By Jason Frank
Just when we were ready to count Nintendo out of the running they jump back into the arena with guns blazing. At Spaceworld in Japan this past week Nintendo unveiled the GameCube, their latest bid for the home console market. The colorful cubes look like the next generation in gaming, at least from the outside. The GameCube's most striking feature wasn't the neon colors or its shape, but the controller. It appears to be an odd mix of the N64 controller and Sony's Dual Shock controller with a completely new approach to buttons.
Interestingly the console formerly known as Dolphin opted to go with a 128 bit format instead of the 256 bit consoles that we're going to see from Sony and Microsoft. Nintendo will be using a DVD-derivative format for its games, but it will be a smaller disc, holding about 1/5 the capacity of a regular DVD. The GameCube will not function as a DVD player; Nintendo has made it quite clear that they want this to be a dedicated gaming systems rather than the complete home entertainment system Sony is promising. Along those lines, the unit will not come with a modem installed, but a standard modem and broadband connector will be available.
The Game Boy Advance (AGB) was also shown off at Spaceworld 2000. Using a 32 bit system with a larger and more detailed screen it promises to be a giant leap ahead of Game Boy Color and should ensure Nintendo's dominance of the handheld market for some time. Both the Game Cube and AGB were touted for their high level of interactivity, although it is not clear what information will be traded between the systems. It does look like the AGB will function at least partly as a controller, or at least interface with the Game Cube via the controller port.
We probably won't see the system in the U.S. until E3 next May, and it won't be on the market until at least next fall. There can be no doubt that Nintendo chose this time to announce the GameCube with the hope of stealing just a little steam from the PS2's debut in October.
In spite of poor software selection (which Nintendo seems to attribute to an overly sophisticated system), the N64 has managed to hang on quite nicely these past five years (no doubt Nintendo executives are on their knees everyday thanking the gods that be for Pokemon). And, with the lessons that they undoubtedly learned from Sony these past 5 years, they're in a good position to regain their lost foothold. The world of consoles just got a little more interesting and a lot more confusing.
For more details on the Game Boy Advance and the GameCube check out Nintendo's press releases, available here:
First Impressions: Too Human
Lost: Via Domus Review
BioShock DLC and Plasmid Details
Should You Buy An Xbox 360 Hard Drive? (editorial)
Top 20 Things We Want in the Dead Rising Sequel (editorial)
How To Get Podcasts on Your Xbox 360 (how-to)