Everyone loves secrets. Whether you’re trying to keep a surprise birthday party under wraps or you’re an undercover spy trying to sneak the microfiche out the base of your sworn enemy, we’ve all felt that combination of drama, apprehension and excitement when trying to keep something under wraps. When you have a secret, you often use doublespeak to conceal what you’re actually doing, and companies are no different. Hence the use of code names when developing new hardware.
Rumors began swirling in early 2015 about Nintendo’s next project. Code named the NX, there were murmurs about whether it’d be some kind of mobile platform, if it would keep up graphically with other current generation consoles, and whether Nintendo would use another unique gimmick after the Wii and the Wii U. Almost two years later, last November, Nintendo formally announced that the console previously known as the NX would officially be called the Switch. Tonight we’ll find out even more about the system formerly known as the NX, but before then let’s take a look back on the code names of the consoles we’ve known throughout gaming’s history.
Terence Wiggins is the co-host of the podcast
Whatever We Call It
, the creator of the videogame online zine
We ? Video Games
, the cookie wizard behind
The Black Nerd’s Baked Goods
, and the Internet’s best friend. He’s on Twitter @TheBlackNerd.
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Code Name: Project Reality
Final Name: Nintendo 64
Sporting a name like a mid-'90s cyber thriller about virtual reality starring Christian Slater, Project Reality was first announced in 1993. Eventually being officially called the Nintendo 64, it was rumored to be named the Ultra 64 because of Nintendo's license deal with Midway to use the Ultra 64 tech in their arcade games, Killer Instinct and Cruis'n USA.
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Code Name: Play Station/SNES CD
Final Name: Sony PlayStation
Some of you may know this but before the Nintendo 64 came to fruition, Nintendo partnered with Sony to create the SNES CD and Play Station, the first a CD add-on for the Super Nintendo and the second being a hybrid console. The deal was struck all the way back in 1988 but fell apart in 1991 due to licensing agreements leaving Nintendo to partner with Philips and Sony to go on and develop their own console, the PlayStation. In November 2015, a prototype of the PlayStation was found and in July 2016 a fan game was released for the system called Super Boss Gaiden.
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Code Name: Dolphin
Final Name: Nintendo GameCube
In 1998, a company called ArtX staffed with former engineers who worked on the Nintendo 64's graphics hardware partnered with Nintendo to work on a new graphics processor code named Flipper. At their 1999 press conference, Nintendo publicly announced Project Dolphin which used a CPU developed by IBM called Gekko. Eventually this came to be not some kind of aquatic chimaera but the Nintendo Gamecube, the only console to feature a handle for easy transport or maybe a quick workout when there's no kettlebell present.
4 of 9
Code Name: Revolution
Final Name: Nintendo Wii
The kind of name that would herald the then oncoming glut of motion controlled games, the Revolution was presented at Tokyo Game Show in 2005. In April of 2006, the Revolution was actually revealed to be the Wii, which would go on to sell over 100 million units, despite having a name that evoked juvenile jokes. That controller shape certainly didn't help.
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Code Name: MARZ
Final Name: Microsoft Xbox
More commonly known as the DirectX Box, MARZ stood for Microsoft Active Reality Zone; there were also a cornucopia of other code names, from XON (Experienced Optimised Network), to FACE (Full Action Center), which all sound like technology Big Boss created in Metal Gear Solid V. It started development in 1998, with Microsoft wanting to create a rival to Sony's upcoming PlayStation 2, and was officially announced as the Xbox at the Game Developers Conference in 2000.
6 of 9
Code Name: Project Natal
Final Name: Microsoft Kinect
Project Natal, a motion-sensing camera, was Microsoft's answer to Nintendo's Wii remote and Sony's Playstation Move. It was revealed for the Xbox 360 at E3 2009 with an electric demo that turned out to be a bit misleading at different points. Before coming out in 2010 it was renamed to Kinect, and later wound up as a mandatory peripheral for the Xbox One before being unceremoniously dropped almost entirely by Microsoft. The original Kinect had such unforgettable games as Dance Central and...uh...huh.
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Code Name: Durango
Final Name: Microsoft Xbox 360
Being roughly the same size and girth of the Dodge Durango, this console code named the Durango would go on to become the Xbox One. At its reveal at E3 2013, it was touted for its media capabilities and could be used as a passthrough for existing TV set-top boxes. Along with the Xbox One they would release Kinect 2.0 that would go on to have such amazing titles like Fantasia and...well, surely there has to be more. Right?
8 of 9
Code Name: Pam
Final Name: Atari 5200
The oldest console on this list, and clearly the best named, Pam was the code name of the Atari 5200. It was rumored to be named after an Atari Inc. employee but also stood for Personal Arcade Machine as most of the games were arcade ports. I would like to live in a world where all consoles had middle age ladies names. The Microsoft Evelyn. The Sony Beverly. The Nintendo Janeane.
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Code Name: Whitebelt/Blackbelt/Dural/Katana/Guppy/Shark
Final Name: Sega Dreamcast
Having almost the most codenames of anything I've ever seen, the Dreamcast started life in development in Japan as Whitebelt then changed to Guppy and then to Katana. In America it was called Blackbelt, followed by Dural, and finally also landing on Katana. They should've stuck with the Dural name to give it a feeling of a mother who's been turned into a cyborg killing machine.
Did anyone else pay attention to the story in Virtua Fighter? No? Just me? Okay, moving on.