The Nintendo 64DD remains an intriguing part of the company’s history, with the expansion ultimately being short-lived and limited to the Japanese market. Though it wasn’t a commercial success after frequent delays and an arrival that fell too close to the GameCube, it nevertheless helped to pave the way for new ideas.
A good example is the Randnet Disk, which launched 22 years ago today (23rd February) in Japan; hat-tip to the Nintendo Reddit ‘on this day’ thread. Though Nintendo’s partnership with Randnet was live from the expansion system’s launch the previous December, this disk release unlocked a full set of features for subscribers. Yes, if you balk at paying for anything internet-related nowadays, you should have seen prices back in the day.
The video above provides an interesting summary, and researching the app shows that it was pretty impressive for the time. As we’ve alluded to in our headline, too, it ironically had some features that are evidently unlikely to ever arrive on Switch. For example it had a full web browser; the Switch has this, but it isn’t an app we can access at will as users, possibly due to the equivalent on Wii U being a notorious security weakness. This 64DD app also let you send emails!
The Randnet Disk had some features that sound quite familiar, too. For example there were message boards to chat with other players and interact with developers, which immediately made us think of Miiverse on Wii U / 3DS. It also had early equivalents of familiar services, including the ability to buy apps and games online. It even had its own currency that you’d use to purchase these downloadable products, which seems a bit like Wii Points to us.
Of course, that’s not to say that Randnet Disk was necessarily the source of inspiration for the likes of Miiverse and Wii Points, as different stages of Nintendo’s online services have adopted various ideas and approaches.
It’s interesting to see ideas like these realised on Nintendo 64, though, albeit through a Japan-only expansion.
I think NSO and the Expansion Pack are more experiments if nothing else. Nintendo knows that the way forward is to have a regular source of income through subscription models – like it or not, that’s the direction the industry has moved.