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Hardware Platform Nintendo 64 Vs. PlayStation: Which console was more innovative?

SF Kosmo

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N64 was the more innovative system but that doesn't make it the better system. In the end PlayStation's choice of disc media and lower cost of development meant it had more great games.
 
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No, SOJ killed marketing and support, the 32X was supposed to keep the Genesis moving and was a fast selling add on until that happened. Projections of two million or three in less than 2 years was expected, and the current LTD backs this up which was high in such a short time.

It was made to respond to the Jaguar and was wrecking it. By 96 I see 2.5-3 million easily with support. The consumers clearly wanted it. It was in a few more months going to match or exceed the Sega CD which sold 1.5 million in 5 years, in UNDER two years.

I just don't know how true this narrative works in full hindsight, tbh. Internal projections are one thing but those don't always align with what trends the market actually ends up setting. NEC had internal projections for Turbographx-16 that led them to overmanufacture a ton of units that took them years to sell off, just as an example.

Even supposing a reality where 32X sold well, I think that'd of hurt Sega in the long run, because there would've always been the question of it were forward-thinking enough. It wouldn't have slowed down the PS1's release in the West, but it's theoretically possible Sega could've supported 32X (and a latter Neptune combining it, Genesis and Sega CD) with key third-parties better than they did, and have that managed by SoA and SoE. After all, the SNES still outsold PS1 in 1995 and even 1996 IIRC, so there was clearly a market in the West for 16-bit hardware for 1995 - 1997.

If that meant, essentially, holding off on Saturn for the West until later 1996 with a revision (something like a Saturn "Pro" basically), with some updated specs and more dev-friendly libraries, friendlier production costs, and make the revised unit the default for the Western market with proper launch and marketing...while by that point PS1 would probably be cementing itself as the lead platform, that type of release strategy for Saturn would've helped it perform much better in the West and keep continued momentum in Japan, especially if it's roughly on par with an N64 while that system still went with carts.

Basically a thoroughly supported 32X (and Neptune) wouldn't of done anything for Japan, who had Saturn, but I can see it having done a lot for Sega in the Western markets as a 2nd, legacy option to those not ready to jump to next-gen with PS1 at that time, and buy them time to design a Saturn "Pro" for late 1996 in Japan and the West, and use that Saturn Pro as the base model for Saturn in the West to position it as a strong 2nd to PS1 (meaning it'd basically be battling directly with the N64).

3DO established it as a new standard, instrumental in causing 3D tech and CD drive prices to drop for consoles. CD-i drives was more costly than CD) and while 2 million may not have been relatively mainstream that got a lot of devs to prefer it jumping right to the PS1 (and to lesser extend Saturn) CD was always going to be the future.

The Jaguar made the mistake of launching a cart system without the proper funding. They had some hit games but couldn't mass produce the software and get them into stores due to cost. The stuff people complain about for N64 was already known and established nearly 3 years earlier.

Yeah it is true 3DO helped with adoption of 3D and CD tech in home consoles, though in the case of the latter I think that's giving 3DO a bit too much credit? Even tho they were add-ons, Sega/Mega CD effectively sold more than 3DO, and the PC-Engine CD sold a decent amount as well particularly in the Japanese region. It's not like devs weren't leveraging the CD technological capabilities of those systems pre-3DO. Even Sony (via Sony ImageSoft) was doing this with the Sega CD and that was a learning ground for them in terms of how to develop games for the CD medium (which they directly applied to the PS1).

I think Jaguar's problem wasn't carts specifically but like you said, the lack of funding. That lack of funding also led to parts of the hardware (like certain registers) not being properly connected due to bugs, and Atari simply didn't have the capital to support a lot of quality 1P internal dev or secure a decent clip of 3P content. N64's issues were more due to Nintendo's arrogance and unwillingness to meet several big 3P publishers half-way, so they just refused to prioritize N64 and that led to the big software release gaps in-between 1P software.

