Video game hardware manufacturers have long faced a problem when it comes to delivering a game console for the lucrative-yet-pirate-prone Chinese market. Copyright laws are lax in China (to say the least) and many companies, such as Sony and Microsoft, have avoided releasing their wares in this branch of the Asian community. Long-standing game behemoth Nintendo has also resisted, but in September 2003 the company announced plans for a China-only game console that would combine the best features of the Nintendo 64 and the Famicom Disk System. The new console would not take game paks, but would instead take 64-megabit flash memory cards which will hold three games each. The cards would be purchased at local shops and gamers could copy available titles from a hub machine connected to the Internet to the memory card (much like how the old Famicom Disk System of the 1980s worked). This new system, known as the iQue Player, is based on Nintendo 64-era technology and will play Nintendo 64 and Super Nintendo Entertainment System games that have been translated into Chinese. By encouraging copying for a reasonable price (498 yuan for the console, 48 yuan for each game copied to a card), Nintendo hopes to avoid the rampant piracy that tends to go on in the region with traditional cartridge- and disc-based media.

The unit itself is a console and a controller combined in one item. It resembles a fusion of a Nintendo 64 and a Nintendo GameCube controller (with the analog stick being on the left side above the control pad and the N64's buttons on the right half), only bulkier to hold all the actual console hardware. The flash cards slide into the bottom of the unit, and the whole thing plugs directly into a television. yerricde summed it up nicely when he said "It's a N64 packed into an Xbox controller's form factor that plays Chinese N64 games on a flash cart."

Nintendo is the first video game company to release officially licensed products for the Chinese video game market (existing games in China are either pirated or imported from other countries) and has high hopes for the system. The company plans to initially offer ten Nintendo 64 titles, including the original N64 killer app Super Mario 64, plus popular hits StarFox 64, Wave Race 64, Dr. Mario 64, and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as a test to see how well the system sells. One iQue package features time-limited demos of these games, while a full-priced edition features the actual full games. The initial release of the iQue began in December 2003 in three territories - Shanghai, Guanzhou and Chengdu - before expanding out to other communities based upon successful sales rates. If this gambit pays off for Nintendo, it could finally open up China to the worldwide gaming market.

In December 2004 Nintendo will begin selling a special USB adaptor for the iQue that will allow users to plug the iQue into a home PC. The connection will enable the unit to connect to the Internet to download games (for a fee, of course) and compete against other players online. This service, known as iQue@Home, follows in the footsteps of Nintendo's former Asian online services, Satellaview and RandNet.


References:
http://quote.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000080&sid=a1xe1_OtjGFA
http://games.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/09/24/2357243&mode=thread&tid=127&tid=137&tid=186
http://n-philes.com/php/epyuvpzzfyafalzfkl.php
http://www.gamespot.com/news/2004/10/22/news_6111231.html

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