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The GameCube (Japanese: ゲームキューブ Hepburn: Gēmukyūbu?, officially called the Nintendo GameCube, abbreviated NGC in Japan and GCN in Europe and North America) is a home video game console released by Nintendo in Japan on September 14, 2001; in North America on November 18, 2001; in Europe on May 3, 2002; and in Australia on May 17, 2002. The sixth-generation console is the successor to the Nintendo 64 and competed with Sony Computer Entertainment’s PlayStation 2 and Microsoft’s Xbox.
The GameCube is the first Nintendo console to use optical discs as its primary storage medium. The discs are similar to the miniDVD format; as a result of their smaller size and the console’s small disc compartment, the system was not designed to play standard DVDs or audio CDs. The console supports online gaming for a small number of titles via the broadband or modem adapter and connects to the Game Boy Advance via the link cable, allowing players to access exclusive in-game features using the handheld as a second screen and controller.
Contemporary reception of the GameCube was generally positive: Some praised the console’s extensive software library and high-quality games, while others criticized its exterior design and lack of features. Nintendo sold 21.74 million GameCube units worldwide before it was discontinued in 2007. Its successor, the Wii, was released in November 2006.
Dr. Yen has assembled at ArtX one of the best teams of 3D graphics engineers on the planet.—Howard Lincoln
In 1997, a graphics hardware design company called ArtX was launched, staffed by twenty engineers who had previously worked at SGI on the design of the Nintendo 64’s graphics hardware. The team was led by Dr. Wei Yen, who had been SGI’s head of Nintendo Operations, the department responsible for the Nintendo 64’s fundamental architectural design.
Partnering with Nintendo in 1998, ArtX began the complete design of the system logic and of the graphics processor (codenamed “Flipper”) of Nintendo’s sixth-generation video game console, reportedly bearing the early internal code name of “N2000”. At Nintendo’s press conference in May 1999, the console was first publicly announced as “Project Dolphin”, the successor to the Nintendo 64. At the conference, Nintendo’s Howard Lincoln said of ArtX, “This company is headed up by Dr. Wei Yen, the man who was primarily responsible for the N64 graphics chip. Dr. Yen has assembled at ArtX one of the best teams of 3D graphics engineers on the planet.” Subsequently Nintendo began providing development kits to game developers. Nintendo also formed a strategic partnership with IBM for the production of Dolphin’s CPU, code-named “Gekko”.
ArtX was acquired by ATI in April 2000, whereupon the Flipper graphics processor design had already been mostly completed by ArtX and was not overtly influenced by ATI. In total, ArtX team cofounder Greg Buchner recalled that their portion of the console’s hardware design timeline had arced from inception in 1998 to completion in 2000. Of ATI’s acquisition of ArtX, an ATI spokesperson said, “ATI now becomes a major supplier to the game console market via Nintendo. The Dolphin platform is reputed to be king of the hill in terms of graphics and video performance with 128-bit architecture.”
The console was announced as the Nintendo GameCube at a press conference in Japan on August 24, 2000, abbreviated as “NGC” in Japan and “GCN” in North America. Nintendo unveiled its software lineup for the sixth-generation console at E3 2001, focusing on fifteen launch titles, including Luigi’s Mansion and Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader. Several titles that were originally scheduled to launch with the console were delayed. It is also the first console in the company’s history not to accompany a Mario platform title at launch.
Long prior to the console’s launch, Nintendo had developed and patented an early prototype of motion controls for the GameCube, with which developer Factor 5 had experimented for its launch titles. An interview quoted Greg Thomas, Sega of America’s VP of Development as saying, “What does worry me is Dolphin’s sensory controllers [which are rumored to include microphones and headphone jacks] because there’s an example of someone thinking about something different.” These motion control concepts would not be deployed to consumers for several years, until the Wii remote.
Prior to the Nintendo GameCube’s release, Nintendo focused resources on the launch of the Game Boy Advance, a handheld game console and successor to the original Game Boy and Game Boy Color. As a result, several titles originally destined for the Nintendo 64 console were postponed in favor of being early releases on the GameCube. The last first-party title in 2001 for the Nintendo 64 was released in May, a month before the Game Boy Advance’s launch and six months before the GameCube’s, emphasizing the company’s shift in resources. Concurrently, Nintendo was developing software for the GameCube which would provision future connectivity between it and the Game Boy Advance. Certain game titles, such as 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 push the slogan “Born to Play”, and video game commercials feature a rotating cube animation that morphs into a GameCube logo and ends 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.
On April 22, 2002, veteran third party Nintendo console developer Factor 5 announced its 3D audio software development kit for GameCube developers, titled MusyX. In collaboration with Dolby Laboratories, it provides motion-based surround sound encoded as Dolby Pro Logic II.