Otherwise I think N64 did about as well as a properly-funded 5th-gen cart-based system could've been expected to, in fact it would've done better (probably come closer to SNES/SFC's LTD totals) if it weren't for NoJ's (mainly, Yamauchi's) arrogance towards certain 3P support.

Of course you have to consider what kind of CD Drive Nintendo would NEED.

N64 has features and capabilities that take advantage of the connection between the console and the cart (and also the Expansion pack in some cases), and of course there are often things in a ROM cart itself that help with these.

A standard CD drive would bring in more bottlenecks, impacting what the N64 could do and what hardware tricks it could use.

Unless you got those more complex 6x-12x drives that at minimum would likely cost Nintendo $90+ per unit in a bulk buyout to make it on time for a 1996 launch.

In this case you would be looking at potentially a $329 N64. When the competition was $199 or less during holiday sales.

But if you use a cheaper standard drive then you have additional bottlenecks making the system inefficient.

This same thing applies to those who wonder if the Jaguar should have launched with a CD. While like N64, Jaguar has architectural bottlenecks (more so) both it and the N64 were designed with the carts in mind to push certain capabilities and tricks that would help with game development and execution.

Both consoles would have to be redesigned for a CD drive to be effective or very costly if using a featured premium drive.

People keep looking at this as "slap a CD drive on an N64 or Jaguar" instead of thinking "how does the console architecture work with the carts?".

Very important difference.

Agreed. It's obvious, I think, that cart-based systems like N64 would still probably need carts in some way given other aspects of their design. N64 for example, IIRC had very low bandwidth on its RAM bus, or I might be thinking instead of RAM latency. So that's a design where they obviously had cartridges in mind to balance that sort of thing out, removing the cartridge from the design would fundamentally cripple the system.

While it wasn't particularly fully leveraged, I think systems like the Saturn had a very good solution of cart & CD support. Games like some of the SNK King of Fighters titles used ROM carts along with the CDs to accelerate performance on the platform. You got the best of both worlds, essentially, tho again it wasn't particularly well-supported outside of a few games from SNK and Capcom.
 

Caio

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Nintendo 64 hardware and controller was more innovative, that's for sure, but I still enjoyed Playstation more, in a whole,
although Mario64 and GoldenEye 007 are still in my heart :)
 

Eddie-Griffin

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I just don't know how true this narrative works in full hindsight, tbh. Internal projections are one thing but those don't always align with what trends the market actually ends up setting. NEC had internal projections for Turbographx-16 that led them to overmanufacture a ton of units that took them years to sell off, just as an example.

Even supposing a reality where 32X sold well, I think that'd of hurt Sega in the long run, because there would've always been the question of it were forward-thinking enough. It wouldn't have slowed down the PS1's release in the West, but it's theoretically possible Sega could've supported 32X (and a latter Neptune combining it, Genesis and Sega CD) with key third-parties better than they did, and have that managed by SoA and SoE. After all, the SNES still outsold PS1 in 1995 and even 1996 IIRC, so there was clearly a market in the West for 16-bit hardware for 1995 - 1997.

If that meant, essentially, holding off on Saturn for the West until later 1996 with a revision (something like a Saturn "Pro" basically), with some updated specs and more dev-friendly libraries, friendlier production costs, and make the revised unit the default for the Western market with proper launch and marketing...while by that point PS1 would probably be cementing itself as the lead platform, that type of release strategy for Saturn would've helped it perform much better in the West and keep continued momentum in Japan, especially if it's roughly on par with an N64 while that system still went with carts.

Basically a thoroughly supported 32X (and Neptune) wouldn't of done anything for Japan, who had Saturn, but I can see it having done a lot for Sega in the Western markets as a 2nd, legacy option to those not ready to jump to next-gen with PS1 at that time, and buy them time to design a Saturn "Pro" for late 1996 in Japan and the West, and use that Saturn Pro as the base model for Saturn in the West to position it as a strong 2nd to PS1 (meaning it'd basically be battling directly with the N64).

