The fifth generation of video game consoles was an interesting time in the medium’s history. Games were becoming larger, not only in the size of their data, but also in their scope, and the days of completing a title in a single sitting were quickly fading. This led to the rise of the CD-ROM format as a primary format in consoles such as the SEGA Saturn and Sony PlayStation (rather than as a secondary format, such as the case was with the SEGA CD add-on for the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive), but as the name indicates, being a read-only format necessitated a new method of storing a player’s files. Hence, the memory card.
Nintendo found themselves in a unique position, however. After both spurning and spurring Sony on, they decided to stay with the cartridge format that had served them well for so long, pulling a bit of an about-face against the hype they’d poured into their previous unfounded CD-ROM partnerships and touting the value of features such as faster load times in lieu of the greater storage capacity. This also meant that they could continue using the same battery back-up technology for saving players’ game data as well.
Unfortunately, the inclusion of battery back-up would raise the costs of the cartridges, so Nintendo opted to release the 256 kilobit (32KB) Controller Pak, a memory card-like mini-cartridge that could be inserted into a standard Nintendo 64 controller to store more personal game data. Nintendo seldom made use of the feature themselves, save in certain instances where saving to the game cartridge was impractical, but it ultimately allowed for a way for developers to continue increasing the scope of their games without having to increase the costs of production.