A letter from Peter Main, Executive Vice President:
January 31, 1996
In the 60 days since NINTENDO 64 was unveiled at the Shoshinkai Trade Show in Japan, it has received an overwhelming amount of positive world-wide attention from the media, the trade, financial analysts, and most importantly, video game players themselves. Although the product has yet to be officially demonstrated outside of Japan, I wanted to take a moment to bring you up to date on news made since the show.
At the show, we announced a simultaneous U.S. and European roll-out at the end of April, within days of the scheduled Japan launch. Since then, the realities of attempting to pull off such an enormous, virtually-simultaneous marketing feat have caused us to reconsider.
Before the Shoshinkai show, the Japanese publication Family Computer Magazine, published by Tokuma Publishing, polled Japanese software licensees on their sales expectations for N64 in that country within the first 12 months of availability. Sixty-three percent said unit sales would fall below three million; and 37% predicted sales of three million or more.
After the show, having seen N64 in action, an identical question was put to the same licensees by Takarajimasha Publications. Predictions for three million-plus units the first year suddenly jumped to 65%.
We were greatly gratified (and more than a little overwhelmed) with the predictions: according to those who know the market best, N64 in Japan alone in year one would easily exceed all worldwide sales to date for Sony's Playstation. At that point, we decided to avoid at all costs, the huge problems that the video game industry encountered in 1995 when the U.S. and other markets failed to receive full product or marketing support behind either the Saturn or Playstation launches.
Consequently, while the Japan launch is still set for April 21, the North American launch will now take place on September 30, with Europe to follow in late fall.
In order to further streamline production and to build equity for one world-wide product, Nintendo has now decided to adopt a single name, logo and distinctive hardware design for all markets. The product will be known as Nintendo 64, and the distinctive new logo that you see in the attached ad which will run in USA Today February 2, will soon be recognized in countries around the world, as the new standard for video game excellence.
I am pleased to confirm that we are still planning, as originally announced, to offer the NINTENDO 64 hardware with a manufacturers' suggested retail price of under $250. Software for NINTENDO 64, is also still planned to carry a MSRP consistent with the price range of current best-selling new 16 bit SNES releases.
WRITABLE DISK DRIVE UNIT
While NINTENDO 64 will be introduced, as originally planned, with games on semiconductor Read-Only memory cartridges, the President of Nintendo Co., Ltd., Mr. Yamauchi, formally announced at Shoshinkai the ongoing development of a mass storage device which will allow game players to "write to" or customize the games they're playing. This writable disk drive unit will be attached to the bottom of the N64 console, with magnetic disks front-loaded into the unit. As a further expansion to the N64 system, the writable disk drive unit will be bundled with a 1 or 2 megabyte expansion RAM pack, which the game player can install into the N64's unique memory expansion slot. This expansion pack will further enhance N64's main system memory which is beneficial to both the magnetic disks and cartridges.
The N64's initial game distribution medium, the cartridge, uses Read-Only memory. CD ROM is also a Read-Only memory medium. Our purpose for providing the writable disk drive unit is to capitalize on the WRITABLE feature of this media to give game players a new gaming experience that players have never encountered with semiconductor ROM, CD-ROM or other Read-Only storage media. We are confident that we can provide the best of both worlds: the best action-filled cartridge games making the most of the semiconductor's fast access speed and never-before-experienced games using the virtue of writable magnetic disks. The two will be very complimentary.
The magnetic disks will measure 3 3/4" and will hold 64 megabytes of data or approximately 16 times the data contained in the SNES Donkey Kong Country cartridge. The performance standards for this type of product are measured as Average Seek Time (AST) and Data Transfer Rate (DTR). The AST for the NINTENDO 64 disk drive unit will be 150 ms or almost twice as fast as existing standards for either Playstation or Saturn. The DTR is 1 MB/s or more than triple the speed of the competing products.
Although the manufacturer's suggested retail price is not yet set, we are intent on positioning it as a system expansion; in other words, significantly less expensive than the unit on which it plays. This breakthrough expansion unit is scheduled to be unveiled in late 1996 in Japan. We believe that it will deliver an equally-impressive technological advantage as that which the N64 will enjoy over competing machines. As previously announced, the raw operating speed of N64, or the CPU clock speed, is an incredible 94 Mhz versus only 34 Mhz for Playstation and 28 Mhz for Saturn.
Obviously this is the single most important part of the equation. All the technical data in the world about hardware superiority, won't be the answer with this next generation of video gaming.
The key is to ensure that all software for NINTENDO 64 truly delivers a quantum leap in total game play value over anything currently experienced on any dedicated gaming machine or personal computer. Based upon the incredible reaction to the stunning Super Mario 64 game at the Shoshinkai Show, from retailers, developers, media and game players of all ages, we're obviously on the right track.
From the start, it has not been our intent to rush as many titles as possible to the market. That's because we want to ensure that each title we release for the system to be capable of surpassing any prior video game experience. The games currently under development by our 17 hand-picked Nintendo second and third-party developers, plus the impressive Nintendo titles from our in-house development teams, will be the true testimony to this promise. The plan is to introduce 8-12 of these spectacular titles to the North American market in 1996.
I am pleased to be able to provide you with this important update on NINTENDO 64, and look forward to providing you with further details over the weeks ahead. The full unveiling of NINTENDO 64: the next generation of video gaming, will take place at the E3 show May 16-18 in Los Angeles.
Executive Vice President
Sales and Marketing
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