The issue is it was selling out and retailers were about to double orders because Sega didn't start out with high supply for obvious reasons, but SOJ stepped in as supply was increasing.

The 32X would basically have been an entry level Saturn while having access to all the Genesis games, the Genesis itself was dirt cheap in cost but sales were slowing as Sega were starting to hurt themselves and prepare for the Saturn.

It would have been a great bridge given how the US and Euro audience (to a lesser extent) had less interest in launch window Saturn titles than the games coming out on 32X.

As for for Saturn "Pro" that doesn't make any sense. There was nothing wrong with the 32X and Saturn as they were outside Sega's dumb costly panic adjustment and unappealing game library (in the west). Sega needed focus and 32X would have been a great bridge for consumers and developers fo the Saturn, instead of iffy relationships with third party and cutting the 32X early. Resulting in support being lopsided to PS1.

As for NEC, the big problem with them in the west is they were pushing the CD and TG16 at the same time, this meant consumers realising they had to pay two premiums only brought one of the two (the TG16) and not the addon. NEC pushing it as a standalone didn't help either. People who didn't want to pay two premiums but wanted CD games didn't by either, and so you have a bunch of TG16s produced thinking the CD addon would help drive sales and it didn't.

In Japan a decent number of people had TG16s already so the CD was a driver for existing and some new gamers. They also quickly put out a stand alone CD device.

(Also in japan PC Engine CD was doing well, butNEC gut themselves. I'm not entirely sure PCD sold 1 millon world wide unless you also include both versions of the DUO and that's still iffy)


Yeah it is true 3DO helped with adoption of 3D and CD tech in home consoles, though in the case of the latter I think that's giving 3DO a bit too much credit? Even tho they were add-ons, Sega/Mega CD effectively sold more than 3DO,
No. For one 3DO sold over 2 million, we have no idea how much those last few months in 96 sold but 3DO likely sold more in 1996 than any other year as you could get it $199 and lower with free games as the year went on. The Sega CD itself sold 2.24.

But that's irrelevant as the games on the 3DO and how it used the CD tech were completely different from the Sega CD outside FMV ports. The type of games that would become standard on the PS1 and Saturn. It also impressed a heck of a lot of people early on and caused several prototypes for systems to switch to CD. You only have to impress to cause change, not necessarily sell a lot, which neither did. PS1 owes a good amount of its software in the early two years to the 3DO too, and to a lesser extend, so does the Saturn. It was pretty much a transfer. Sony and Sega's early libraries would have been worse off otherwise.

I think Jaguar's problem wasn't carts specifically but like you said, the lack of funding. That lack of funding also led to parts of the hardware (like certain registers) not being properly connected due to bugs, and Atari simply didn't have the capital to support a lot of quality 1P internal dev or secure a decent clip of 3P content. N64's issues were more due to Nintendo's arrogance and unwillingness to meet several big 3P publishers half-way, so they just refused to prioritize N64 and that led to the big software release gaps in-between 1P software.
It was carts, and the low production is why man announced games were cancelled. The costs of producing carts isn't cheap.

There's a difference between Atari only being able to produce 50,000 units of a popular game like AVP, and 500k+ copies on cheap CDs at the same price. CD also gives less risk to third parties. The more complex and big the cart, the more costly it is to make.

Nintendos previous bad history with third parties at that point put them in a bad position to position carts and act as if developers would just walk up to them being greatful Nintendo have them anything. This is apparently what their mindset was.
Agreed. It's obvious, I think, that cart-based systems like N64 would still probably need carts in some way given other aspects of their design. N64 for example, IIRC had very low bandwidth on its RAM bus, or I might be thinking instead of RAM latency. So that's a design where they obviously had cartridges in mind to balance that sort of thing out, removing the cartridge from the design would fundamentally cripple the system.

