Nintendo GameCube with controller and 251-block memory card
|Also known as||GameCube|
|Type||Video game console|
|Units sold||Worldwide: 21.74 million
Japan: 4.04 million
North America: 12.94 million
Europe & Australia: 4.77 million
|Media||Nintendo GameCube game disc|
|CPU||IBM PowerPC "Gekko", 485 MHz|
|Storage||Nintendo GameCube Memory Card (16 MB max. capacity)|
|Graphics||ATI "Flipper", 162 MHz|
|Sound||Analog stereo (support for Dolby Pro Logic II)|
|Input||Nintendo GameCube controller, WaveBird, Game Boy Advance, numerous other input devices|
|Connectivity||Nintendo GameCube Broadband Adapter and Modem Adapter|
|Dimensions||5.9 × 6.3 × 4.3 in
149 × 160 × 112 mm
(width × depth × height)
|Best-selling game||Super Smash Bros. Melee, 7.09 million (as of March 10, 2008)|
|Related articles||Panasonic Q|
The GameCube (ゲームキューブ Gēmukyūbu?, officially called Nintendo GameCube, abbreviated NGC in Japan and GCN in North America) is a video game console released by Nintendo on September 14, 2001, in Japan and November 18, 2001, in North America. It was later released worldwide in 2002. The sixth-generation console was the successor to the Nintendo 64 and competed with Sony's PlayStation 2, Microsoft's Xbox, and Sega's Dreamcast.
The GameCube was the first Nintendo console to use optical discs for its primary storage medium. The discs are similar to the miniDVD format, and as a result of their smaller size, the system was not designed to play standard DVDs or audio CDs. Nintendo also introduced a variety of connectivity options for the GameCube. It was the first Nintendo console to support online gaming, a feature that required the use of an add-on broadband or modem adapter sold separately. Game support and availability of the adapter was, however, very limited. The GameCube also supported connectivity to the Game Boy Advance, allowing players to access exclusive in-game features using the handheld as a second screen and controller.
Reception of the GameCube was generally mixed. Some praised the extensive software library and high-quality games, while others criticized the console's exterior design and lack of features. The GameCube sold approximately 22 million units worldwide before being discontinued in 2007. Its successor, the Wii, was released in November 2006.
Nintendo began providing development kits to game developers for a new video game console codenamed "Project Dolphin" as early as May 1999. The console was announced as the Nintendo GameCube at a press conference in Japan on August 24, 2000. Abbreviated NGC in Japan and GCN in North America, Nintendo unveiled its software lineup for the sixth-generation console at E3 2001, focusing on 15 launch titles that included Luigi's Mansion, Super Smash Bros. Melee, and Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader. Several titles that were originally scheduled to launch with the console were delayed. It was also the first console in the company's history not to offer a Mario platform title at launch.
Prior to the Nintendo GameCube's release, Nintendo focused resources on the launch of the Game Boy Advance (GBA), a handheld game console that was the successor to the original Game Boy and Game Boy Color. As a result, several titles originally destined for the Nintendo 64 (N64) console were shelved in favor of being early releases on the GameCube. The last first-party title in 2001 for the N64 was released in May, a month before the GBA launched and six months before the GameCube, emphasizing the company's shift in resources. Behind the scenes, Nintendo was developing connectivity software for the GameCube which would include future connectivity between the Game Boy Advance and GameCube. Certain game titles, such as the The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, would have the ability to use the handheld as a secondary screen and controller when connected to the console via a link cable.
Nintendo began its marketing campaign with the catchphrase "The Nintendo Difference" at the E3 reveal. The goal was to distinguish itself from the competition as an entertainment company. Later, advertisements pushed the slogan "Born to Play", and video game commercials featured a rotating cube animation that morphed into a GameCube logo and ended with a voice whispering, "GameCube".
The GameCube launched in Japan on September 14, 2001. Approximately 500,000 units were shipped in time to retailers. The console was scheduled to launch two months later in North America on November 5, 2001, but the date was pushed back in an effort to increase the number of available units. The console eventually launched in North America on November 18, 2001, with over 700,000 units shipped to the region. Other regions followed suit the following year beginning with Europe in the second quarter of 2002.
