Remember the Nintendo 64? You’re forgiven if you don’t — the game console is 20 years old as of 2016, and its games look woefully outdated compared to the gorgeous graphics of modern ones.
Beyond being a Nintendo console packed with beloved games like “Super Mario 64,” the Nintendo 64 was the last Nintendo console that used game cartridges.
Every console since — from Nintendo and its competition — has used optical discs of some type. The PlayStation 1 used a form of compact disc — think music CDs — while the PlayStation 2 used DVDs and the current Xbox One and PlayStation 4 use versions of Blu-ray discs. Even Nintendo’s latest console, the Wii U, uses a form of proprietary optical disc.
But there’s a major issue with using optical-disc-based media formats: Game consoles are too fast for them. Really!
The reason that the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 require you to install games before playing them is because the consoles are capable of processing the data on the disc faster than it’s able to read said data. The solution that Sony and Microsoft came up with? Install the data on the disc to the console’s hard drive.
It is, frankly, a bad solution.
It means that you go home with a game disc, put it in your console, and then wait for it to install instead of just playing the game. It’s a notorious step backward from previous consoles that didn’t require you to wait around while the game installed from a disc.
Nintendo’s Wii U doesn’t require you to install disc-based games, but it’s also nowhere near as powerful as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. With Nintendo’s next console, codenamed “NX,” the expectation is that it will be almost as powerful as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
So, how is Nintendo going to solve the disc issue? By using cartridges once again, it looks like.
A company that’s worked with Nintendo for years, Macronix, might be behind the media format that Nintendo’s using in its next console. British publication Screen Critics spotted some explicit mentions of Nintendo’s next console in Macronix’s latest financial report.
Specifically, the company cited Nintendo’s new platform as helping drive financial growth for the company in its third and fourth financial quarters — those line up with this coming holiday season and the first part of 2017, around the time the NX is expected to launch.
Nintendo said recently that its new console will launch in March 2017.
Adding more fuel to this already burning fire is the fact that Macronix was responsible for the proprietary-media format used in Nintendo’s 3DS handheld-game console. That format, a 32-nanometre ROM chip, is capable of holding 8 GB of media. The new format being created by Macronix is a 75-nanometre ROM chip, capable of holding far more data.
And then on Friday, the Wall Street Journal further confirmed previous reporting. “Nintendo Co. plans to adopt cartridges for its next-generation video game console, people familiar with the matter said,” WSJ’s Takashi Mochizuki writes. Unsurprisingly, the report cites the same things we’ve said above — games load faster, are more portable (the new system is said to be a hybrid portable/home console), and are more durable (for younger game players).
So, when you think of Nintendo’s next console returning to cartridges, don’t think about your dusty old NES carts.
Think of the 3DS cartridge. Think of Flash memory. Most importantly, think of an evolution beyond the disc-based media we’ve been stuck with for 20 years now.
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