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SatellaviewLogo
SatellaviewBoxCovers

Outer (top) and inner (bottom) box covers for the Satellaview bundle.

The Satellaview (サテラビュー, Saterabyū) is a satellite modem add-on for Nintendo's Super Famicom system that was released in Japan in 1995. It retailed for ¥18,000 (about USD$182).[1][2] The Satellaview had several slogans throughout its lifetime including "Kiku Miru Asobu Sankasuru" (「聴く・見る・遊ぶ・参加する」), "Sora kara Game ga Futtekuru" (「空からゲームが降ってくる」), "o-Mise de Kaeru, Uchuu." (「お店で買える、宇宙。」), and "Uchuu kara Atarashii Game ga Furisosogu." (「宇宙から 新しいゲームが 降りそそぐ。」).[3]

It was made in a joint effort between Nintendo and St.GIGA, the latter at the time being a popular Satellite radio company. Contrary to popular belief on the internet, Bandai had no involvement with the hardware or servers, and is only known to have used them to supply expansion data for their SD Gundam G-NEXT game.

The Satellaview had features relatively comparable to Sega's Sega Channel service in North America - its most notable feature was the ability to download games, news magazines and articles from St.GIGA's servers. A feature that was highly important, but has not been nearly as well documented, was its ability to stream Satellite Radio. At times this was used to play Pop music, advertise, or allow people to listen to radio programs while playing games - for certain special games, particularly the games advertised as Soundlink, including the showcasing of members of several popular franchises such as Mario and Zelda, audio was played with the intentional effect of going along with the gameplay, and consisted of character voice acting and arranged game music.


Hardware componentsEdit

The Satellaview was purchased as a bundle including the following hardware components.

Name[4] Part No.[4] Description Image
Cassette for SATELLAVIEW SHVC-028
SHVC-ZBSJ-JPN
G728371
The Satellaview's slotted interface cartridge. Only released prior to 1996. BS-XCart
SATELLAVIEW SHVC-029 The main body of the Satellaview Satellaview
AV Selector SHVC-030 The Audio/Visual connection between the SetTop Box/Satellaview subunit and the gamer's television set. SatellaviewAVSelector
Memory Pack SHVC-031
BSMC-HM-JPN
The standard rewritable data-storage device functioning as an insert into the associated cartridge's slot. 8MMemoryPack
AC Adapter SHVC-032 The power adapter that converted Alternating Current (from the wall socket) to Direct Current (required by the Satellaview/Super Famicom). SatellaviewACAdapter
Power supply Relay Box SHVC-033 An L-shaped bracket that formed the electrical connection between the Satellaview to the Super Famicom. SatellaviewPowerRelayBox
Cassette for SATELLAVIEW SHVC-040
SHVC-ZBSJ-JPN
G728371
The Satellaview's slotted interface cartridge. Only released after 1996. BS-XCart

Development of the SatellaviewEdit

The Satellaview finds its origins in an unsuccessful venture that began between Nintendo and Sony in the late 1980s. Toying with the idea of a shift from cartridge media to the new compact disk technology, Nintendo contracted with Sony to develop the "SNES-CD" to act as an add-on that would fit along the underside of the Super Famicom allowing CD-stored games to be run on the SFC. Before the May 1991 Consumer Electronics Show, Nintendo reneged on the deal with Sony due to arguments over who would control the rights to game content on the new system, and the SNES-CD never saw the light of day. Ironically, Nintendo's actions in this matter resulted in the founding of the Playstation, a console that would soon be Nintendo's biggest competitor.

Turning to Philips in 1992, Nintendo attempted once again to craft a deal that would allow CD-based games to be played on the SFC, but that would retain control over game content for Nintendo. This new deal did not result in the new Super Famicom peripheral that Nintendo had hoped for, and the Nintendo-licensed games that Philips released for its CD-i system (including Link: The Faces of Evil, Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon, Zelda's Adventure, and Hotel Mario) were widely considered by fans to have been a disgraceful offering. They have since entered the gamer lexicon as some of the most notoriously poor members of Nintendo's most popular franchises ever licensed.

With neither the Sony nor the Philips deal having produced a suitable add-on for the SFC (the base of each of which had been designed so as to recess in a subunit peripheral since the late 1980s), Nintendo turned inward to its R&D2 hardware team headed up by former Sharp employee, Masayuki Uemura (上村雅之).

Soured by its experiences with CD-based game-storage, in late 1992 Nintendo made the decision to to look beyond CDs and began making plans concerning the development of a brand new system for game distribution. Considered a spiritual successor to the Nintendo Disk Writer, this new distribution system would allow gamers to download games from a parent source onto a blank game-storage card that could then be written-over by later downloads at the player's convenience. While the earlier Disk Writer system had required players to travel to a compatible kiosk at a licensed game store, and thus had not been a substantive convenience for the gamer over simply traveling to such a kiosk to purchase a new game, the new system would utilize Satellite transmissions to broadcast game content from a central location to players in their very homes. In 1993, Nintendo negotiated a new deal with Broadcast Satellite-based ambient music station, St.GIGA, in which Nintendo purchased a rough 20% stake (just under $10 million (USD) worth of shares) to gain control of broadcasting rights for a limited period daily via St.GIGA's BS-5ch satellite.[5][6] Nintendo would not return to the idea of CD-based game storage until the tail end of the 1990s during their development of the GameCube.

