Every so often, a new idea comes around that can be considered a true game changer — no pun intended. During the 90’s, it seemed like Nintendo was on fire with these innovations; while they may not have invented the technology involved, it was their implementation which helped make them industry standards.
One such instance, of course, is the Nintendo 64 Rumble Pak.
Originally dubbed the “Jolting Pak,” the Rumble Pak was a peripheral that required two AAA batteries and could be inserted into the cartridge slot on the bottom of a standard Nintendo 64 controller. Incidentally, this was the same port used for system’s Controller Pak, a memory card device used in games which did not contain their own battery back-up. As such, Nintendo would later implement a feature which allowed companies to add a safety screen for “hot swapping” between the two devices safely.
The Rumble Pak was introduced with Star Fox 64 in July 1997 before being sold on its own a few months later, and it proved to be an enormous hit as players could feel through their controller different senses of impact from colliding with obstacles, being hit by enemy fire, or the shockwaves of an exploding enemy boss. Not only would more games make use of the Rumble Pak as time went on, but Nintendo would even go back and add the functionality to re-releases of older titles, such as Super Mario 64 and Wave Race 64.
Ready to ride on the coattails of the successful add-on, third parties would introduce their own versions with various tweaks, such as drawing power from the console (to lesser effect), or allowing a Controller Pak to be plugged into their device.
SEGA would incorporate the feature into the Dreamcast by way of their own plug-in attachment, the Jump Pak (fortunately, the Dreamcast featured two slots for VMU memory cards and other devices). Interestingly, rival Sony had introduced their new Dual Analog Controller to Japan the same month that Nintendo had released Star Fox 64 with the Rumble Pak in their home country, but when it came time to release them overseas, Sony balked, releasing the controller without the rumble feature for reasons unknown (yet heavily speculated upon at the time). For whatever reason, they would then include it in the first version of the DualShock (so named for the two motors used versus the Rumble Pak’s one) some time later.
Since then, every major console has included a rumble capability in its standard controllers. That is, save for the PlayStation 3, which used the rumble-less Sixaxis was used instead during a brief period as Sony dealt with infringement litigation over their use of the feature. Once that was settled, it was included once again in the DualShock 3.
For Nintendo’s part, they would even introduce the rumble concept to their handhelds with the Game Boy Color, which had certain games containing the rumble tech inside the game cartridge itself. The Game Boy Advance would incorporate a similar trick, while the Nintendo DS had a Rumble Pak of its own which fit into the GBA cartridge slot found on earlier models. Today, the latest incorporation is what Nintendo describes as “HD Rumble,” which is incorporated into the Joy-Con controllers for the Nintendo Switch.
And that’s without getting into all the other applications of haptic technology, as it’s known in the greater sense, which encompasses everything from robotics to (probably) your mobile device.