Nintendo didn't originally plan the SNES

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Bregalad
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Nintendo didn't originally plan the SNES

Post by Bregalad » Fri May 11, 2018 2:45 am

According to today's GameFaq's top 10:
The SNES was indisputably the king of the 16-bit consoles [...] However it was in fact the last of the major 16-bit consoles to hit the market [...]

This was because (as difficult as it may be to believe) Nintendo never actually planned to release a follow up to the original NES/Famicom - at least not at that particular point in time. They envisaged the original NES to be a "standard" device, similar to a VCR or CD player, that people would use for many years. But when Sega in particular released the Mega Drive to market, it made the NES look inferior and primitive in comparison [...], so Nintendo begrudgingly decided they would need to launch a new, more powerful console themselves to stay in the game. This resulted in it hitting the market last in contrast to the other major players [...]
I find the part I made in bold very surprising, this means the NES was supposed to have a very long lifespan, and was going to be Nintendo's only game console. This is fascinating.

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Re: Nintendo didn't originally plan the SNES

Post by FrankenGraphics » Fri May 11, 2018 3:13 am

The expansion port (and its abandonment in favour of the super famicom) as well as the expansion on a game pack design philosophy is perhaps in support of this claim.


btw, the mindset of the consumers (parents to the target audience) were at least in part of a similar mindset. When the SNES was introduced, many parents (including mine) were sceptical of the reasons why they should buy a console with the super prefix and a higher price when they could by a regular nintendo for less.

Trying to find an old news clip where this sentiment is voiced, but it seems i can't get the search terms right.


EDIT: Found it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTzyz2TgGls
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Re: Nintendo didn't originally plan the SNES

Post by tokumaru » Fri May 11, 2018 3:28 am

The part in bold is something Atari used to say about the 2600, if I'm not mistaken. It's the first time I see that being said of the NES.

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Re: Nintendo didn't originally plan the SNES

Post by FrankenGraphics » Fri May 11, 2018 3:32 am

Also, this was still a time where you could use the same phone a lifetime and cars were built to be easy to service. Expectancies and design philosophies on commodities were different, even if that was coming to an end.
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Re: Nintendo didn't originally plan the SNES

Post by Sumez » Fri May 11, 2018 3:50 am

Exactly. The absurd idea of technology as being disposable wasn't commonplace at the time.
Bregalad wrote: I find the part I made in bold very surprising, this means the NES was supposed to have a very long lifespan, and was going to be Nintendo's only game console. This is fascinating.
Considering the context, I don't find this surprising, and I somehow always imagined it like that myself. At the time, the race for more powerful hardware wasn't really as prevalent as it would be following the 16-bit generation. In the 90s when the NES was still selling strong (hell, even after the SNES came out), no one thought of games like Super Mario Bros. as "old", despite having multiple sequels already. It was just a video game. Just like Star Wars is just a movie. You don't watch Star Wars because you're a "retro movie watcher".

For the first few years I didn't even see the SNES as a "replacement" for the NES, despite its name, it was just another system, and I wanted both. The idea of new console generations replacing past ones was something that gradually built up.

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Re: Nintendo didn't originally plan the SNES

Post by Sogona » Fri May 11, 2018 7:51 am

I always found it interesting how much more sophisticated nintendo was able to make the SNES (and how much quicker developers were able to use it to more or less its full potential) in the 7-8 years since the launch of the NES. I guess documentation was better in the 16 bit era?

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Re: Nintendo didn't originally plan the SNES

Post by FrankenGraphics » Fri May 11, 2018 8:44 am

I think it's rather that when the famicom was released, very few available engineers in japan had any experience with the 65xx family of processors. The programmer who wrote Pinball for it was partly hired because he happened to use a commodore PET and as such was already used to write for its instruction set. By the advent of the SNES, it was a much more commonplace skill. Plus, you could write parts of a game in C. Also add in that the transition ought to be smooth (you might even be able to repurpose your inhouse library for use from NES to SNES even if the registers are a lot different). Moreover, the new processor offers the programmer the convenience of a fuller instruction set/larger internal registers, such as an 16-bit ALU and the Branch Always instruction, which likely causes fewer human error-type bugs, which in turns ought to save a bit of development time.
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Re: Nintendo didn't originally plan the SNES

Post by tepples » Fri May 11, 2018 8:59 am

FrankenGraphics wrote:Moreover, the new processor offers the programmer the convenience of a fuller instruction set/larger internal registers, such as an 16-bit ALU and the Branch Always instruction, which likely causes fewer human error-type bugs, which in turns ought to save a bit of development time.
Yet the more powerful PPU and DSP cost the artists and composers a lot of time. You have to make 2-3 layers of graphics, not just one, and somehow find a bunch of samples you can use.

