I'm a big advocate of the mantra 'you learn something every day.' Obviously, I don't take it literally - there are some days when my life is so dull and I am surrounded by such a large number of morons that I have to slap myself across the face with a sponge soaked in piss just to check that I've not slipped into a coma. However, today is one of those educational days. Why? Well, I just learnt about a thing called LodgeNet. I actually discovered this unintentionally (it was hidden in plain sight to be honest) when I clicked on the wrong link to a Wikipedia page and ended up looking at a page about the N64 controller instead of an eBay auction for a Controller Pak. I scrolled down the page just out of habit and I came across a section about something called LodgeNet.

The premise is quite simple - basically LodgeNet was a pay-per-play system devised by Nintendo for implementation in hotels in the US, where the dedicated set top box would be connected to the LodgeNet service and the player could play games and watch programme content. The thing is, the TV was controlled with a device that looks exactly like an N64 controller, but is not compatible with the N64 in any way:

As you can see, it also has other control buttons for the TV services too (the D-Pad can be used to change channels, for example) and also Menu and Order buttons, which I would imagine are for ordering new content to watch or play. It's a pretty neat idea, and something I was totally unaware of. I'm sure many people across the United States have seen this system, but being from the UK, I had never even heard of such a service. One of the most interesting things about the LodgeNet controller is that even though it has the look of an N64 pad, it has an analogue stick which is closer to the Gamecube's analogue nub (it's more of a ball than a stick). Furthermore, the port where the Controller Pak would go is filled in, and the end of the cable apparently has a connector which is more like a phone socket connector.

I'm aware of similar systems from SEGA, such as the Mega Jet which was only available on airlines but I'd never even heard of the LodgeNet. You can buy the now defunct controllers and boxes on eBay for next to nothing, and most of the auctions do stress that the pad is not compatible with the N64 system due to it not really being an N64 pad...and to be honest it looks like a nice little curio or collectable. Maybe when I've got more disposable cash I'll investigate further - it'd certainly be a nice piece to show people and explain the whole LodgeNet story.

As a final note, it appears that the LodgeNet service went on to incorporate the Gamecube too, so there is a later version which does what the previous one did...but with a Gamecube controller and games.

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