The Chinese Nintendo 64: iQue

ique_player.gifA not-so-well-known and rather peculiar item on the video game market is the so-called “iQue Player”, a Chinese version of the Nintendo 64. When Nintendo had already abandoned the Nintendo 64 in favour of the GameCube in Western markets and Japan, they decided to re-release the system in China around 2003. At a time when companies around the world were exploring business opportunities in China, Nintendo set up iQue, a Suzhou-based Joint Venture with a Chinese company, to produce the iQue Player, a system based on the Nintendo 64 which uses System-on-chip technology — i.e. the whole Nintendo 64 has been reduced in size to fit on a single chip that rests inside the controller.

The iQue’s controller itself connects directly to the TV. Games are stored on a quite small (size- and memory-wise) 64MB memory cards (divided into 250 so-called “blocks”), which, by default, contain a full version of Dr. Mario and time-limited demo versions of Super Mario 64, Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Wave Race and Starfox. A dozen first party games are available for the system and can be downloaded to the memory card from iQue Depots (lit. “charging station”) or via USB from the Internet at 48 Yuan a game. Piracy is often cited as the motivation behind this choice of hardware architecture. After all, China was the place of origin of the Doctor V64, a Video CD player that was able to copy and run Nintendo 64 games from CD. By selling outdated but attractive games at a low price, Nintendo hoped to deter piracy… [...]