The 64DD was announced at 1995's Nintendo Shoshinkai game show event (now called Nintendo World). One of the games that was featured for use with the 64DD was Creator, a music and animation program by Software Creations, the same people that made Sound Tool for the Nintendo Ultra 64 development kit. The game advertised that it could be implemented into other games, being able to replace textures and possibly create new levels and characters. However, there was no playable version of Creator available at Shoshinkai 1995. At E3 in 1997, Nintendo's main game designer, Shigeru Miyamoto, speculated that the first games to be released for the new system would be SimCity 64, Mario Artist, Pocket Monsters, and EarthBound 64.
However, the 64DD was delayed until its release in Japan on December 1, 1999. Nintendo, anticipating that its long planned-out disc drive peripheral would become a commercial failure, sold the system mainly through a subscription service called Randnet and customers would continue to receive games through the mail as well. Only very limited quantities of the 64DD were made available through stores. As a result, the 64DD was only supported by Nintendo for a short period of time and only nine games were released for it. Most 64DD games were either cancelled entirely, released as normal Nintendo 64 games, or ported to the GameCube.
The 64DD has a 32-bit coprocessor to help it read magneto-optical discs, and to transfer data to the main console. It was intended to be Nintendo's answer to the cheaper-to-produce Compact Disc that was used for Sony's PlayStation. Sony's CD storage could hold approximately 650 megabytes (MB) of information, compared to the Nintendo 64's 4-64 MB cartridge. The 64DD also has a built in memory expansion pack like the accessory for the controller.
The new medium for the 64DD was rewritable and had a storage capacity of 64 MB. The games on normal N64 cartridges could also hook up with DD expansions, for extra levels, minigames, even saving personal data.
The drive works similarly to a Zip drive, and has an enhanced audio library for the games to use. The main N64 deck uses its RCP and NEC VR4300 to process data from the top cartridge slot and the I/O devices. To hook up with the 64DD, it needed an extra 4 MB of RAM for a total of 8 MB. Like nearly all disc-based consoles, the 64DD can boot up without a cartridge on the top deck, because it has a boot menu.
The 64DD had its own development kit that worked in conjunction with the N64 development kit.
The released version of 64DD included a modem for connecting to the network Randnet, an audio-video (female RCA jack, and line in) adapter called the Capture Cassette to plug into the main cartridge slot, and a mouse and keyboard that plugged into the controller inputs.
As the Super NES had the Satellaview online service in Japan, the Nintendo 64DD had the Randnet service (named for the two companies involved with the project, 'Recruit' and 'Nintendo'). Launched in December 1999, the Randnet, also known as "landnet", service allowed gamers to compete against each other online, play unreleased games, surf the Internet, and listen to music.
The Randnet Starter Kit came packaged with 64DD machines and included everything needed to access the service (the subscription cost was ¥2500 per month; equivalent to about US $27.97):
- Nintendo 64 Modem: The Nexus-developed software modem was housed on a special cartridge that plugs into the N64's cart slot. The Modem Cart has a port to plug in the included modular cable which then connects to the network.
- Expansion Pak: This 4 MB RAM Expansion brings the N64's system RAM to 8 MB. The Expansion Pack was later bundled with Donkey Kong 64 worldwide. It was also sold separately.
- 64DD: The writable 64 MB disk drive attachment made network use and data saving possible.
- Randnet Browser Disc: This lets users access the "members only" information exchange page as well as the Internet.
Once logged on to the service, players could choose from the following options:
- Battle Mode: Play against other gamers and swap scores.
- Observation Mode: Watch other players' game sessions.
- Beta Test: Play sample levels from upcoming games.
- Information Exchange: Use online message boards and e-mail with other users.
- Community: Swap messages with the game programmers and producers.
- Internet Surfing: Surf the Internet with the custom web browser.
- Digital Magazine: Check online sports scores, weather, and news.
- Music Distribution: Listen to music, some of which was yet to be released in stores.
- Editing Tool: Create custom avatars to interact with other users.
Randnet was a semi-popular service, considering the limited 64DD user base. One of the most substantial series of games to include Randnet support was the Mario Artist series, which allowed users to swap their artwork creations with others. Contests and other special events also occurred every now and then. However, the service was not successful enough to justify its continued existence, so in February 2001 it was discontinued. Nintendo bought back all the Randnet related hardware and gave all users free service from the time the closure of the service was announced until the day it actually went offline.
