Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgNintendo Gateway System
The Nintendo Gateway System was a service designed to provide networked SNES gaming services. It was designed for airplanes (and was one of the first in-seat airline entertainment services, as far as I can tell) and hotels. Lodgenet was the most widespread pay-per-view system for hotels that used it. There was a summary of the Nintendo Gateway System on their (now dead) website, which gives a good overview of where you might have been able to use the system. I've copied the relevant sections below:
What is the Nintendo Gateway SystemTM?
Nintendo Gateway System
Nintendo Gateway System for Airlines
The system for airlines works like any modern airline entertainment system, with a controller bar that could sit in the armrest. According to people who used the service, it could take several minutes to start a game (probably downloading them from a central server on the plane), and had the unfortunate downside of the game restarting if there was an in-flight announcement. The best picture I could find of this unit is from an article that Planet Nintendo did in 2002, when they visited Nintendo's office in Seattle:
There is an extensive article about the airline unit in the February 1994 issue of Nintendo Power. Initially, they had to cut down the capabilities to allow it to work within the confines of the airline. One of the initial limitations was that it could only handle 16 Meg games, as they were downloaded to a 2 MB RAM storage unit (so later titles like Donkey Kong Country would not have worked on the initial version of the system). They had a couple of pictures of the initial system:
There were apparently two known hardware units that use the system for airline entertainment: The Panasonic System 2000E and Rockwell Collins' 150/150i. Rockwell Collins has manuals for their unit on their website, but at $2000+ each, we aren't going to be seeing those anytime soon. Given that price, you can only imagine what they charged for the system itself.
According to a Popular Science article from December 1993, they charged $4 per hour for games, and they were stored on a single floppy disc. If the article is to be believed, the central computer running the system was driven directly by the SNES hardware, which may have meant it had the capability of running streaming audio (think MSU-1).
However, it probably was running on a DOS based system. Here is an anecdote from Chris Covell's website:
Along the way, I was able to play one of the fabled entertainment systems installed in the back of the airplane's seats: a PC-based map viewer and a Super Famicom with a selection of games. That was cool, but I crashed the software somehow (that's how I know it was a regular DOS (?) PC), and I was expecting the plane to crash anytime soon, or at least get chewed out for something... but no problem. The system came back on in a few minutes and I had one more go of Shanghai before we landed.
The Nintendo Gateway system was mentioned in the Spanish video game magazine Hobby Consolas in 1994:
Ricky, from my Discord server has translated the article for me.
Flying in an airplane has never been more fun.
Alas, since it is 2015, it is unlikely this system is still widely used in airlines. Luckily, we do have a couple of screenshots of the system in action on an Air Canada flight. Thanks to Jorpho for sending me these pictures. There is a good overview of his experience on a post on Digital Press.
Nintendo Gateway System for Hotels
According the Nintendo Gateway System website, there were at least three companies that provided hotel units with the system. The most common one is Lodgenet, which apparently had well over half a million SNES units installed as of 1998 (according to Lodgenet's corporate newsletter). According to the article in the November 1994 issue of Nintendo Power, they had began beta testing of the Lodgenet system in early 1994. I found a Reddit thread that explains how it works:
As far as the SNES, N64, and GameCube are concerned, the games are stored on a central server in the LodgeNet equipment rack in the hotel's underbelly. The controller connects to the internal card (or set top box on older systems) that handles all the LodgeNet traffic for movies, games, music, etc. and the game plays from the central server.
There is also an image of the system running on the cover of the second issue of Lodgenet's corporate newsletter (circa late 1997). I've cropped it below. Obviously the main interface went through revisions, as it differs from the above image.
The hotel unit hardware is actually not hard to come across. Matthew Callis bought one and sent me these pictures. Note that the controller is not a standard SNES controller, the cord is more like an phone cable cord.
Given the casual nature of the audience of the Nintendo Gateway System, it is probably not surprising that Nintendo made a few simple games targeted directly for the system. None of these games were available commercially, and it is entirely possible that we will never get to see these in action (save Noughts & Crosses), given the duration of time since this service was in use.
Noughts & Crosses
This is the only game of the three exclusives that has been discovered. DreamTR owns a copy of this, and has kindly provided some pictures for SNES Central. In the old article of this, I mistakenly called it "Naughts & Crosses". At any rate, it is just a fancy version of Tic-Tac-Toe. The cart the game is on is a SA-1 flash cart. It almost seems like overkill to use the SA-1 for Tic-Tac-Toe, but there it is. The 1998 copyright screen suggests that this was made as an update to appeal to the airline service, that would not be able to upgrade to the N64 the same way that Lodgenet was able to. Here is the description of the game in the instruction manual:
Revisit your school days and experiences the fun of Noughts & Crosses! Your objective as "X" is to make a solid line before your "O"pponent. Winning five games on each grid size moves you to the next challenging level. Select the timer option to limit the time a player has to place a piece.
There is no information on this game aside from the description in the instruction manual.
Hangman is a word guessing game where the player chooses the letter of a mystery word until that word is complete. If the player misses a certain number of letters, the player loses one "life."
Like Hangman, there is no information on this game aside from what is written in the instruction manual.
Slide tiles around to reassemble the original Postcard image. Only tiles that are adjacent to an empty space can be moved. A timer keeps track of your best time. There are two grid levels, Easy (4 x 4) and Hard (8 x 8).
Although Tetris & Dr. Mario was available on the Nintendo Gateway System, Nintendo also included a stand-alone version of the game for the system. Unlike the above titles, this was available on the Nintendo Power service in Japan. Here is a screenshot from that version:
List of games
This is a list of games that were used in the Nintendo Gateway System. Links go to PDFs with instructions that were on the old website for the service. There were different games available depending on whether the TV standard was PAL or NTSC (obviously), but the airline system also had a subset of games that were not the same as in hotel.
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