Forums - Sales Discussion - If the N64 had a CD-ROM Drive, would've Nintendo won the generation in sales?

If N64 had a CD-ROM Drive, would've Nintendo won the generation in sales?

Yes 39 50.00%
No 39 50.00%

What do you guys think?

For some the obvious answer may have been that Nintendo would've won cause they were far more Iconic than Playstation first coming out the gate was, plus you would get all of Nintendo's legendary exclusives along with far more great 3rd Party games compared to PlayStation where it's exclusives were farrr less iconic and big compared to Nintendo exlcusives and 3rd party developers may have been more hesitant to support the PS1 since it was a newcomer with far less brand recognition than Nintendo at the time.

However, I see the answer more complicated and less clear cut than than that. For one thing we have to not that Nintendo up until the Wii was never really big Europe. The NES and SNES neither hit even 10M units in Europe as Nintendo never really focused on marketing towards that region and used 3rd party distributors to sell their systems in Europe, which obviously did not do a great job in capturing the European market. Sony on the other hand with the PS1 put immense effort towards marketing the PS1 in Europe, making it big over there as the PS1 would go on to sell 31M units in Europe alone. I doubt Nintendo would've even came close to that number even with the N64 getting full 3rd+1st party support simply cause Nintendo didn't really care much about Europe. So Sony probably would've had a huge sales advantage in Europe, making it more difficult for the N64 to beat it.

Also, if the N64 had a CD-ROM drive along with how powerful it was at the time, it probably would've been more expensive than the PS! and a tougher sell to some consumers. The N64 was priced at 200$ when in launched in 1996, which was the same price as the PS1 at the time which was 200$ WITH a CD-ROM drive. Since the N64 was far more powerful than the PS1 and would have a CD-ROM drive, the N64 would probably have to be priced at around 300$, which is 100$ more than the PS1. While Nintendo's brand recognition, exclusives, and 3rd party support may have made people still buy a N64 over the PS1, it's for sure a far tougher sell for some who'd may want to spend 100$ less to get a PS1. We've seen how competitive a relatively obscure company like Sega was able to get with the Sega Genesis just cause it was priced 50$ less than the SNES, a 100$ difference between a CD-ROM N64 and the PS1 may have been huge.

Also, we have to keep in mind that Nintendo's kiddier image compared to the PS1 may have been another advantage for the PS1 since Sega was able to exploit that with the Genesis.

So tbh I'm on the fence with it. 

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No. We already know that at the time 3rd party developers had nearly broke necks to move away from Nintendo and their policies at the time. N64 failure was not just a tech thing.

EDIT: This is a old tired topic. How many times have we had discussion on this topic and how many more times can anybody stomach it?

Well FFVII only moved to PS1 because of disc space. It would have been a closer race provided CD-based N64 was easy to program for. Nintendo was still a bit shitty with 3rd party devs tho. Sony capitalized on Nintendo's and SEGA's fuck ups but they still were the new hip kid and took that from SEGA. FFVII comes to N64 as the cart thing ruined a very good relationship between the two. We have a closer race but Sony was so aggressive they still probably lead in sales but not by a landslide.

Bite my shiny metal cockpit!

Xxain said:

No. We already know that at the time 3rd party developers had nearly broke necks to move away from Nintendo and their policies at the time. N64 failure was not just a tech thing.

EDIT: This is a old tired topic. How many times have we had discussion on this topic and how many more times can anybody stomach it?

Thread repetition is just the nature of forums. You've been around a while. I'm sure you've noticed there's A LOT of it. 😌

As for the op: NO!...maybe. It would have been closer. I'm mostly glad the N64 turned out as it did. Load times on the PS1 and Saturn really began to wear on me after a few years.

Chinese food for breakfast


Years ago, I would have put this down to a resounding YES, but after plenty of research into the state of 3rd party development at the time, a lot were done with the way that Nintendo dictated things. Besides the whole control over media/licensing/ROM chips, Nintendo walked over quite a few prominent companies at the time (Argonaut and DMA Design immediately come to mind). Other developers were observing this.

Sure, Squaresoft was loyal to the point that they would have stuck with Nintendo had they provided a proper medium for FF7, but don't forget that Sony helped Squaresoft by sinking millions of dollars into a massive advertising campaign. It would be difficult to see FF7 being as successful as it was without that help.

I'd say the resulting sales would have been closer, but I still think the PlayStation might have still just skimmed ahead by a narrow margin.

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Would’ve been a total game changer.
All the 3rd party titles and publishers that jumped to Sony would have either remained with Nintendo (Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest) or been multiplat.
So the 3rd party support would’ve been a wash or slightly towards Nintendo’s advantage still. The price would have probably been a wash as well since a CD-Rom would most likely have hiked the N64’s price up from $199 to $299, same as the PS1.
Which would leave the deciding factor being 1st party games, which I think we all know who wins in that department.

