Nintendo’s N64 console could have been one of the first video game consoles to be connected to the internet, featuring competitive multiplayer and an online store, a senior employee at Vidyo has revealed.

While working at another company fifteen years ago, Amnon Gavish, the Senior Vice President for Vertical Solutions at Vidyo, has explained how the Nintendo 64 could have had an embedded software dial-up modem and included a telephone jack on the console.

“I was part of a project that involved embedding a software dial up modem into the Nintendo N64 game console,” Gavish said. “Nintendo is known for being THE innovator in the TV gaming field, and at that time they came up with the concept of head-to-head games and an online game shop, way before any of their competition.”

His account, published on the official Vidyo blog, also reveals just how careful and considerate Nintendo were about getting the N64 just right. Reading between the lines, some of it echoes the current product philosophy surrounding Apple at the moment.

“At one point during the N64 project, we sat in a design meeting and spent over an hour discussing such details as: where to place the telephone jack on the console, how long of a telephone cord would be required and what would happen if there was no telephone jack in the living room,” Gavish said. “An hour-long discussion about a telephone cord?! I mention this now because that is the attention that Nintendo places on the smallest detail.”

Playing online with family, friends and complete strangers is an established part of video games now, but it’s actually a fairly new innovation for the industry when you consider its somewhat long and arduous history.

Xbox Live is seen by many to be the pinnacle of online gameplay, combining dedicated servers, cross-game chat and an intutitive interface. PCs aside, it’s the first system to make the experience fairly stress free.

Before Xbox Live, however, there was really only one hardware manufacturer interested in online gameplay; Sega. The Dreamcast was a curious beast, trying out very innovate ideas both in its hardware and first-party software. While it quickly gained critical success, it lost out in the console wars to the unstoppable Sony PlayStation.

Nintendo, meanwhile, seemed to show no interest whatsoever in online connectivity until the Nintendo GameCube. Who knew they were thinking about implementing it as far back as the Nintendo 64 though?

Vidyo has recently partnered with Nintendo to deliver its video calling technology in the WiiU. It’s an interesting development for the big N, who has typically focused on the gameplay experience and very little else. Additional functionality, including media and chat, has always felt like an afterthought on most of its home consoles.

Plenty of people are voicing concerns about the WiiU at the moment; is it powerful enough to compete with the next generation? Will enough third-party publishers support it? Is the online functionality capable enough?

While there is truth in some of those questions, the anecdote above should show that Nintendo isn’t doing any of this halfheartedly. They have a game plan with the WiiU. Perhaps we just don’t see it yet.

Image Credit: NilssonJonas