the one that really made them jump over to the PS1, their grudge against Nintendo not only helped, but probably incentivized them on trying to find a better deal somewhere.In a way, having good relations with developers is like having good customer support in a supermarket.Good customer suport can win over new buyers because its less of a hassle to go shopping there.But yeah, as you said, if the competitor has better prices, then they will go to the competitor, no matter the situation.

A classic example of this was RE 4.Shinji Mikami hated Playstation.So much so that he tried his hardest to keep RE 4 away from the PS2, and the game only came over because the PS2 was a roaring sucess and the gamcube a giant failure.

My (locked) thread about how difficulty should be a decision for the developers, not the gamers.

People saying Playstation would have still won are using hindsight.

I bought a PS1 (and every iteration afterwards), but the fact was that Nintendo was the king before that generation. It had 3rd party support from all the big publishers (usually having the superior iteration if comparing a multiplat to Genesis' console). All the games that made PS1 so great would have probably been on Nintendo's machine had they used CD (aside from the Sony first party exclusives, which, albeit great didn't have the impact that Nintendo first party exclusives did).

What killed the N64 was staying with cartridges. It lost them the big games like Final Fantasy (which were on Super Nintendo), and other more cinematic style games that relied on assets it couldn't fit. Of course, if they went with the CD format, they wouldn't be able to make games as responsive as Super Mario 64 and LoZ: OOT, because CD loading times took too long to be so quick feeling. But knowing Nintendo, they would have found solutions to make great first party games whether on CD or cartridge. But the N64 was the beginning of Nintendo losing big 3rd party support, and it's pretty much all because of the cartridge.

The N64 would have won hands down. There's no question about it. Nintendo would have kept the Japanese support, especially from Squaresoft, Enix, Konami and Capcom and the N64 would have murdered PlayStation in Japan. Also, a lot of people were forgetting that even though the Nintendo brand was aimed at a younger demographic, Nintendo did push hard to get mature content on the N64 especially since they were just coming off the Play it Loud campaign for the SNES. That's the reason the N64 got games like Turok and Goldeneye. This meant that the N64 would have gotten Resident Evil and Silent Hill. Now tithe being said, first party games like Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time would have been drastically different because back then, both cartridges and CDs had their advantages and disadvantages and this affected how games on both the N64 and PlayStation were designed. For example, we probably would not have seen a very open Hyrule Field in OOT. It probably would have been more like A Link to the Past's over world only in 3D or possibly pre-rendered. They actually would have been worse in my opinion.

With PlayStation, I think everything would have played out similar to the Sega Genesis. PlayStation would have underperformed in Japan just like the Genesis did but probably would have done very well in the west and would have relied a lot on western third party games, much like the Genesis did. The aggressive marketing still would have been there. PlayStation still would have killed Sega Saturn in the west. In the end I think worldwide sales between PlayStation and the N64 would have been similar to the difference between Genesis and SNES. The only major tossup would have been the European market. Nintendo wasn't as popular in Europe as Sega but I'm not sure if PlayStation would have had the software output to take Europe.

Some people also bring up the fact the N64 launched very late. That would not have made difference. The N64 actually sold faster at launch than both the Sega Saturn and PlayStation did when those systems launched. There was a lot of hype for the N64. The problem is the hype died down after the launch because of the lack of software available which wouldn't have been a problem if they went with CDs.

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Guys, despite the fact that I am a hude Nintendo fan, I can't but see the reality. By recognising that Nintendo was the king before Playstation arrived, you underestimate Sony. First of all, the greatest factor I believe that Nintendo would still lose to Sony this generation, is the fact that her relationship with 3 Parties were as you all know not the best. The basic reason why 3 parties had their games on Nintendo platforms, had to do with the restricted policies Nintendo had towards to them and of course because Nintendo had the biggest market shares. Why do you think that even with a CD based N64, all these companies would still stick with them, when it's more than obvious that Sony tried and succedeed to have much better relations with them.

I still think that it's not about the cartridges, is something more. It has to do with the fact that developers after ten years of complete domination of the policies of Nintendo really felt that it was time for a change. And this is the reason why till today Sony dominates in this market, because they have more collaborators. Despite that, remember that Genesis really achieved to make a come back for SEGA in America. You can't ignore the fact that the console sold 17 millions (VGC) just 5 millions behind SNES. It was more than obvious that Nintendo had already started losing her reliability both to developers and to customers, with a rival console using the same format.

