Much like the Super NES
had the Satellaview
online service in Japan
, the Nintendo 64 64DD
had the RandNet service (named for the two companies involved with the project, 'Recruit
' and 'Nintendo
'). Launched in December 1999, the RandNet service allowed gamers to compete against each other online, play new unreleased games before they hit the stores, surf the Internet
, listen to music online, and much more.
The RandNet Starter Kit came packaged with 64DD machines and included everything a gamer would need to access the service (except a credit card, of course, to be billed the ¥2500 per month price tag)...
- Nintendo 64 Modem: The Nexus-developed software modem was housed on a special cartridge that plugs into the N64's cart slot. The Modem Cart has a port to plug in the included modular cable which then connects to the network.
- Expansion Pak: This 4MB RAM Expansion brings the N64's system RAM to 72 megabits. The rest of the world received this item for free with purchase of Donkey Kong 64.
- 64DD: The writable 64MB disk drive attachment made network use and data saving possible. Without it the RandNet service is useless.
- Member Disk: This is the disk that lets users access the "members only" information exchange page as well as the Internet. Think of it as the same kind of copy protection that requires PC users to place a game CD in the drive before it will load.
Once logged on to the service players could choose from a variety of options for fun and games...
- Battle Mode: Gamers play against each other, swap scores, and compete against players from all over the country.
- Observation Mode: Spy on other players and watch their game sessions.
- Beta Test: Play a few sample levels from upcoming new games.
- Information Exchange: Online message boards and e-mail for communicating with other users.
- Community: Swap messages with the actual game programmers and producers about their upcoming products and old favorites.
- Internet Surfing: Surf the Net with the custom web browser.
- Digital Magazine: Check online sports scores, weather, and news.
- Music Distribution: Listen to CD-quality music, some of which has yet to be released in stores.
- Editing Tool: Create your own custom avatars to interact with other users.
RandNet was a semi-popular service, considering the limited 64DD
user base. One of the most substantial group of games to include RandNet support was the Mario Artist
series that allowed users to swap their artwork creations with others. Contests and other special events also occured every now and then. Unfortunately the service was not successful enough to justify its continued existance, so in February 2001 the plug was pulled, leaving all that RandNet hardware useless. Don't cry for the user base, however. Nintendo
graciously bought back all the RandNet-related hardware (gamers could keep the 64DD
which was more than able to function on its own) and gave all users free service from the time the closure of the service was announced until the day it actually went offline.