Some people really just have a lot of time, or ideas, or both, in their hands. We’ve seen a lot of games lately that have tried to incorporate that classic 8 or 16 bit design into their graphics for the sake of simplicity, art, and nostalgia. But Netflix engineers Guy Cirino, Alex Wolfe and Carenina Motion wanted to take things even further. What if they could cram today’s streaming content into that same retro experience. And they didn’t stop at trying to emulate just the graphics. They actually worked on running Netflix on a NES console.
Before you start wondering about the legality of this glorious hack, rest assured that it is, in fact, sanctioned by Netflix. Somewhat. DarNES, as the project is called, is a by-product of the company’s winter Netflix Hack Days, where it allows employees to come up with projects both ingenious and insane that may or may not have any useful purpose. It’s more like a way to let developers and designers exercise their creative muscles outside of the restricting and suffocating work environment.
Aside from the fact that they got Netflix to work on such an ancient computer as the Nintendo Entertainment System or NES (Family Computer or Famicom in other regions), the fact that they were able to do so on an unmodified NES is equally impressive. The trick is all in the cartridge. Requiring some assembly, the three were able to create this special DarNES cartridge that was able to both present the Netflix interface as well as play videos.
Of course, you shouldn’t expect even mediocre quality here, given the capabilities of the 8-bit console. Still, it is quite an achievement to cram all of that inside a 256 KB NES cartridge. That said, the whole setup was noted not to be running on Netflix’s live public servers but most likely an internal one used for testing.
And while Netflix did allow this hack to be made, it is unlikely to see the light of day outside of its offices. It might, however, spur some other geniuses to create something similar, of course on more shady legal grounds.