So, to conclude. It was just a matter of time. Nintendo didnt ever think to change their policies, they never did and this cost them a lot. And again, even with more games, in regions like Europe, N64 would never achieve such huge numbers. Why from 8m NES and 6m SNES to move suddenly to 30or 40 million N64? In America it would achieve numbers close to 30 million and in Japan the NES Numbers, but ROTW wouldn't have any impact. N64 limit would be around 50-60 million install base. And Playstation would be around 70 to 80. 40m in Europe, 10m ROTW, at least 20m in America (but I can say 30 too, it would be close with N64). In Japan is hard to calculate, but if we take into consideration that N64 would have the big japanese hits, then I would see for PS the same numbers as any other failed console had done untill then (close to 5 million). Overall, 50-60 for N64 and 70-80 for PS1.

And I telll you this guys. I would really really like these numbers to be the real ones. And why I tell this? Because, PS1 was groundbreaking for the time it came out, a very good investment from Sony and they deserved to get the victory.

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The N64 had a record setting start in sales. Lack of games and pricey carts hurt the system sales afterwards. All of these could be blamed on Nintendo being stubborn and going with Cartridges. The N64 was a powerhouse of a machine, it delivered arguably the better more ground breaking games of that gen (Mario 64, GE, Ocarina of Time). FFVII was a big reason for Sony's success in the mid to late 90s, had Nintendo gone CD Square might have remained with Nintendo. All things considered it is likely Nintendo either wins that race or at the very least goes even up with Sony had they gone CD. Apart from the obvious Memory limitations of cartridges, Nintendo had the better machine, and in those early days of 3-D graphics, that gap in horse power would have made a huge difference for consumers.

Started off this poll undecided but after reading through the responses I am definitely leaning more towards a scenario where it plays out much like SNES vs Megadrive just with Sega switched for Sony; some third parties rebel against Nintendo's hegemony and side with Playstation as they did with Megadrive, but Nintendo's established power, unhampered by the crippling ball and chain of cartridges, means it still gets the big guns like Final Fantasy instead of being left high and dry as they historically did.

Bet with Liquidlaser: I say PS5 and Xbox Series will sell more than 56 million combined by the end of 2023.

h2ohno said:
The question is how the CD format would have affected the games the N64 had in real life. Long load times would be a real detriment to games like Mario 64, and big open areas like Hyrule Field also benefited from the cartridge format. Another question is how much the N64 would cost if designed to play CDs, but the games themselves would have been cheaper, so that would even out.

Square sticks with Nintendo, so Final Fantasy 7 and most of the other big JRPGs remain Nintendo exclusive and it is Nintendo that gets that big FF7 boost instead of Sony. That alone in my opinion would make the N64 the winner of the generation, as it was the release of FF7 that pushed the PS1 ahead of the N64. Many of the big 3rd party games would be multiplat like Metal Gear and Resident Evil, and they would often be much better on the N64 which was 2-3 times more powerful than the PS1 in pretty much every aspect.

If the exclusives the N64 had in real life stay largely the same I can't see a scenario in which the N64 doesn't outsell the PS1. The PS1 would loose a ton of its momentum and that same boost would just transfer to the N64, and without the storage advantage of CDs the huge difference of power between the two systems would be extremely obvious to everyone. I think the PS1 would sell slightly better than the SNES under that scenario on the strength of Sony's marketing at the time and I think they'd still win Europe, but the N64 would sell 3DS-PSP numbers. Nintendo wouldn't have the marketing chops to push the N64 over the 100 million mark, but the strength of the games would be more than enough to push the system to record levels.

This is pretty much my thoughts 100%

I think it's worth noting that by the time the Gamecube released, the N64 had sold almost all of the units it was going to sell lifetime. It didn't sell much after it was replaced. Whereas the Sony Playstation ended up selling an additional 28 million units after it was replaced (PS2 launched before PSOne in Japan). It sold so much because it already had a huge library of games and was cheap. When you look at a console that sold 102 million, and compare it to a console that sold 32 million, it's easy to see why it seems implausible that one change could completely twist the outcome of events. That's a 70 million lead. But, without the steps taken early on in the consoles lifespan, I think a lot of those sales disappear, because as I understand it, the appeal was getting a great product that was cheap from what was at the time the biggest gaming brand. Without games like Final Fantasy 7, that brand power goes away, and then it just becomes a cheaper, more distributed console. I think this would have a huge effect on the overall sales. Let alone what effect a CD based N64 would have on the early Playstation's success.

Last edited by AngryLittleAlchemist - on 22 August 2019

Without Final Fantasy 7 and other prominent franchises flipping, there's no way Sony would have won the gen. NintendI could have still messed up 3rd party relationships with their arrogant approach at the time, but the storage medium was a huge obstacle for many 3rd party devs (which made up the vast majority of "Sony's" hits). Watched a Dreamcast documentary two days ago where a Sega employee commented on how crazy it was that Sony took that gen without contributing hit game of their own - it was the outflow of Square, Capcom, Eidos, and more that made Playstation what it was, rather than Sony leading by example.

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