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Re: Nintendo didn't originally plan the SNES

Post by Revenant » Fri May 11, 2018 9:09 am

Sure, but why phrase that like it's some kind of downside? Plenty of major developers already had similar experience with developing graphics for contemporary arcade games at that point, and sample-based synths were all over the place (not to mention sample-based music software - there are SNES games that literally use freely-available Soundtracker preset samples from 1987).

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Re: Nintendo didn't originally plan the SNES

Post by tepples » Fri May 11, 2018 10:03 am

Needing to have competitive visuals isn't a downside for established studios as much as for startup studios.

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Re: Nintendo didn't originally plan the SNES

Post by Bregalad » Fri May 11, 2018 10:14 am

Sumez wrote: no one thought of games like Super Mario Bros. as "old", despite having multiple sequels already. It was just a video game. Just like Star Wars is just a movie. You don't watch Star Wars because you're a "retro movie watcher".
Well it still is just a video game, isn't it ? Games definitely changed more than movies, but if you watch a movie from the 30s, you can definitely tell the standards changed, too, for instance, they added colour, music, and so on, which didn't exist in the early movies. Special effects definitely evolved and continues to evolves, but as I'm not a movie enthusiast I can't comment much.
Also, this was still a time where you could use the same phone a lifetime and cars were built to be easy to service. Expectancies and design philosophies on commodities were different, even if that was coming to an end.
Definitely it was different, but also, how could companies make profit if they didn't "encourage" their customers to renew their equipment regularly ? Also, it was probably already obvious in 1983 when the Famicom came out that video game technology was constantly evolving, I suspect some arcades in that very year were probably technically more advanced than the brand new FC.

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Re: Nintendo didn't originally plan the SNES

Post by Sumez » Fri May 11, 2018 10:42 am

Yeah, and just a few years later you'd have absurdly impressive arcade games with huge sprites, vibrant colors and true paralax layers, but like I said it wasn't really a race to replace the less powerful stuff with the more powerful stuff. The NES was just there, and it was how it was.
Bregalad wrote:
Sumez wrote: no one thought of games like Super Mario Bros. as "old", despite having multiple sequels already. It was just a video game. Just like Star Wars is just a movie. You don't watch Star Wars because you're a "retro movie watcher".
Well it still is just a video game, isn't it ? Games definitely changed more than movies, but if you watch a movie from the 30s, you can definitely tell the standards changed, too, for instance, they added colour, music, and so on, which didn't exist in the early movies. Special effects definitely evolved and continues to evolves, but as I'm not a movie enthusiast I can't comment much.
That is true, but I'm really just stating how it was. The "out with the old, in with the new" mentality just wasn't as prevalent at the time, no matter how fast technology was evolving. I mean, it was there for sure, but not in the same way as now where everyone is constantly waiting for the new stuff to come out and replace the stuff they bought last year.

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Re: Nintendo didn't originally plan the SNES

Post by FrankenGraphics » Fri May 11, 2018 1:05 pm

On audio chips:
A selling point of sample or wavetable based synthesizers was to make music production quicker and easier to understand for musicians, in that you didn't need an audio engineers' degree to program it. Some of the more complex FM synthesis chips can be quite tedious and time consuming to program presets for, and i suppose those were the only cost-effective alternative of the time.
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Re: Nintendo didn't originally plan the SNES

Post by ccovell » Fri May 11, 2018 5:03 pm

Referring to the OP, the idea that it was the Mega Drive that spooked Nintendo into making a 16-bit system is bunk (bullshit for you direct folks). Here's an article referencing that Nintendo's president announced the 16-bit system in September, 1987:

http://www.chrismcovell.com/secret/SFC_1988Q3.html

This is far in advance of the June 1988 announcement of the MD.

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Re: Nintendo didn't originally plan the SNES

Post by lidnariq » Fri May 11, 2018 5:29 pm

On the other hand, that announcement date is 6 weeks before the PC Engine hit the shelves in Japan. And we know that Hudson tried to sell the PC Engine design to Nintendo beforehand before selling it to NEC.

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