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I think it would have been close. No denying cartridges was the main thing holding Nintendo back during that generation. The N64 would have gotten a lot more third party support if it was a cd based system. The games would also have been cheeper. However, Sony had a really strong marketing campaign and bought a lot of third party exclusives, that helped them a lot.
Besides, some of the most popular games on the N64 would not have been possible on a cd based system at the time due to the transfer speed. So Nintendo would also have lost an advantage.
All in all I think Nintendo would have won that generation with a CD based system, but it would not have been a landslide like some think.

Would've still hinged on games like Final Fantasy coming to Nintendo.

I still think the cartridges were a good decision gameplay-wise. The CD tech wasn't really there yet, they were fragile and there were huge load times. The instant respond times and robustness of the cartridges were a godsend. If it's also true that certain things wouldn't have been possible without the cartridges, that makes it even worse; imagine if Mario 64, Ocarina of Time and GoldenEye sucked.

Absolutely. If N64 had CDs, it would have maintained Nintendo's dominance. Going cartridges was literally the most damaging thing Nintendo EVER did, and the company never recovered from it.

1. Playstation games looked better because of CDs - this is because N64 games were using 3D polygons, and it simply was no where near as compelling as the pre-rendered backgrounds and full motion video cutscenes featured on Playstation games.

2. Playstation games sounded WAY better because of CDs - N64 games were still using MIDI music, while Playstation games were using full CD redbook audio. In many ways, the N64 audio was less impressive than the SNES. But Playstation was capable of this:

3. N64 games were much more expensive than Playstation games because N64 used cartridges. When N64 launched, every game cost about 50% more than Playstation games. And it only got worse, Playstation games seemed to drop in price over the years, but N64 games got more expensive until the point where the most expensive ones cost 3X more than Playstation games.

4. Playstation got WAY more games because of CD - it was easier for third parties to develop for. Many companies were driven out of the N64 because the space available on cartridges was simply too limited. The existing development teams were constantly struggling (including DMA) with delays. So fewer companies were releasing games on the N64, and those that were had a slow output. There were 6 games at launch, and Sony was touting 200 games available. A year later the number of games had only increased to about 40. Sony was then touting over 500 games on Playstation - that's double what even released on N64, lifetime, in the west.

In short, N64's lack of CDs is why Playstation was able to see such huge success. Nintendo voluntarily gave up about 90% of the third party software.

warning ramble

The N64 droughts were so bad that whole months passed with no games, and I don't mean the guys in the "I'm abysmally depressed because of no games on Switch!" when these are just people who ignore 99% of game releases, I am talking NO games, not even 1 release, for over a month in row. Outside of launch, only 6 new games released during the first 6 months of the consoles existence. This is all because Nintendo went with cartridges instead of CDs.

If Nintendo HAD gone with CDs, the lineup would have been far more robust, games would be cheaper for the consumer, and full motion video, redbook audio, and pre-rendered backgrounds would be possible. RPGs would have never left, and it's likely stuff like Final Fantasy and Resident Evil would have been Nintendo franchises. Also, I wonder if DMA would have had all the development trouble they did with the N64, maybe GTA would have also been a Nintendo franchise.

As a Nintendo fan, the N64 generation was frustrating, to say the least. The lack of RPGs was horrible, and that is the main reason I bought a Playstation. It wasn't really until GBA that Nintendo began to get back into the RPG swing. Even in Japan RPGs were really sparse on Nintendo consoles - especially compared to the SNES (and RPG fans in my age group will remember importing RPGs - there was a particularly big Fire Emblem and Dragon Quest fanbase for imports - using a translation document to play through them... honestly, with Fire Emblem, the biggest struggle was trying to figure out what all the UI meant). But anyway! Nintendo changed a lot from SNES to N64, and it's largely because of the large volume of devs that wanted CDs.

Street Fighter, Final Fantasy, Castlevania, and other games that were almost synonymous with Nintendo (even though they did have a few side games and B-level ports on other consoles) were all on Playstation. So, I'd say Playstation was as mainly successful because of the LACK of CDs on N64. It allowed Sony to basically become the SNES sequel, and then take it to the next level.

If you consider the library of the N64 and Gamecube, they aren't like those of any other Nintendo consoles or handhelds, the large volume of Japanese games wasn't there. It would have been had N64 gone with CDs.


Last edited by Jumpin - on 02 September 2020

I describe myself as a little dose of toxic masculinity.

It's kinda funny that in the present day Nintendo are topping worldwide sales with a cartridge based system.