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Why Nintendo Had To Emulate The N64 On A Super-computer For Most Of Development
Rather than the usual story of developers testing software out on development kits of new consoles, Nintendo took a markedly different approach with the Nintendo 64. The company actually spent most of the 64-bit system's development cycle testing its software on an advanced supercomputer, rather than the hardware itself, but it was for a good reason.
As former Nintendo programmer Giles Goddard explained, "We didn't actually have any final hardware for a long time, so what we were doing is we had a huge Onyx supercomputer in the backroom at Nintendo that was basically emulating what the hardware would be eventually. That was quite a good system, because they would just update the hardware virtually.”
While it was originally scheduled for release in late 1995, Nintendo delayed the console, eventually bumping it to a mid-1996 debut. Based on Goddard's account and the issues in getting the final product out the door, it appears that the N64 had a complex development journey with hardware revisions and iterations extending late into the cycle.