The 64DD may be seen as the Nintendo 64 equivalent of the Atari Jaguar CD. Both are disc-based add-on consoles, announced in the weeks surrounding the launch of their base consoles. In both cases, the base consoles did not perform as well in the market as their publishers (Nintendo and Atari Corporation) had hoped, and the add-ons were ultimately released for only two reasons: to keep the promise of their release to gamers, and to recoup some of the money already spent on the consoles' development. Because of this, the consoles were both released in limited numbers and with little marketing, made available only in the publisher's home country, and supported for a very short time. Finally, both consoles were released with an unusually high amount of pack-in materials (the Jaguar CD was packed with two games, a soundtrack CD, and a demo disc).
The concept of downloading information was earlier seen in the Famicom Modem for the Famicom and Satellaview for the Super Famicom.
- F-Zero X Expansion Kit - エフゼロ エックス エクスパンション キット - (04/21/00)
- Japan Pro Golf Tour 64 - 日本プロゴルフツアー64 (Nippon Puro Gorufu Tsua 64 - 05/02/00)
- Doshin the Giant - 巨人のドシン1 - (Kyojin no Doshin 1 - 12/01/99)
- Doshin the Giant: Rescue from the Front by the Toddlers that Tinkle at the Large Meeting-hall" - 巨人のドシン解放戦線 チビッコチッコ大集合 (Kyojin no Doshin Kaihō Sensen Chibikko Chikko Daishūgō - 05/17/00)
- Mario Artist: Communication Kit - マリオアーティスト コミュニケーションキット (06/29/00)
- Mario Artist: Paint Studio - マリオアーティスト ペイントスタジ (12/01/99)
- Mario Artist: Polygon Studio - マリオアーティスト ポリゴンスタジオ (08/29/00)
- Mario Artist: Talent Studio - マリオアーティスト タレントスタジオ (02/23/00)
- SimCity 64 - シムシティー64 (02/23/00)
The 64DD had several games announced for it that ended up either canceled or being released on game pak format only; the following is a list of those games:Template:Citation needed
- 7th Legion
- Automobili Lamborghini Add-On
- Banjo-Kazooie 2 (released in game pak as Banjo-Tooie)
- Communication Game (Online game by PostPet development team, japanese famous E-mail software.)
- Creator (later integrated into Mario Artist: Paint Studio)
- DD Sequencer
- Desert Island: No Man's Island
- Dezaemon 3D Expansion Kit
- Digital Horse Racing Newspaper
- Doubutsu Banchou (Animal Leader, released on Nintendo GameCube as Cubivore: Survival of the Fittest)
- Dragon Warrior VII(ported and released on the PlayStation instead)
- DT Blood Masters
- Famicom Classics Vol. 1
- Far East of Eden: Oriental Blue (cancelled, it became a Game Boy Advance title of the same name)
- Final Fantasy VII (development actually never started on Nintendo 64, was later released for the PlayStation)
- Fire Emblem 64 (scrapped, some elements of the plot was later used on the first Fire Emblem for Game Boy Advance, Fire Emblem: Fūin no Tsurugi)
- Gendai Dai-Senryaku: Ultimate War
- Hiryu no Ken Stadium DD Real Version
- Hiryu no Ken Stadium DD SD Version
- Hybrid Heaven (released in game pak)
- Jungle Emperor Leo (Kimba the White Lion)
- Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (released in game pak and moved to Nintendo 64)
- Mario Artist: Game Maker
- Mario Artist: Graphical Message Maker
- Mario Artist: Sound Maker
- Mario Artist: Video Jockey Maker
- Mission: Impossible (released in cartridge)
- Mission: Impossible 64DD
- Morita Shogi 64 (released in cartridge)
- Mother 3 (EarthBound 64) (cancelled, it became a Game Boy Advance title of the same name)
- Mother 3.5 (EarthBound 64 Add-On)
- Ogre Battle Saga
- Pokémon 64/Pokémon RPG
- Pokémon Stadium (moved to Nintendo 64 game pak)
- Pokémon Stadium Expansion Disk
- Pokémon Stadium 2 (also moved to Nintendo 64 game pak)
- Project Cairo
- Quest 64 Add-On
- Resident Evil 0 (Release on Nintendo GameCube)
- Rev Limit
- Seaman (Release on Dreamcast)
- SimCopter 64
- SnowSpeeder (Released in game pak)
- Super Mario 64 2
- Super Mario RPG 2 (released in game pak as Mario Story in Japan and Paper Mario in the rest of the world)
- Tonic Trouble Add-On
- Toukon Road: Brave Spirits Add-On
- Twelve Tales: Conker 64 (released in game pak as Conker's Bad Fur Day)Template:Citation needed
- Wall Street
- Ultra Donkey Kong (released in cartridge as Donkey Kong 64)
- Ura Zelda the expansion disk to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- Yosuke Ide's Mahjong Juku
- Zelda 64 (released in game pak as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
- Zelda Gaiden (later released in game pak as The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask)