Nintendo Famicom Disk System
Type Console Add-On Developer Nintendo
Release Date 1986-Feb-21 Region(s) Japan, China
Initial Price $149 USD Games Released 229
     by Dark Watcher
To understand the reason for the Famicom Disk System's existence, you need to look back to 1985.  While video game consoles were dead in the US, the Famicom boom was taking hold of Japan's populous.  However, the game's time honored ROM cart manufacturing was expensive.  Even the simplest games retailed for over 5000 yen, bringing them beyond the reach of most children's allowances.  Nintendo's answer?  Release games on disks, which are much cheaper than cartridges to make.  A disk's contents can also be changed easily and at low cost to the buyer.  And so the Famicom Disk System was born.

Nintendo's disk format sparked a wave of enthusiasm among Japanese game freaks at the time.  Once you buy a disk, you can change the contents of the disks as many times as you want, as long as the disk holds out, for 500 yen per game.  Disk Writers were available in toy and department stores all across Japan and getting a new game written was as simple as waiting a couple of minutes.  The very first Disk System game was none other than The Legend of Zelda.
However, even though over two million Disk Systems were sold in 1986, results still were not as great as the expectations Nintendo had.  For one, ROM cartridge technology eventually progressed well beyond the disk's 64k per side capacity.  The Disk System was suddenly killed in 1988 when Nintendo literally took them off the shelves due to rampant illegal copying of the disks, but the system lasted long enough to give some great games.

The Disk System was a moderate success.  Over 220 games (licensed and non) were released and Disk Writers were chugging away in stores until 1993.  Nintendo even held several special contests using Disk Fax machines that read the high scores on an inserted disk and sent them to Nintendo for inclusion in a national scoreboard.  Many of the popular disk games were converted to cartridge form.  The rest of the world saw Zelda in cart form.  Another popular title called Doki Doki Panic was also converted to cart with changes that took advantage of the Mario character's popularity.  The game became Super Mario 2 in the USA.
     by Marriott_Guy
Nintendo has always been at the forefront of new gaming technology and has always challenged the ways of conducting business.  Some of their ventures were quite successful, some simply failed miserably.  The Famicom Disk System, released in 1986, probably straddles the fence in this area.

At the time, the standard cartridge format was king, but rather expensive to manufacture and hence pricey for the end consumer (about $50 USD for a game cartridge at the time).  This format also had an Achilles heel - the inability to save game data.  Battery back-up technology for carts had not yet been developed.  Another item that had handcuffed game developers was the small size of the development canvas of the cartridge.  The Nintendo Famicom was flourishing in Japan and the question became how to parlay this success and increase profits and distribution.  Nintendo's answer - change the media format.

The Family Computer Disk System is not a stand-alone console - it is a peripheral for the Nintendo Famicom (similar to a CD add-on for the Sega Genesis).  It uses 3.0" floppy disks as the media format.  The system itself connects to the Famicom via the included RAM Adapter - a cartridge that is inserted into the Famicom, with a cable that connects directly to the Famicom Disk System.  The console is powered by the supplied AC adaptor or 6 "C" celled batteries.
The unit resides below the main mother ship, somewhat similar to the first run Sega CD system with its parent Sega Genesis.  The red and black casing fit perfectly with the original design of the Famicom.  A simple yellow eject button flanks the floppy drive slot.  Though rather understated in appearance, it does compliment the Famicom extremely well.  Underneath the hood, the Famicom Disk System added a bit more RAM to provide subtle video/audio enhancements to the Famicom.  The system is prone to having belt drive issues, which include breaking, or even worse, melting within the console.  The bad thing is that this simple rubber piece is not a standard size and is only available through Nintendo in Japan.  Though it is understandable to protect a system using proprietary replacement parts, this is a bit much.  The main function that all of this technology served was as to provide the gateway to this new floppy disk media format.

The floppy disk format had many advantages over standard ROM cartridge technology, the first being reduced cost.  Manufacturing expense was decreased by nearly 60% when distributing a game via floppy disk versus the standard ROM cart.  This savings was passed on to the end consumer.  Games in this format did not cost $50 USD anymore - you could get them for $5 USD (more on this later).  Another plus was the increased storage space of the floppy disk.  The double-sided 56 KB disks (called Disk Cards by Nintendo) offered the game developer much more freedom and liberty to increase game size and complexity.
The last benefit of the Disk Card was that they were rewritable.  True 'game save' technology was now possible (a huge win for the gaming community).  This rewritable feature also changed the way Nintendo distributed games - the game kiosk.

