Some Thoughts on DVD-RAM...

by Jaymin Reed - October 18, 1999, 1:57 am PDT

Jaymin gives his thoughts on the DVD format and Nintendo's relationship with Panasonic in this editorial.

While I myself was always a proponent for 64 DD-ish tech in Dolphin (first publicly speculated by Steven Thomas,) I must admit that DVD RAM, or perhaps even the new MEI/Toshiba/SanDisk SD Memory cards (MEI's memory stick killers) are much more likely for the writeable aspect of Dolphin. DVD Ram drives will be cheaper than DVD drives are today in the middle of Y2K. DVD RAM is also the most reliable from of optical data backup out there (CD RW, and DVD+R/W, are not quite as reliable.) The SD memory cards are already likely to be integrated into the Dolphin, but knowing Nintendo's keen eye for innovation, a DVD RAM drive is not out of the question. Remember, DVD RAM drives inherently read DVD ROM content (as ruled by the DVD Forum,) so not all companies are forced to use the more expensive DVD RAM disks (only companies like NIntendo, Square, and Konami would opt for the writeable aspect, at least at first,) so the "more expensive disks" argument is quite weak against the proposal. Nintendo wanted a fully rewriteable media, but was forced to go DVD by the market conditions (IE: Sony went DVD.) Nintendo also had great timing. In early '97, MEI (or "Panasonic," the lead brand name) met with reps from NCL to discuss a future convergence on a series of digitally networked home appliances. Both knew full well Sony was allying with Toshiba to design the Emotion Engine, the heart of the PSX2, and that it would have an embedded MPEG-2 decoder, signifying DVD. MEI's arch nemesis was now completely dependant on PlayStation for its long term profitability, earning (then) 26% of its annual profits from PSX (now 26% of revenue, and 40% profits.) Sony was being kept competitive with MEI thanks to PSX, and was prospering. Panasonic needed to shut PlayStation down, or at least gain a similar success. Where else to turn but to the company that was actually challenging PSX with an inferior media, and Japan's #1 tech firm, Nintendo (who was then about to sign a DVD agreement with Sharp Corp.) Nintendo and Panasonic agreed to converge on digitally networked home appliances, beginning with Nintendo's next-generation machine, and Nintendo's part culminating with "Dolphin's" integration into MEI's future digital network components (DVD audio/Video players.) Nintendo soon signed a long term deal with IBM to design the heart of the videogame component of this network, and then settled a lawsuit with SGI, and signed on tiny upstart ArtX to design the "Gekko's" embedded buddy. "Dolphin" as we knew it was born.

However, Nintendo was always discontented by its non-writeable media. Panasonic later unveils (or rather, will unveil,) an ultra-cheap, DVD recorder based on DVD RAM writeable technology. The drive will be cheaper than current DVD and Video Cassette recorders/drives. Nintendo has an opportunity to then please all parties. It itself has the opportunity to make writeable media aspects of its game ON the disk, and poorer third parties have the option to go with ordering (by then) dirt-cheap DVD ROM discs. The best of both worlds.

However, MEI is also working on its own next generation Flash mem card, starting at 64 MB. This will offer similar functionality to the DVD RAM drive, yet in smaller quantities (yet still sufficent for ONE title, some would argue.) Well, why not have both? That way, Nintendo, Konami, etc., can integrate their more versatile DVD RAM writeability aspects, and third parties that opt for the DVD ROM discs (and their attractive price,) will still have some sort of writeability, albeit not on the disc itself (some would argue this is better, though.)

Just a point to ponder.

NOTE: The SD Memory card looks very attractive. One of its primary functions will be the transfer of digital music files from the internet to portable music players, cpu players, etc. It would make an awful nice memory card for a console, not to mention the main media type of another digital networkable videogaming appliance. A portable one, with a 32-bit RISC processor....

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