The question sounds insane. Really. But after Screencritics found out that Macronix, a Chinese memory manufacturer, released a financial earnings statement showing they were expecting a ‘large growth increase’ in the amount of ROM chips being needed for Nintendo based products, the question becomes a little less insane and worth investigating.
Macronix currently manufacture the ROM chips for both Nintendo consoles, as well as the chips found in Nintendo’s 3DS cartridges. So whilst this is pure speculation and should be taken with a rather large grain of salt, the question should be asked.
“What would a modern cartridge based console look like?”
Technology has come a LONG way since the sun set on the Nintendo 64, the last successful cartridge based game system, in 2003. Back then, USB drives and flash memory were rarely available and CD’s were far and away a more cost effective way of storing large amounts of data. Sony saw the writing on the wall for ROM Cartridges and effectively ended their existence with the release of the Playstation and things have been more or less CD/DVD/Blu Ray based ever since.
CD’s and its subsequent successors have their perks, however they also bring with them a fair share of negatives as well. For instance, even back in 2003, CD’s boasted a much slower read time than Cartridges (Yay 4 loading screens) and they required many more ‘moving parts’ be built into the consoles themselves, (lasers, disc spinney things) which in turn could break and generally wear down over time. In modern times, it has also meant that large portions of games, need to be installed onto the console’s in built hard drive in order to read at quicker times and apply downloadable patches due to game discs being a non-writable media.
It seems like the BIGGEST reason companies shifted to CD based gaming was due to space. You could just fit MORE on a CD. But that is just not the case anymore. The latest iteration of Blu Ray (BDXL) boasts a write size of 128GB. Whereas 256GB USB drives are readily available these days, with 512 GB and even 1 TB drives available for those that need it.
If Nintendo IS considering a move back to a cartridge based console, it could turn out to be a VERY smart move. Better read speeds and a larger capacity would mean (theoretically) better quality games. Less moving parts required to read discs within the console could mean a more reliable unit that stands the test of time. (my original NES, still working! Been through 8 Xbox 360’s though…) And the ability to write directly onto the cartridge, could mean no more pesky game installs. Hell, we could even see blank cartridges being sold at retailers, giving gamers the ability to write their digitally downloaded games to an official Nintendo cartridge and free up their console.
Keep in mind, this is all conjecture. But it has me excited.