Codemasters might be more famous today as part of EA and a maker of racing games, but once upon a time, the company was something of a trailblazer in terms of software and hardware.
The most memorable piece of kit connected with the firm is the Game Genie, one of the first 'cheat cartridges' produced for home consoles. Nintendo took issue with the device and even went to court (unsuccessfully) to prevent its sale, but it apparently wasn't the only device Codemasters had in mind for Nintendo's 8-bit NES.
As unearthed by Kara Jane Adams over on Threads, GamePro issue 8 reported that Codemasters was working on a CD-ROM drive for the console:
CD's for Nintendo? That's right! A company from the United Kingdom, Codemaster [sic], has developed an audio CD player for use with the Nintendo system. Samsung is manufacturing the hardware for this unusual unit and Camerica plans to distribute the product in the United States beginning this summer.
If you buy the CD player and the interface together, the cost will be $159.95. One CD containing two games is included with the unit. Gamers will also be able to purchase the Nintendo Interface separately for $44.95. This should enable anyone with an audio CD player to hook it up to their Nintendo.
Advantages to this system include game cost-one CD containing two or three games will be the same price as one traditional cartridge game, and one three-five meg game will cost less than a comparable cartridge game.
Camerica currently plans to have six CD's available in July when the unit is released-three CD's with two games each on them, and three CD's, each with a three-five meg game on them. No word yet on what the games will be and remember, they're not likely to be compatible with other CD ROM game players.
Since Nintendo has yet to announce any plans for an audio CD player or a CD ROM for their system we'll all be watching the development of this product with great interest.
It goes without saying that Codemasters never released a CD drive for the NES, but it did release a similar project for the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64, which included a special connection cable to link an Audio CD Player to the host platform's joystick port.
We spoke to Codemasters co-founder David Darling about the NES drive, and he says it's likely that Camerica – which worked with the company on the Game Genie – jumped the gun by making the announcement:
I don’t really remember it apart from a vague memory that maybe Camera announced it, but we hadn’t developed anything. I spoke to a couple of knowledgable Codies guys and none of us this Codies developed this, but perhaps it was discussed as an idea at the time. We don't think a prototype or product was ever developed but that Camerica announced it way too early.
It's clear where the inspiration for such a project came about; NEC released a CD-ROM drive for its PC Engine console in 1988, and Sega would follow suit a couple of years later with the Mega Drive / Genesis Mega CD add-on. Nintendo itself inked a deal with Sony to produce a CD drive for its SNES, but this project – dubbed 'Play Station' (note the space) – was scrapped when Nintendo abandoned the deal and joined forced with Philips, leaving Sony to lick its wounds and re-tool the project as the 32-bit PlayStation console.
Founded by Richard and David Darling in 1986, Codemasters is one of the oldest British game studios and has been responsible for developing and publishing many successful titles over the decades, including Brian Lara Cricket, Colin McRae Rally, Dizzy, Micro Machines and Project CARS.
The Darling siblings sold off their interest in Codemasters in 2007, and the company was acquired by EA in 2021 for $1.2 billion. David now runs 'hypercasual' developer Kwalee, which has published TENS!, Eternal Hope and Die by the Blade on consoles.