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Nintendo GameCube Review

Nintendo is one of the most difficult companies to peg. It is the purveyor of some of the finest “General Audience” digital entertainment the world has ever known. At the same time, Nintendo exploits that market with cunning (perhaps megalomaniacal) deftness.

The smashing success of the GameBoy Advance underscores a cleverly orchestrated monopoly of the handheld gaming market. Nintendo did not bring the best possible product to the masses, merely one of sufficiently impressive efficiency at an undeniably gracious price point.

Champions of the cause, creating and cornering a marketplace that only kids understand but that keeps parents pleased, Nintendo is poised to break from their stuffed-fluff formula with a new console, GameCube. After some 20 years in the business, Nintendo’s original core audience has matured; the latest gaming generation is more technologically savvy, discerning; Nintendo is not oblivious.

Whether Nintendo’s GameCube follows a similar path to glory the original Nintendo Entertainment System (aka the “NES”, circa 1985) or the most recent GameBoy Advance (2001) is yet to be seen. In a home console competition currently dominated by Sony and ferociously contended by Microsoft, Nintendo is the seasoned veteran: patient, calculating, sure.

GameCube Pros:

While deceptively unexceptional in the horsepower department, Nintendo went out of its way to make a developer-friendly gaming system with an integrated design that practically gushes the game experience at lightening speed. Game developers everywhere have expressed their utmost gratitude.

It’s important to note that Nintendo’s business model is unique in that it is not overly concerned with dominating the electronic entertainment market; it is adamantly dedicated to video games (and billion dollar spin-off products). They’re all about satiating the spend-happy fans of the fabulously fluffy. Nintendo excels at friendly family fun.

GameCube’s forward-compatibility with their next generation handheld game system, the GameBoy Advance, veritably doubles the bang-for-your-buck factor while offering unique, multiform gaming potential. Couple that fact with the Advance’s backward compatibility of last-generation GameBoy games and you have a manufacturer ingeniously enticing multiple target markets.

While Nintendo won’t stray too far from the formula of harmless wonderment and wholesome gaming, the promise of several appealing games beyond plumbers and apes, Pickachus and gesundheits make GameCube a viable, if limited, “mature” gamer’s platform. Enthusiasm and support from popular third party developers such as EA, LucasArts and Sega will deepen and vary GameCube’s game library considerably.

GameCube does not play DVD movies poorly. Doesn’t play them at all, in fact. Hey, a video game console that just plays games. What a concept. No multifunction promises of dubious significance; just that singular site set on interactive captivation. (It should be mentioned: Panasonic is releasing a CD/DVD/GameCube/Toaster combo unit in Japan. It may come to North America eventually.)

Plumbers and apes, Pickachus and gesundheits are more than enough to guarantee a respectable, stable market share; GameCube can’t really fail.

A reasonable price tag from Day 1.

A variety of colours to choose from. Oh happy happy joy joy.

GameCube Cons:

A variety of colours to choose from. Oh happy happy joy joy. Such a gracious offering seems to put style before substance, detracting from the GameCube’s most redeeming feature – its guts. Purple, blue and orange flavour options? What is it, a bubble gum machine?

Statistically, some 70 per cent of video game players are over the age of 18, but Nintendo hasn’t done a whole lot to curry favour with that gaming public demographic. A few decidedly hip GameCube games could change all that, but Nintendo is primarily the name brand of choice for kids and their parents.

Not including DVD movie playability was actually a shrewd move, clearly defining GameCube as a dedicated video game console. However, consumers who don’t know cheap DVD players from Shinola are going to think GameCube is missing something.

GameCube is the least expensive of the three new consoles, due in no small part to the cost-effectiveness of its parts, which are, therefore, closer to obsolescence than the competition. Furthermore, GameCube’s lack of hard drive and mass storage functionality limits its potential; it’s viability 3 to 5 years hence. GameCube games will look “old” before their time.

Conclusion:

This unit is going to come in cheap and sell immediately and in mass quantities to fans of the fathead phenomenon. It’s going to boast big-sales-figure bubbles and remain a skewable statistic for years to come, as marketing mouths are wont to do. The Nintendo name will continue to be synonymous with “video games,” but they won’t dominate the market in the long run.

Their gaming library is consistently good, comparatively safe and rarely extreme. Nintendo has made some inroads into the vastness of intense action gaming, and GameCube certainly has the capabilities and even the interest of game makers to be a broadly appealing game system. But the “broad” market is engorged as it is – by systems with dedicated focus on redefining the interactive entertainment experience, not merely refining the current definition of video- games-as-toy. But niche market is good. After all, Nintendo’s “niche” is comprised of a hundred-
million loyal fans.

Score:
Practically great.
8/10

Next:
Up close and personal with Sony’s PlayStation2.

www.nintendo.com

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