Nintendo partnered with IBM and ATI Technologies to design the GameCube. IBM designed a PowerPC-based processor for the next-generation console, known as Gekko, which runs at 485 MHz and features a floating point unit (FPU) capable of 1.9 GFLOPS. Howard Cheng, technical director of Nintendo technology development, said the company's goal was to select a "simple RISC architecture" to help speed development of games by making it easier on software developers. Flipper, the console's graphics processor (GPU), was designed by ArtX – a company that was acquired by ATI soon after being contracted by Nintendo to design the processor. The GPU runs at 162 MHz and, in addition to graphics, manages other tasks through its audio and input/output (I/O) processors.
The GameCube introduced a proprietary miniDVD optical disc format as the storage medium for the console, capable of storing up to 1.5 GB of data. The technology was designed by Matsushita Electric Industrial (now Panasonic Corporation) which utilized a proprietary encryption scheme – different from the Content Scramble System (CSS) found in standard DVDs – to prevent unauthorized reproduction. The Famicom and Nintendo 64 experimented with other storage technologies, but the GameCube was Nintendo's first console to move away from cartridge-based media altogether.
Like its predecessor, the Nintendo 64, the GameCube was available in several colors. "Indigo" – the primary color shown in advertising and on the logo – and "Jet Black" were both offered at launch. A year later, Nintendo released a "Platinum" limited edition GameCube, which used a silver color scheme for both the console and controller. A "Spice" orange-colored console was eventually released as well only in Japan, though the color scheme could be found on controllers released in other countries.
Nintendo developed stereoscopic 3D technology for the GameCube, and one launch title, Luigi's Mansion, supported it. However, the feature was never enabled outside of development. 3D televisions were not widespread at the time, and it was deemed that compatible displays would be too cost-prohibitive for the consumer. Another unofficial feature are two audio Easter eggs that can be invoked during the console's startup routine. When the power is activated with the "Z" button on the Player 1 controller held down, a kiddie startup sound is heard in place of the standard one. With four controllers connected, holding down the "Z" button on all four simultaneously produces a "ninja-like" tune at startup.
The GameCube features two memory card ports for saving game data. Nintendo released three official memory card options – 512 KB (59 save blocks), 2 MB (251 save blocks), and 8 MB (1019 save blocks). Several games were known to have compatibility issues with the 8 MB memory card, and at least two games have save issues with any size. Memory cards with larger capacities were released by third-party manufacturers.
Nintendo learned from its experiences – both positive and negative – with the Nintendo 64's three-handled controller design and went with a two-handled, "handlebar" design for the GameCube. The shape was made popular by Sony's PlayStation controller released in 1994 and its follow-up DualShock series of gamepads introduced in 1997. In addition to vibration feedback, the DualShock series was well known for having two analog sticks to improve the 3D experience in games. Nintendo and Microsoft designed similar features in the controllers for their sixth-generation consoles, but instead of having the analog sticks parallel to each other, they chose to stagger them by swapping the positions of the directional pad (d-pad) and left analog stick. The GameCube controller features a total of eight buttons, two analog sticks, a d-pad, and an internal rumble motor. The primary analog stick is on the left with the d-pad located below and closer to the center. On the right are four buttons: a large, green "A" button in the center, a smaller red "B" button to the left, an "X" button to the right, and a "Y" button at the top. Below and to the inside is a yellow "C" analog stick, which often serves a variety of in-game functions, such as controlling the camera angle. The Start/Pause button is located in the middle, and the rumble motor is encased within the center of the controller.
On the top of the controller are two "pressure-sensitive" trigger buttons marked "L" and "R". Each essentially provides two functions: one analog and one digital. As the trigger is depressed, it emits an analog signal which increases the more it is pressed in. Once fully depressed, the trigger "clicks" registering a digital signal that can be used for a separate function within a game. There is also a purple, digital button on the right side marked "Z".
Unique to the GameCube is the controller's prominent size and placement of the A button. Having been the primary action button in past Nintendo controller designs, it was given a larger size and more centralized placement for the GameCube. The rubberized analog stick in combination with the controller's overall button orientation was intended to reduce the dreaded "Nintendo thumb" – a term used to describe pain in any part of the hands, wrists, forearms, and shoulders as a result of long-term play.