While it wasn't particularly fully leveraged, I think systems like the Saturn had a very good solution of cart & CD support. Games like some of the SNK King of Fighters titles used ROM carts along with the CDs to accelerate performance on the platform. You got the best of both worlds, essentially, tho again it wasn't particularly well-supported outside of a few games from SNK and Capcom.

A lot of the RAM issues could have been solved with built in sprite solutions which 3D systems didn't really do. Another element that may have been influenced from the 3DO.

The 3DO could do nice 2D but it wasn't a 2D machine, it had the specs for polygonal gaming, but ran 2D games at 30fps and gimped effects. But focusing on polygons primarily made overall costs cheaper, though 3DOs business model didn't pass those savings to the consumer until later.

PS1 and N64 however had a bit more horse power to run 2D in some cases at better frame rates, but still limited overall.

This is why SNK ports even ones outdated had issues running on that era of consoles, or cut animations and frames, or gimped sprite effects, despite them being powerful 3D machines.

2D wasn't focused on with internal hardware for several consoles. The Saturn originally was, although they made some changes fir 3D, they had the intention of the RAM cart from even the earlier days of Saturn preparation.

The Jaguar also was, but you'd have problems pushing more RAM with the architecture bottle necks.

Basically 3D was a sacrifice for 2D until say, the Xbox and in some ways the PS2. This is why a game like a Metal Slug 3 was a retail Xbox game, you could finally run these powerful 2D games arcade perfect on a console for the first time
 
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The issue is it was selling out and retailers were about to double orders because Sega didn't start out with high supply for obvious reasons, but SOJ stepped in as supply was increasing.

Well, that's interesting, as it contradicts the prevailing narrative, but that doesn't mean it's not possible. In fact it'd be kind of wild (in a good way) if this was the case because there's a lot of popular myths surrounding older consoles that seem to stick no matter what. I have always looked at the 32X as a massive mistake but if it was actually resonating with the intended markets (the West), then that gives a whole new perspective.

Though I doubt how long-term that would've persisted, that interest, considering a lot of the second wave of games were just Genesis and SNES ports with maybe extra color support. But at the same time, it's unfair to purpose a current market's purchasing taste to a market at the time 32X was commercially relevant; perhaps to them extra colors and maybe slightly better framerates were big selling points (and perhaps definitely so, considering that's what helped out PS4 for a decent while in the early part of last gen).

The 32X would basically have been an entry level Saturn while having access to all the Genesis games, the Genesis itself was dirt cheap in cost but sales were slowing as Sega were starting to hurt themselves and prepare for the Saturn.

It would have been a great bridge given how the US and Euro audience (to a lesser extent) had less interest in launch window Saturn titles than the games coming out on 32X.

Perhaps. It really comes down to what the market was asking for at the time, but a 32X as you mention it would've needed to basically be the Neptune made to market and at a cheap enough price (IIRC it was targeting $199).

It could've, in theory, had been Sega's Series S for the time; since 32X and Saturn shared the same CPU setup it'd of allowed for a training ground up to Saturn software dev proper (basically what Sega intended anyway), but the 32X would've been clearly positioned as an extension of last-gen tech (Genesis/MegaDrive) instead of a lower-spec'd next-gen system (would've helped avoid unneeded conflict with the PS1).

As for for Saturn "Pro" that doesn't make any sense. There was nothing wrong with the 32X and Saturn as they were outside Sega's dumb costly panic adjustment and unappealing game library (in the west). Sega needed focus and 32X would have been a great bridge for consumers and developers fo the Saturn, instead of iffy relationships with third party and cutting the 32X early. Resulting in support being lopsided to PS1.

In hindsight we can say there was nothing wrong with them, but at the time there were clear problems. For 32X, it was a carry-over by some feeling like the Sega CD wasn't fully tapped, and yet here comes another add-on only two years later. Saturn, actually DID have a perception problem in the West as multiple magazines questioned its ability compared to PS1. You can read through a decent number of Next Generation Magazine issues from around the time to see what it was like, as unfairly as it was at many points.