Microsoft agreement

Nintendo's president Hiroshi Yamauchi shakes hands with Microsoft CEO, Bill Gates and NRI president, Koichi Minaguchi (水口 弘一), during negotiations to broaden online distribution shortly after the release of the Satellaview.

Shortly after the agreement with St.GIGA, Nintendo entered into negotiations with Microsoft to use their msn. network for internet connectivity between players and Nintendo. Together these three companies would allow for the success of the Satellaview and would ensure that it maintained its position as a competitive player at the forefront of the field of downloadable games. Although Sega had simultaneously been developing the Sega Channel (released 1994), the Satellaview was seen as having much greater opportunity for expansion into foreign markets. Whereas the Sega Channel required the direct connection of cable TV wires, the Satellaview allowed all players receiving Satellite signals via their parabolic satellite dishes to enjoy such data distribution. Tentative plans were set out to expand Satellaview service into "American territories," "Asia and China" if the system should prove to be popular.[6]


Prototype modelEdit

SatellaviewPrototypeDifferences

An image highlighting the major external differences between the prototype and retail models of the Satellaview.

In late 1994, a prototype model for the Satellaview had been developed, images of which were released to the press. This prototype was quite similar to what would eventually be the final version of the unit, however there were a few notable differences. Most prominently, the rim of the system was solid and thus joined cleanly to the base of the Super Famicom. This close joining was found to make detachment of the Satellaview from the base of the SFC rather difficult and so the final product featured an indentation at the rear of the unit's right-hand side. Of secondary interest, the "Access" and "Power" lights on the prototype were labeled in ink whereas the retail model labeled them with raised plastic lettering.

Further differences between the prototype and the retail models are apparent regarding the BS-X cartridge and the memory pack.

Data distribution schemeEdit

Zu

A summary of St.GIGA's (top) and msn.'s (bottom) role in Satellaview distribution.

Between the original conception of games, game data, and magazines at Nintendo's R&D2 and the reception of the finished product at the Satellaview in the home of the individual gamer there existed a distribution network involving connections to both St.GIGA and Microsoft's msn.. While matters involving game programming, concept, development, and direction fell under the direct control of Nintendo and Nintendo staff, matters such as voice acting, voice direction, and sound-broadcasting were managed by St.GIGA with nothing more than the indirect oversight of Nintendo. Microsoft was responsible for internet-related matters involving the Satellaview including schedule publishing and online PR.

BroadcastSchedule

Satellaview broadcast times varied somewhat from year to year.

Satellaview broadcasts took place between 11:00 and 26:00 JST interrupting an otherwise constant flow of ambient music, classical compositions, and jazz. The musical portion of St.GIGA followed the "Tide of Sound" tidal schedule developed by St.GIGA producer, Hiroshi Yokoi. This schedule was based on the cyclical motif of a 24-hour "tide table" where broadcast times were approximately matched to the current tidal cycle according to the rule of twelfths throughout the 24-hour broadcasting period. Satellaview broadcasts took the form of either SatellaGuide broadcasts, Regular broadcasts, or SoundLink broadcasts. In general Satellaguide broadcasts came early in the cycle (around 11:00-18:00 JST), SoundLink broadcasts came in the middle of the cycle (around 17:00-19:00 JST), and Regular broadcasts filled in the end of the cycle (20:00-26:00 JST). Overlap was also possible, so Regular broadcasts were at times downloadable while Soundlink and SatellaGuide broadcasts were occurring.

Satellaview system

A summary of the connections required for the individual gamer to receive Satellaview broadcasts in his/her home.

Once data was received by the parabolic receptor dish owned by each Satellaview gamer, it was unscrambled via the BS Tuner (under a subscription to St.GIGA's BS-5ch) and was sent to the AV selector that in turn supplied digital information to the Satellaview and television. The Satellaview connected to the Super Famicom via the serial port and the Power Relay Box, and the Super Famicom directed audio/visual information to the gamer's television.

ReferencesEdit

  1. サテラビューセット! お待たせしました店頭販売開始. Shūkan Famitsū. 10-17 November 1995.
  2. サテラビュー購入申し込みページ. Nintendo.co.jp (via Internet Archive). June 5, 1997.
  3. キャッチコピー:ゲーム機. Gadgetovator at Sakuraweb.
  4. 4.0 4.1 SHVC. Maru-Chang.com. Accessed 9 November 2010.
  5. ProGames. Vol 2. "Nintendo Via Satélite." July 1993. Pg.7
  6. 6.0 6.1 C Plus Magazine. "Sega, Nintendo et la Télevision..." Pp.41-42.

External LinksEdit

  • NintendOnline - A 2004 article by N-Sider's Glen Bayer that goes into detail about the Nintendo-Microsoft-NRI online distribution agreements shortly after the release of the Satellaview.

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