In 2002, Nintendo introduced the WaveBird Wireless Controller, the first wireless gamepad developed by a first-party console manufacturer. The RF-based wireless controller is similar in design to the standard controller. It communicates with the GameCube by way of a wireless receiver dongle connected to one of the console's controller ports. Powered by two AA batteries, which are housed in a compartment on the underside of the controller, the WaveBird lacks the vibration functionality of the standard controller. In addition to the standard inputs, the WaveBird features a channel selection dial – also found on the receiver – and an on/off switch. An orange LED on the face of the controller indicates when it is powered on. The controller is available in light grey and platinum color schemes.
The GameCube is unable to play games from other Nintendo home consoles, but with the Game Boy Player attachment, it is able to play Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance titles. The GameCube's successor, the Wii, supports backward compatibility with GameCube controllers, memory cards, and games. However, later versions of the Wii – including the "Family Edition" released in 2011 and the Wii Mini edition released in 2012 – dropped support for all GameCube hardware.
A hybrid version of the Nintendo GameCube with a commercial DVD player, called Q, was developed by Panasonic as part of the deal struck with Nintendo to develop the optical drive for the original GameCube hardware. Featuring a completely revised case, the Q overcomes the size limitation of the original GameCube's miniDVD tray by adding a commercial DVD-sized tray, among other hardware revisions. Released exclusively to Japan in December 2001, low sales resulted in the Q being discontinued in December 2003.
Nintendo is traditionally recognized for releasing innovative, first-party game titles, most notably from the Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda series. These first-party series continued on the GameCube and bolstered the console's popularity. As a publisher, Nintendo also focused on creating new franchises, such as Pikmin, and renewing some that skipped the N64 platform, notably the Metroid series with the release of Metroid Prime. The console also saw success with the critically acclaimed The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and its best-selling game, Super Smash Bros. Melee. Despite Nintendo's commitment to its software library, however, it was still criticized by some for not featuring enough game titles during the console's launch window.
Early on in its history, Nintendo had achieved considerable success with third-party developer support on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). Competition from the Sega Genesis and Sony's PlayStation in the 1990s changed the market's landscape, however, and reduced Nintendo's ability to obtain exclusive, third-party support on the Nintendo 64 (N64). The console's cartridge-based media was also increasing the cost to manufacture software, as opposed to the cheaper, higher-capacity optical discs used by the PlayStation.
With the GameCube, Nintendo aimed to reverse the trend as evidenced by the number of third-party titles available at launch – the N64 had none. The new optical disc format introduced with the GameCube increased the capacity significantly and reduced production costs. For the most part, the strategy worked. High-profile exclusives such as Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader from Factor 5, Resident Evil 4 from Capcom, and Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes from Konami were very successful. Sega, which focused on third-party development following the demise of its Dreamcast console, offered a vast amount of support for the GameCube porting old favorites over such as Crazy Taxi and Sonic Adventure 2. The company also started new franchises on the GameCube including Super Monkey Ball. Several third-party developers were even contracted to work on new titles for existing Nintendo franchises, including Star Fox Assault by Namco and Wario World from Treasure.
Games available at launch
|Super Monkey Ball||Amusement Vision||Sega|
|Wave Race: Blue Storm||Nintendo Software Technology||Nintendo|
Online connectivity was featured on the GameCube in a small number of video game titles using a broadband or modem adapter that attached to a serial port on the console. This feature introduced online gaming to the Nintendo product line and was supported in Homeland – only released in Japan – and the Phantasy Star series. The Super Famicom in Japan offered online connectivity through Satellaview in the 1990s, but that feature only brought the console online, not the games which were downloaded and played locally. Nintendo made publishers responsible for managing the online experience and for providing the interface.
Despite industry speculation that Nintendo would eventually publish games with online connectivity, the company never released a first-party title with the feature. However, several games – Mario Kart: Double Dash‼, 1080° Avalanche and Kirby Air Ride – featured multiplayer gameplay over a LAN connection. Third-party projects, such as Warp Pipe and XLink Kai, introduced methods to connect these games over the internet. The projects aimed to show game developers a low-cost solution that demonstrated the feasibility of adding online support.
Reception and sales
The Nintendo GameCube received generally positive reviews following its launch. PC Magazine praised the overall hardware design and quality of game titles available at launch. CNET gave an average review rating, noting that while the console lacks a few features offered by its competition, it is relatively inexpensive, has a great controller design, and launched a decent lineup of games. In later reviews, criticism mounted against the console often centering around its overall look and feel, describing it as "toy-ish." In the midst of poor sales figures and the associated financial harm to Nintendo, a Time International article called the GameCube an "unmitigated disaster."