It's arguable that the reason Sega started losing steam with Genesis post-DKC was because of them already splitting focus to yet another add-on (32X), instead of centralizing all the games to Genesis (and, if needed, Sega CD) and using the SVP tech on a per-game basis to push graphics further for games which required it. My idea is that they take that approach and skip 32X altogether, and push back Saturn for a late 1996 Western release instead, while taking that extra time to do a bit of a spec-up for the unit to launch in Japan sometime earlier that year and use that spec-bumped model as the basis for the Western market.

Because Sega should've had the foresight Nintendo did even then, and realize they couldn't have competed directly with Sony due to Sony's size and access to resources and distribution channels. It was just not a battle they were going to win. Nintendo realized this and took a different approach with N64 as a result while rapidly expanding their handheld market (although some of this was also borne out of their arrogance). Sega was too cocky and decided to try taking on Sony directly, probably thinking it would work out since even companies like NEC and Matsushita/Panasonic (even Apple, etc.) were coming out with console devices and failing miserably during the transitional period towards 5th-gen.

Sadly that bravado didn't work out. But at least by targeting for a strong 2nd, they could've afforded more time for further Dreamcast development, and made that system much more of a potential challenge to PS2. Or at least be strong enough to tempt Microsoft to stay out of the market directly (and support Sega instead, possibly even Nintendo, and use them to fight Sony via proxy, which is what they likely intended for some period with the Dreamcast). It's a similar missed opportunity to Atari dropping Panther (and thus failing to establish a then-relevant market presence to gamers of the 16-bit era) to accelerate Jaguar instead.

As for NEC, the big problem with them in the west is they were pushing the CD and TG16 at the same time, this meant consumers realising they had to pay two premiums only brought one of the two (the TG16) and not the addon. NEC pushing it as a standalone didn't help either. People who didn't want to pay two premiums but wanted CD games didn't by either, and so you have a bunch of TG16s produced thinking the CD addon would help drive sales and it didn't.

In Japan a decent number of people had TG16s already so the CD was a driver for existing and some new gamers. They also quickly put out a stand alone CD device.

(Also in japan PC Engine CD was doing well, butNEC gut themselves. I'm not entirely sure PCD sold 1 millon world wide unless you also include both versions of the DUO and that's still iffy)

Actually I've recently seen a doc on Youtube from the channel Creative Cat Productions for the TG-16/PC-Engine going into why it didn't do well in the West and if it did as well in Japan as people think they remember. Absolutely worth a watch; I think a lot of his points are even applicable to the SEGA Saturn in all honesty. A bit of a long watch but I don't think that's a deterrent for someone like yourself (if you haven't seen it already, that is).

No. For one 3DO sold over 2 million, we have no idea how much those last few months in 96 sold but 3DO likely sold more in 1996 than any other year as you could get it $199 and lower with free games as the year went on. The Sega CD itself sold 2.24.

Okay, there may be some truth to the idea 3DO sold more units in a shorter period of time than Sega CD if you launch-aligned them and set their commercial timescales to the same length, possibly. But a lot of those later 3DO sales were done at liquidation prices, to get units out of the distribution and retail channels as quickly as they could. Given 3DO's business model I strongly doubt they were making any profit off those units @ $199 at that time, probably even losing a good deal there.

But that's irrelevant as the games on the 3DO and how it used the CD tech were completely different from the Sega CD outside FMV ports. The type of games that would become standard on the PS1 and Saturn. It also impressed a heck of a lot of people early on and caused several prototypes for systems to switch to CD. You only have to impress to cause change, not necessarily sell a lot, which neither did. PS1 owes a good amount of its software in the early two years to the 3DO too, and to a lesser extend, so does the Saturn. It was pretty much a transfer. Sony and Sega's early libraries would have been worse off otherwise.

Fair points, can agree with this. And there's lots of instances like it in the industry (especially expanding out to microcomputers and arcades) aside from just 3DO.

