Nintendo Power (cartridge)
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The Nintendo Power (Japanese: ニンテンドーパワー Hepburn: Nintendō Pawā) flash RAM cartridge is a Japan-only peripheral which was produced by Nintendo for the Super Famicom and the Game Boy. The now defunct service allowed owners to download Super Famicom and Game Boy games onto a special flash memory cartridge for a lower price than that of the full cartridge.
A similar system of rewritable kiosk distribution had previously been used with the Famicom Disk Writer kiosks of the 1980s. Nintendo deployed another dynamic flash storage subsystem on the Satellaview peripheral in 1995, for delivering a different set of unique Super Famicom games via the now defunct St.GIGA satellite network. The Super Famicom version of Nintendo Power was released in late 1996, and was perceived by the press as being in part an effort to free up retailer shelf space for more Nintendo 64 products. In 2003, Nintendo launched another game delivery kiosk network for the iQue Player in China.
During the days of the Family Computer, Nintendo developed the Disk System, a disk drive expansion for the Famicom with expanded RAM which allows players to use rewritable disk media called "disk cards". The system was relatively popular, but suffered from issues of limited capacity. However, Nintendo did see a market for an economical rewritable medium due to the popularity of the Disk System. The Nintendo Power cartridges address the issue of potential copyright infringement by the fact that they are highly proprietary and more difficult for illicit duplication, as opposed to being a somewhat more commoditized medium like the floppy disk. The limited capacity issue was addressed by maximizing the size of the flash memory in the cartridge to 4 megabytes (32 megabits), the largest amount used by the vast majority of Super Famicom games.
Each cartridge's flash RAM is divided internally into eight blocks. Unless an 8-block game is loaded onto the cartridge, however, one block is reserved for the game selection menu, leaving only seven blocks for games. In addition, each cartridge has a small amount of SRAM for game saves, which is divided into sixteen blocks. Games are rounded up in capacity; for example, a 10 megabit Super Famicom game needs three flash RAM blocks totaling 12 megabits, and a Game Boy game that needs 100 kilobits of save space would need two SRAM blocks totaling 128 kilobits. The system does have one limitation: games that utilize a special chip (such as the Super FX) cannot be placed on the Nintendo Power cartridge, as the required chip is not present.
A user would first purchase the RAM cartridge itself, then bring it to a store which had a Nintendo Power copier. The player would select games to be copied to the cartridge. In addition, the store would provide the purchaser with a printed copy of the manual for the game. Game prices varied, with older titles being relatively cheap, and newer titles and Nintendo Power exclusives being more expensive.
MSRP – ¥3,980
- Onboard flash RAM (for game data) – 32 megabits total (4 megabits/block × 8 blocks)
- Onboard SRAM (for game saves) – 256 kilobits total (16 kilobits/block × 16 blocks)
MSRP – ¥2,500
- Onboard flash RAM (for game data) – 8 megabits total (1 megabit/block × 8 blocks)
- Onboard SRAM (for game saves) – 1024 kilobits total (64 kilobits/block × 16 blocks)
- Svensson, Christian (February 1997). "Nintendo's Download Dream". Next Generation. No. 26. Imagine Media. p. 28.
- Robinson, Andy (February 8, 2007). "Nintendo Closes Nintendo Power". Computer and Video Games. Archived from the original on May 9, 2013. Retrieved May 9, 2015.
- "Tidbits...". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 90. Ziff Davis. January 1997. p. 26.
- Nintendo Corporation Ltd. Nintendo Power website (in Japanese) at the Wayback Machine (archived February 25, 2007)