The Nintendo 64, Nintendo’s third home video game console for the international market. Named for its 64-bit central processing unit, it was released in June 1996 in Japan, September 1996 in North America and Brazil, March 1997 in Europe and Australia, and September 1997 in France. It is the last major home console to use the cartridge as its primary storage format until Nintendo’s seventh console, the Nintendo Switch, released in 2017. The console was discontinued in mid-2002 following the launch of its successor, the GameCube, in 2001. It is the first Nintendo console to feature true 3D effects. Super Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64 were made to show this off, as seen in the 3D Mario environment.
The Nintendo 64 was in heavy demand upon its release. David Cole, industry analyst, said «You have people fighting to get it from stores. «Time called the purchasing interest «that rare and glorious middle-class Cabbage Patch-doll frenzy». The magazine said celebrities Matthew Perry, Steven Spielberg’s office, and some Chicago Bulls players called Nintendo to ask for special treatment to get their hands on the console.
During the system’s first three days on the market, retailers sold 350,000 of 500,000 available console units. During its first four months, the console yielded 500,000 unit sales in North America. Nintendo successfully outsold Sony and Sega early in 1997 in the United States; and by the end of its first full year, 3.6 million units were sold in the U.S. BusinessWire reported that the Nintendo 64 was responsible for Nintendo’s sales having increased by 156% by 1997.
After a strong launch year, the decision to use the cartridge format is said to have contributed to the diminished release pace and higher price of games compared to the competition, and thus Nintendo was unable to maintain its lead in the United States. The console would continue to outsell the Sega Saturn throughout the generation, but would trail behind the PlayStation.
In Japan, the console was not as successful, failing to outsell the PlayStation and even the Sega Saturn. Benimaru Itō, a developer for EarthBound 64 and friend of Shigeru Miyamoto, speculated in 1997 that the Nintendo 64’s lower popularity in Japan was due to the lack of role-playing video games.
The Nintendo 64 remains one of the most recognized video game systems in history and its games still have impact on the games industry. Designed in tandem with the controller, Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time are widely considered by critics and the public to be two of the greatest and most influential games of all time. GoldenEye 007 is one of the most influential games for the shooter genre.
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