It was carts, and the low production is why man announced games were cancelled. The costs of producing carts isn't cheap.

There's a difference between Atari only being able to produce 50,000 units of a popular game like AVP, and 500k+ copies on cheap CDs at the same price. CD also gives less risk to third parties. The more complex and big the cart, the more costly it is to make.

Yeah, this is generally true. That's a big reason PS1, Saturn, even 3DO etc. attracted more 3P support than systems like Jaguar and N64.

Nintendos previous bad history with third parties at that point put them in a bad position to position carts and act as if developers would just walk up to them being greatful Nintendo have them anything. This is apparently what their mindset was.

I would blame Yamauchi; some of his quotes from the era are outright wild.

A lot of the RAM issues could have been solved with built in sprite solutions which 3D systems didn't really do. Another element that may have been influenced from the 3DO.

The 3DO could do nice 2D but it wasn't a 2D machine, it had the specs for polygonal gaming, but ran 2D games at 30fps and gimped effects. But focusing on polygons primarily made overall costs cheaper, though 3DOs business model didn't pass those savings to the consumer until later.

PS1 and N64 however had a bit more horse power to run 2D in some cases at better frame rates, but still limited overall.

This is why SNK ports even ones outdated had issues running on that era of consoles, or cut animations and frames, or gimped sprite effects, despite them being powerful 3D machines.

2D wasn't focused on with internal hardware for several consoles. The Saturn originally was, although they made some changes fir 3D, they had the intention of the RAM cart from even the earlier days of Saturn preparation.

The Jaguar also was, but you'd have problems pushing more RAM with the architecture bottle necks.

Basically 3D was a sacrifice for 2D until say, the Xbox and in some ways the PS2. This is why a game like a Metal Slug 3 was a retail Xbox game, you could finally run these powerful 2D games arcade perfect on a console for the first time

There was a user on Era, I forget his name but it started with a K and he had a Sonic avatar from Sonic CD, he did an excellent write-up on how 3D worked on systems like Saturn & PS1, the use of a direct-access framebuffer on Jaguar (first major commercial game console to do so, IIRC), the importance of 2D-specific sprite hardware still for that generation of consoles to do 2D really well (something the Saturn excelled at, at the expense of more complicated architecture design), etc.

He touched on a lot of these points in great detail, worth some good reads if you can find their posts (maybe they're archived?).
 

umar45

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Admittedly I'm a fan of Nintendo, but no sensible person can deny that they have always been at the forefront of hardware innovation in the gaming industry. Successful or not, they have popularized or innovated while others often build upon the foundations they lay.

  • The PS1 controller is a natural evolution of the SNES controller. Two more buttons
  • The Dual-shock was Sony's take on the analog stick which Nintendo introduced.
  • Camera buttons on the N64 evolved to become a camera analog stick.
  • The rumblepack went on to be a staple of controllers.
  • Nintendo popularized wireless controllers, which became the standard, the Wavebird was the first time major 1st party company offered Wireless controllers.
  • Motion controls, popularized, by the Wii saw interpretation by Sony in the form of the Sixaxis and Move controllers and by Microsoft's Kinect.
  • Touch controls of the popular DS families made their way to the WiiU, Switch, Vita, PS4, PS5.
  • Playing mobile games on TVs, the Super Gameboy evolved to the Gamecube's gameboy player, PSTV, and now the Switch.
What Sony does well is giving consumers and, in the PS1/4/5 eras, devlopers what they want. There is nothing wrong with that! It is a smart business plan that has served them very well. The CD-ROM was a widely used media for video games before the PS1 and Saturn game along, which they did at the same time, and quite some time after many other CD-ROM based consoles and PCs saw commercial release. The Playstation 1 succeeded in becoming the first globally successful console whose media was solely delivered in CD-ROM. This isn't innovative though. The PS1 hardware wasn't innovative, it was a simply the evolution that would be expected in any generational leap.
Ps2 had motion controls before the Wii