Games for the Famicom Disk System were sold the traditional way in stores - same as for any other gaming platform.  The competitive advantage of the Disk Card to overwrite existing data opened a new method of software delivery - what we would call today 'digital distribution'.  Nintendo made gaming kiosks widely available.  The purpose of these devices was to download games to your Disk Card for around $5 USD per game.  Don't like a game, no problem - simply bring it to one of these automated vendors and overwrite it with a new title of your choosing.  The game library was not comprised of a bunch of slouches either.  The first Famicom Disk System game was one of the pride and joys of Nintendo to this very day - The Legend of Zelda.  Over 220 games were released for this system - many since ported to the cartridge format (once cart size and technology had sufficiently advanced).  Life was good for the Nintendo and its Famicom Disk System - for around two years.  The Disk Card format and the Famicom Disk System itself were truly innovative, but both suffered from serious flaws.

The Disk Card format was even worse in some regards.  Game development pushed the envelope of this format, utilizing both sides of the disk.  This would cause the gamer to have to 'flip' the disk to continue game play.  This is still the case even in today's next-gen games that span multiple DVDs, so this is nothing more than a minor irritant.  As with other floppy disks, the failure rate of this format is another issue.  Disks could become demagnetized over time and unusable. The main problem that eventually put this system to rest: piracy.

The Disk Card format that was created by Nintendo did have some protection to prevent theft of data.  Shortly after its debut, bootleg versions of licensed Famicom Disk System games began to surface all throughout Asia and Europe.  Nintendo attempted to prevent this through various changes to system and game programming, but in the end the pirates always had an answer to these new anti-theft deterrents and eventually prevailed.  Nintendo finally pulled the plug on the Famicom Disk System in 1989, though games for this system (both licensed and non) were made available through kiosks (and other unlicensed sources) through 1993.

Though the Famicom Disk System was very innovative at the time, the inability to curtail unbridled piracy of game software proved to be its downfall.  There was one thing that was not duplicated by outside sources with this system - the only officially recognized Nintendo mascot, Mr. Disk.

System belt failure and Disk Card demagnetization are common - ensure to verify both are in good working order prior to any purchase.  The belts will cost you around $10 USD, plus shipping (most likely from Japan).   Ensure you see test play first for both any system and game purchases you intend on making.
     Officially licensed releases
Nintendo Family Computer Disk System (Model # HVC-022)

     Non-licensed hardware releases
Family Computer Disk System - Hong Kong Version (not sure this was ever authorized by Nintendo)

     by Marriott_Guy
Consoles are rated based upon the available technology at the time of its release.  A 10 point scale is utilized, with 10 being excellent.

Console Design 08 The Disk System is the perfect compliment to your existing Famicom console.  Though the unit does not firmly attach to the console, the presentation just screams class IMHO.
Console Durability 03 When adding this console to your collection, be prepared to work on one of these devils at some point.  The drive belt is fragile and known for breaking, sometimes even melting.  Replacing these can be a tricky proposition, requiring a little mechanical aptitude to perform the delicate procedure.
Controllers N\A This add-on utilizes the standard controllers of the Famicom.
Graphics 08 The increased storage capacity initially made Disk Card offerings graphically better than their cartridge counterparts.  As cartridge technology evolved, this advantage would become nullified.
Audio 07 Same as above. 
Media 03 While innovative for the time, the Disk Card was very prone to demagnetizing rendering the title  unplayable.   
Gamer Value 08 With over 220 titles released, there is plenty for everyone regardless of genre.  Most titles received a cartridge version, but many exclusives make this a worthwhile investment for the average gamer.
Collector Value 06 Though rather common, the Famicom Disk System is a great addition to one's collection.  Ensure that it is in good working order prior to purchasing.  The most desirable unit is the first run, which features a cardboard outer housing that encapsulates the styro-foam inner case.

     Interesting facts on software for this system
As described earlier, software for the Famicom Disk System was distributed on floppy disks called Disk Cards.  Games could be purchased as a standalone title or downloaded to a blank diskette via official Nintendo kiosks.

Most titles were distributed in clear, hard plastic casings that contained an insert for cover art.  A floppy disk pocket holder was provided for the actual game.  The instruction manual was packed separately and was attached to the outside of the main housing.  Some third party developers deviated from this standard format, utilizing larger cardboard boxes.

An impressed Nintendo is featured on the bottom of the game disk.  In addition to providing system identification, this aspect of the Disk Card acted as a pseudo security feature.  The "I" and the third "N" within the lettering are slightly raised, which allowed the disk to be firmly seated within the drive.  In the end, this proved to be only a mild irritant to developers (and pirates) which could be easily circumvented.
applemctom's Games that Defined Compiliation

