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Why Nintendo Stuck To Cartridges For The N64

For many long-time gamers, some of their best childhood memories were made sitting in front of a Nintendo 64 console. But once gamers remove their rose-colored glasses, they will find it isn't a perfect console. For example, when an N64 game inevitably struggled to boot up, gamers will recall blowing into the cartridge to give it the spark of life.

And while giving the cartridge a hefty puff of air, some gamers have asked why the console didn't ditch cartridge media like everyone else. The N64's competitors, the PlayStation and the Sega Saturn, both put their games on discs. Discs had the benefit of additional storage space, making them an easy choice for developers.

One of the developers who worked on some of the best N64 games recently revealed why Nintendo decided to stick with cartridges for the N64. And the reasons are more complicated than many gamers previously thought. The developer revealed that not only monetary factors were at play, but they also noted one major leg-up cartridges had on discs: Faster load times. Because of this, Nintendo saved gamers from hours sitting in front of a loading screen, which is hard to complain about.

Zero loading screens

A few years back, Eurogamer interviewed Giles Goddard, the legendary video game developer who worked on some of the biggest games on the Nintendo 64, such as the best-selling game on the console, "Super Mario 64." At one point in the interview, Goddard is asked why Nintendo didn't switch over to discs for the N64. Goddard replied that one of the reasons was that many consumers saw CDs as cheap plastic, meaning they were less likely to shell out big bucks for disc games.

Goddard noted another major reason cartridges were superior; they had no loading times. This is because there is no secondary memory with ROMs, meaning there's no need to load up large chunks of data when the game is booted up or when a player proceeds to the next level, for example. Goddard stated that this benefited games such as "1080 Snowboarding," which "wouldn't have been as smooth as it was without the cartridge."

However, the developer stated that at the time, it felt like Nintendo was lagging behind by not switching over to discs. And this decision limited Nintendo developers as they had to be very conscious of what they put in a game, as a cartridge's lack of space made for more compact games. That being said, in retrospect, Goddard said that sticking to cartridges was the correct choice at the time, even if it had limitations.