In 1996, Nintendo somewhat anachronistically launched its N64 console with cartridge-based games to compete with Sony’s PlayStation, which made disc-based games the norm. Now, 20 years and four consoles later, Nintendo may be preparing to launch another cartridge-based games console.
“Industry watchers said cartridges were a reasonable choice for Nintendo’s next-generation system, code-named NX, because the company targets a wider range of consumers than Sony or Microsoft,” a Wall Street Journal report citing sources familiar with the matter claimed today. “Nintendo’s core fans include small children, who might scratch discs but find cartridges tougher to damage. Cartridges also allow games to load faster, are harder to copy and can be mass-produced faster than discs, they said.”
This isn’t the first time rumors have pointed to Nintendo’s next console using cartridges for physical game media instead of discs, either. A July report claiming that the Nintendo NX would be a hybrid home/portable console also made the claim that its games would come on cartridges.
If indeed the system does have a portable component, then cartridges would make a lot more sense than discs, which can be a pain to travel with and are easily scratched. Sony got around that issue somewhat with its miniaturized PlayStation Portable discs with built-in scratch guards, but the company moved to cartridges with its follow-up system, the PlayStation Vita. For its own handhelds, Nintendo has always used cartridges for physical media.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that this type of media has come a long way since the days of the N64, with MicroSD cards now capable of storing hundreds of gigs of data. It’s probably unlikely that NX cartridges will need to hold that amount of data given that the console is rumored to be only as powerful or even less powerful than the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Even so, Nintendo should have plenty of opportunities to settle on a cartridge format that holds slightly more data than a classic 64-megabyte N64 cart.