Famicom Disk System Game Boxes

     Captured in-game images
Akumajou Dracula
Akumajou Dracula Screenshot
Armana no Kiseki
Arumana no Kiseki Screenshot
Dirty Pair: Project Eden
Dr. Chaos Ligoku no Tobira
Dr. Chaos Ligoku no Tobira Screenshot
Dracula II: Noroi no Fuuin
Dracula II: Noroi no Fuuin Screenshot
Exciting Basketball
Exciting Basketball Screenshot
Famicom Grand Prix II - 3D Hot Rally
Famicom Grand Prix II - 3D Hot Rally Screenshot
Famicom Golf: Japan Course
Famicom Computer: Golf Japan Course Screenshot
Family Composer
Family Composer Screenshot
Final Commando: Akai Yousai
Final Commando: Akai Yousai Screenshot
Fuuun Shourinken - Ankoku no Maou
Fuuun Shourinken - Ankoku no Maou Screenshot
Gail Force: Eternal Story
Gail Force: Eternal Story Screenshot
Halley Wars
Halley Wars Screenshot
Hikari Shinwa: Palutena no Kagami
Hikari Shinwa: Palutena no Kagami Screenshot
Karate Champ
Karate Champ Screenshot
Konamic Ice Hockey
Konamic Ice Hockey Screenshot
Koneko Monogatari: Adventures of Chatran
Koneko Monogatari: The Adventures of Chatran Screenshot
Matou no Houkai: The Hero of Babel
Matou no Houkai: The Hero of Babel Screenshot
Monty no Doki Doki Daidassou
Monty no Doki Doki Daidassou Screenshot
Putt Putt Golf
Putt Putt Golf Screenshot
Relics Ankoku Yousai
Relics Ankoku Yousai Screenshot
SD Gundam : Scramble Wars
SD Gundam : Scramble Wars Screenshot
Smash Ping Pong
Smash Ping Pong Screenshot
Super Mario Bros.
Super Mario Bros. Screenshot
Tennis Screenshot
Tobidase Daisakusen
Tobidase Daisakusen Screenshot
Transformers: The Head Masters
Transformers: The Head Masters Screenshot
Ultraman Kaijuu Teikoku no Ggyakushuu
Ultraman Kaijuu Teikoku no Ggyakushuu Screenshot
Vs. Excitebike
Vs. Excitebike Screenshot
Youkai Yashiki
Youkai Yashiki Screenshot
Yume Koujou Doki Doki Panic
Doki Doki Panic Screenshot
Yuu Maze
Yuu Maze Screenshot
     First and third party system emulators

 Famicom, Disk System and Nintendo Entertainment System
emulator which supports both NTSC \ PAL modes.
     For the hardware enthusiasts out there - all the detail you\we love.
Since Disk Cards can become demagnetized or corrupted through time, Nintendo built into the Famicom Disk System many error codes to identify problems with game software.  Unfortunately, the codes that are displayed do not provide anything useful to the user other than the ERR code.  Deciphering these can be a chore since this information is not contained within the documentation that accompanies the system.  The following provides the description for each code.
ERR 01 = No disk card
ERR 02 = No disk power supply — batteries and/or AC adaptor
ERR 03 = Disk card is write protected
ERR 04 = Disk card not authenticated (game maker ID)
ERR 05 = Disk card not authenticated (game name ID)
ERR 06 = Disk card not compatible (version ID)
ERR 07 = Wrong side of disk card set in drive
ERR 08 = Disk card #1 wrong
ERR 09 = Disk card #2 wrong
ERR 10 = Disk card #3 wrong
ERR 20 = Screen data wrong
ERR 21 = Disk card header block (Nintendo-HVC) wrong
ERR 22 = Disk card header block #$01 unrecognized
ERR 23 = Disk card header block #$02 unrecognized
ERR 24 = Disk card header block #$03 unrecognized
ERR 25 = Disk card header block #$04 unrecognized
ERR 26 = Unable to write to disk card
ERR 27 = Block end mark seen but ends prematurely
ERR 28 = File ends prematurely during read
ERR 29 = File ends prematurely during write
ERR 30 = No space left on disk card (full)
ERR 31 = File count in header on disk card do not match
Processor Type  Processor Speed  Other Processor Information RAM \ Video RAM
N\A N\A N\A 32 KB (through RAM Adapter)
Screen Resolution Color Palette Polygons \ Sprites Audio
256 x 240 52 (16 on screen) 64 Sprites N\A
Media Format Media Capacity Games Released Other Supported Formats
3.0" Floppy Disk (Disk Card) 112 KB (56 KB per side) 229 None
Internal Storage External \ Removable Storage Game Controllers Other Game \ Peripheral Devices
Via RAM Adapter None   None
Controller Ports Network Ports Other Ports Audio \ Video
N\A None None N\A
Power Supply - External Other Outputs  Other Details \ Notes
Adapter (100 V, 50\60Hz) or
Six (6) "C" celled batteries
None None
Nintendo Famicom Disk System  Owners Manual (Children's Accompaniment)  (PDF) - 3.21 MB

     Peripherals, Promotions, Commercials, Brochures, Etc.
Nintendo Famicom Disk System Television Commercials

     Visitor insights and feedback
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