Project Reality was the code-name of the project being worked on by Nintendo and Silicon Graphics (SGI) in April 1993 to create a next-generation 3D console. The fact that Nintendo was making a leap to 64-bit worried the likes of Sega and Sony who only had 32-bit consoles to show off and force down consumers' throats.
Nintendo made an announcement in mid 1994 that came as a surprise: the game media for the Ultra 64 (that was what it was called first) would be 100Mbit cartridges and not CDs. The decision to choose cartridges over CDs did make quite a few software developers turn away from the system all together. Not only were cartridges more expensive, but it meant that Nintendo would be the only supplier, enforcing their grip on licenses. Nintendo's defense was to say that cartridges were still the media of choice for home consoles because they did not suffer from slow load times and were more practical than CDs.
The unveiling of the Ultra 64 was meant to come early 1995, but was delayed until the November Shoshinkai, Nintendo's exhibition, in Japan. It was then that two games out of the 11 planned titles were demoed to the public. No one could doubt how impressive the graphics were, however, with none of the games even close to finished, and less than a year to go until release date, speculation started surfacing about whether Nintendo would be able to get the Nintendo 64 (The name change came at Shoshinkai) on shop shelves in time.
In 1995, Nintendo demoed a playable version of Mario 64 at the Japanese Trade Show. The game made up for all the delays and complications that Nintendo had gone through, especially with the very few titles that would be ready by the release date. The crowd loved the game and were convinced that Mario creator Miyamoto had another winner on his hands.
The console was finally released in September 1996 and managed to sell all its initial stock Two years later, The N64 Expansion Pack was released for the console, which added 4MB to the RAM to allow games to include larger levels and higher resolutions.
The N64 retailed for $199 and sold over 30 million units worldwide*.
* Robert Cagley wrote to let us know that the N64 actually retailed for $300 in California and most other states. Thanks!
CPU: 64-bit R4300i RISC (93.75MHz)
/ 64-bit data paths, registers with 5-stage pipelining
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