The SharkWire was a device developed by UK based Datel, mostly known for their Action Replay brand. But the SharkWire was only sold in America, by Interact Accessories. Not only was it unlicensed by Nintendo but it
was also the only Nintendo64 accessory outside Japan to offer an online service. A Press Release from E3 can be read here.
SharkWire was shown to the public for the first time at the Electronic Entertainment Expo back in 1999. According to press released from that time, the SharkWire was supposed to hit the shelves in September 1999,
it was then delayed until November 1999, but was supposedly delayed even further, until January 2000, and thereby missing the christmas sale of 1999.
The manufacture date written on the back of my SharkWire says
11.17.99, so a January release could be true, but InterAct could've had more than one batch made though.
What you get is a custom N64 cartridge using a design Datel used for their Gamebooster (A Gameboy Emulator for the N64). The cartridge of course contains the program to connect to the
SharkWire Online Portal, but Datel has also crammed a modem and a PS2 port for a keyboard into the cartridge.
To complete the package you of course get a phone cord and a keyboard, but the quality of the keyboard is actually quite bad to be honest.
As already mentioned, the SharkWire is an unlicensed device and therefore it does not contain a so-called CIC chip to bypass Nintendo lockout system. But to circumvent the lockout system, the SharkWire requres that
an official N64 cartridge is piggy backing it, and therefore there's a cartridge slot on the back of the SharkWire, so it is able to "steal" the CIC from the official cartridge.
With that said, the SharkWire isn't compatible with all Nintendo64 games released, in fact it only works with those that use a 6102 CIC, so the following list of games would not work.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey, Jr.
Kobe Bryant in NBA Courtside
Diddy Kong Racing
Conker's Bad Fur Day
The modem and webbrower used was licensed by Spyglass, using Spyglass' Device Mosaic browser. The keyboard would be inserted directly into the SharkWire cartridge while a joypad is used as a mouse and is inserted into
joypad port one on the Nintendo64 console. The "mouse" is used to navigate the menus. When online users would, among other things, be able to download game content onto a Controller Pak or run GameShark codes directly
from the SharkWire.
With a pricetag of $79.99 the SharkWire wasn't cheap and as if that wasn't enough, it also required a monthly subscription fee of $9.95 to get access to the "community environment" the SharkWire offered. Besides email,
game content and messageboards, users would also gain access to the internet, but only to a list of sites that have been approved by InterAct.
Sharkwire was test marketed in Atlanta, Minnesota and Dallas and was supposedly such a success that an actual release happened. However the monthly subscription fee and the limited "internet" access
must've scared off lots of potential buyers and as it was released so late into the N64 lifespan and the fact that InterAct went backrupt in 2003, the service only lasted for a few years.
As it was developed in the UK by Datel it would be pretty obvious to think that a European release would happen, but Datel probably knew the product wasn't going to sell and therefore wouldn't bother. Instead they
went on to release several useless dialup products for the Gameboy Advance.
If you're an N64 collector and would like to own one of these, they can be found on ebay every now and then for $20-30, brand new. However if you want one of these to try it out, then please note that the service is
long gone and there's absolutely nothing you can do if you hook it up.
This is none the less a cool piece of N64 history even though the idea sucks :-)