After last year’s NES Classic Edition being such a smash it, it wasn’t surprising to see the company follow up with this year’s Super NES Classic Edition (although as previously stated, I don’t recommend trying to get your hands on one). But that’s not all the company apparently has up its sleeve.
According to Business Insider, Nintendo has filed for a European trademark on a stylistic representation of an N64 controller. While that might not seem like much, the design elements of the image (shown below) match those that we’ve seen on the NES Classic Edition box. In other words, it’s not crazy to think Nintendo might be prepping a new variant of the N64, or at least taking preliminary steps to do so.
The trademarked imageI suspect, however, that even if an N64 Classic emerges, it’ll be the last one of its kind, at least for quite a while. Here’s why:
NES Game Size: 8KB to 1MB, with 128KB to 384KB most common.
SNES Game Size: ~256KB to 6MB in rare cases, with 4MB seeming to be the most common.
N64 Game Size: ~12MB to 64MB, with 64MB being rare. 32MB seems to have been typical.
So far, all three consoles — even the N64 — are trivially small by modern standards. Even if every single N64 game had been 64MB (and only a few were), you could fit 64 N64 games into one 4GB flash drive. Nintendo has not been releasing that many games for its classic consoles, but that’s what we’re looking at as far as raw storage capability on a small amount of NAND flash. And heck, given the speed of modern NAND compared with what was available when the N64 was new, Nintendo wouldn’t have to give up an iota of the fast load times that made the N64 popular compared with the PlayStation.
Now watch what happens when we step up one more cycle:
Nintendo GameCube: mini-DVD, with 1.5GB of available storage. At least some games appear to have hit 1.3 to 1.4GB targets.
That kind of size changes things for a company wanting to build a value-oriented “classic” console. Suddenly, 4GB of onboard flash isn’t nearly enough. You could fit 16,000 NES games (at an average size of 256KB) into 4GB of onboard flash, 1,024 SNES games, 64 N64 games, or just two GameCube titles. And while NAND flash isn’t particularly expensive, reaching the SNES’ list of 21 titles would still require 32GB of NAND flash, assuming 512MB of storage is withheld for other use or game saves. The Wii and Wii U would only magnify the problem further.
So, on the whole, I expect the N64 is the final stop on the nostalgia train, at least for a few years. Who knows? Maybe once 3D NAND stacking gets high enough and prices fall low enough, Nintendo will do a combined Wii/Wii U lineup. Hopefully if and when they do, they’ll target unit availability that makes the hardware accessible to more than a handful of lucky people.
On the other hand, it’s easy to imagine Nintendo refreshing the Game Boy lineup in this fashion. Rather than going device-by-device, I suspect it would pick a target like the Game Boy Advance and offer a range of titles. Nintendo released peripherals for the GameCube that allowed Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance titles to be played on the same hardware. And handheld titles, if we’re being honest, often haven’t aged as well as their full console counterparts. So with that, imagine a classic portable with the added features of a modern handheld, like much-improved battery life, a backlight, and vastly better color reproduction across the entire family of titles.