Looking back, Joystiq compared the GameCube's launch window to its successor, the Wii, noting that the GameCube's "lack of games" resulted in a subpar launch, and the console's limited selection of online titles hurt its market share in the long run. Time International concluded that the system had low sales figures, because it lacked "technical innovations".
Nintendo sold approximately 22 million GameCube units worldwide during its lifespan, placing it slightly behind the Xbox's 24 million, and well behind the PlayStation 2's 153 million. The GameCube's predecessor, the Nintendo 64, outperformed it as well selling nearly 33 million units. The console was able to outsell the short-lived Dreamcast, however, which only sold 10.6 million units. In September 2009, IGN ranked the GameCube 16th in its list of best gaming consoles of all time, placing it behind all three of its sixth-generation competitors: the PlayStation 2 (3rd), the Dreamcast (8th), and the Xbox (11th).
Despite Nintendo's efforts, the GameCube failed to reclaim the market share lost by its predecessor, the Nintendo 64. In terms of overall hardware sales, it remained far behind its direct competitor the PlayStation 2 – and slightly behind Microsoft's Xbox – throughout the lifespan of all three consoles. The console's "family-friendly" appeal and lack of support from certain third-party developers skewed the GameCube toward a younger market, which was a minority demographic of the gaming population during the sixth generation (see chart). Many third-party games popular with teenagers or adults, such as the blockbuster Grand Theft Auto series and several key first-person shooters, skipped the GameCube entirely in favor of the PlayStation 2 and Xbox.
While many of Nintendo's own first-party titles saw strong sales, this did not typically benefit third-party developers or drive sales of their games. Many cross-platform games — such as sports franchises released by Electronic Arts — sold far below their PlayStation 2 and Xbox counterparts, eventually prompting some developers to scale back or completely cease support for the GameCube. After several years of losing money from developing for Nintendo's console, Eidos Interactive announced in September 2003 that it would end support for the GameCube, canceling several games that were in development. Later, however, Eidos resumed development of GameCube titles, releasing hit games such as Lego Star Wars: The Video Game and Tomb Raider: Legend. In addition, several third-party games originally intended to be GameCube exclusives – most notably Resident Evil 4 – were eventually ported to other systems in an attempt to maximize profits following lackluster sales of the original GameCube versions.
The 1.5 GB proprietary mini-disc format may also have been a limiting factor, since the PlayStation 2 and Xbox could use 8.5 GB Dual-Layer DVDs for larger games. The GameCube mini-disc still had sufficient room for most games, although a few games would require an extra disc or, sometimes, feature less content than the other versions. Higher video compression for some games was also potentially more apparent on some GameCube versions, if employed by developers as a workaround for storage constraints.
With sales sagging and millions of unsold consoles, Nintendo halted GameCube production for the first nine months of 2003 to reduce surplus units. Sales rebounded slightly after a price drop to US$99.99 on September 24, 2003 and the release of The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition bundle. A demo disc, the Nintendo GameCube Preview Disc, was also released in a bundle in 2003. Beginning with this period, GameCube sales continued to be steady, particularly in Japan, but the GameCube remained in third place in worldwide sales during the sixth generation era due to weaker sales performance elsewhere.
As of June 2003, the GameCube had a 13% market share, tying the Xbox but falling far behind 60% for the PlayStation 2.
Some third-party companies, such as Ubisoft, THQ, Disney Interactive Studios, Humongous Entertainment and EA Sports, continued to release GameCube games well into 2007. These titles include TMNT, Meet the Robinsons, Surf's Up, Ratatouille and Madden NFL 08.
- Dolphin (emulator)
- List of best-selling Nintendo GameCube video games
- List of Nintendo GameCube games with 480p and 16:9 support
- Nintendo GameCube accessories
- Nintendo GameCube Linux
- Nintendo Selects
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to GameCube.|
- Nintendo GameCube Official webpage by Nintendo of America
- Nintendo GameCube at Nintendo.com (archived versions at the Internet Archive Wayback Machine)
- Nintendo GameCube on the Open Directory Project