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Reflecting on Nintendo's past: The troubled history of the Gamecube
Reflecting on Nintendo's past: The troubled history of the Gamecube
January 8, 2014 | By Christian Nutt

January 8, 2014 | By Christian Nutt
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    34 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



"This is a job where you have a plan and you polish it endlessly while getting help from others. If Nintendoís games fail to stand out as games that arenít made that way proliferate, then it shows that the creation process is for nothing, which made me very sad. That was especially obvious during the Gamecube era; Nintendo titles were hardly even discussed by the general public back then."
- Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto reflecting on the Gamecube's ill fortunes.

Nintendo is a company well acquainted with both ups and downs. Its Wii was the bestselling console of the prior generation; the Wii U is struggling to gain a solid foothold in today's market.

In the early 2000s, Nintendo launched the Gamecube, which remains by far the least successful console in the company's history. But what lead to that, and what knowledge might the company be drawing on when it aims to make a success of the Wii U?

This new, comprehensive history of the Gamecube contains a wealth of quotes and information which puts the system's wax and wane into perspective in terms of both Nintendo's descision-making process and history, as well as comparing it to the overall game industry of the time.


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Comments


Dan Johnson
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I had no idea it was the worst-performing Nintendo console... I loved my GameCube to pieces and Wind Waker and Double-Dash! are still among my favorite games of all time.

Kaitlyn Kaid
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I was sure that title would have gone to the Virtual Boy. (unless they are only counting the TV consoles)

Scott Lavigne
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I don't think it's accounting for the relative size of the market.

Wylie Garvin
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Don't forget Metroid Prime. That game by itself easily justified my purchase of a gamecube to sit next to my PS2.

Matthew Mouras
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Or Resident Evil 4. At the time, that game alone would have justified my purchase. As it is, there were many other great titles.

I bought my GameCube the day Pikmin was released and never looked back. Great system.

Christian Nutt
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Counting only TV consoles and not comparing to market size, the Gamecube sold the worst globally by a significant factor. In the neighborhood of 21m, whereas the NES was over 60, the N64 and SNES over 40, and the Wii over 100m, those numbers all off the top of my head right now, though I did double check them before posting this story.

It goes without saying that this is just me sharing data and is not an editorial opinion on the quality of the Gamecube as a console. Personally, I love it.

Ian Uniacke
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Super Smash Bros Melee.
Eternal Darkness.

Basically hit after hit. Sad that it didn't take off like it should have.

Ahmad Daniels
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For the first few years of of that console generation I only owned a Gamecube. For the most part it was too boring for me. I felt like the game droughts were endless. I would buy and trade in so many throwaway titles in between releases like smash bros and Metroid Prime. I was always desperately looking for something to play while it always looked like if you owned a PS2 there was always something of "high quality" being offered every few months. I bought a Xbox after awhile and like how it complemented my gamecube, but even then Xbox suffered from shooter saturation.


Funny though that I remember buying a PS3, because I wanted to get more games and to finally get away from shooters. To my dismay everything became shooters. Maybe I'll never win.

Kale Menges
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Loved my Gamecube. It may have been the worst market-performing console of that hardware generation and for Nintendo overall, but it probably had some of the best designed games of the last decade and a half. Windwaker, Metroid Prime, Eternal Darkness, Smash Bros. Melee, Animal Crossing... And let's not forget that it was the console that pioneered "second screen" gaming with Gameboy Advance connectivity (Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles was not only gorgeous, but its design was ahead of its time).

And you have to admit, Soul Calibur 2 on the Gamecube is still everybody's favorite version.

Aaron Brande
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"And let's not forget that it was the console that pioneered "second screen" gaming with Gameboy Advance connectivity."

Why not? You seem to have already forgotten the Dreamcast did it first with the NeoGeo Pocket - and the VMU.

Christian Nutt
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The NGPC link cable didn't allow for parallel play, did it? It was just downloading/unlocking stuff?

The VMU, a bit of a better case there, but I can't think of a game that had significant or interesting features on the VMU's screen while the VMU was in the controller -- all that stuff was outside the games. And if you're going to tout the VMU you've got to mention the PocketStation...

Curtis Turner - IceIYIaN
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While I grew up on NES/SNES/N64, about two or so years into the N64 I got my first Windows computer. My friends and I played the crap outta GoldenEye and WCW vs NWO Revenge. We then got into Age of Empires II. Which was mind blowing, not that I even like RTS games at all, but you could play on the InterwebZ. Eventually I discovered Counter-Strike and as they say, the rest is history.

After Valve released the dreaded CS 1.4 patch, I looked for a new game for a long time. I was into E-Sports and Halo II was all the rage. So, I bought an X-BoX and GameCube with Halo 1/2 and Metroid Prime / Zelda. The levels in Metroid just looked fantastic. However, those controls... Ugh.

The mouse has quite literally the deathgrip on me...

Bob Johnson
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I got into SWGB big time which was a STar WArs aoe rts clone.

But controls on Metroid? Loved 'em. Unlike fps games on the xbox there was no effort to do second stick aiming with Metroid. There was none of that actually. The second stick selected your beams. You could look around and aim when you weren't moving. But it was done with the left stick and holding down a trigger. Lock-on was also heavily used as Samus had that capability in her suit. That's why I really liked Metroid's controls. It was more about the exploration and puzzles and almost not at all about twitchy shooting. So it fit the game controller really well.

And I too couldn't make the change to gamepad fps controls because m/k controls were just so much more smoother and more precise and quicker.

Phil Maxey
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Behind the SNES the GameCube is my favourite Nintendo console.

John Flush
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I played most of the GC library when I got my Wii. Skipping the GC was the best financial sense I have made when it comes to games. With BC in place you don't need to buy them all instead you pick one, play all of it and the next generation switch sides and play double the library...

Which is one of the reasons I think the xbone and PS4 are not appealing. I had a Wii and X360. I wanted a PS4 but with no BC there was no where to go at launch. So here is hoping Sony gets their back-catalog going soon on the PS4 streaming service.

Back on topic though, I would have to say that I really enjoyed my GC games more than most of my Wii games for quite some time. As my Wii began to die I was kind of sad that the newer models didn't have GC ports or BC, so I actually repaired a console! Take that consumerism!

Bob Johnson
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Actually the GC was pretty cheap a few years into its lifespan. I got in when it was under $99 with Mario Kart and coupons for further discounts on games. And many of the best games by then were dirt cheap.

You'd have been better off to skip the Wii era if love to game for as cheap as possible and then play Wii games in the Wii U era where the Wii U is being ignored and heavily discounted and where Wii games/controllers are dirt cheap.

John Flush
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Sorry, I did make the wrong statement there... not the best financial sense but rather the best gaming sense, for me. I didn't miss anything and didn't have to worry about the adoption of the GC as a viable console to pay back my investment.

And I don't think I would have survived as a gamer to not know how motion controls affected me one way or the other... so there was no way I could have skipped the Wii.

All the GC stuff when I got to it was pretty cheap though, cheaper than if I would have got a GC itself. So I guess for my needs skipping the GC made financial sense. Sorry I made my statement seem like a simple dollar amount was all that mattered.

John Flush
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The big thing though is how BC affects me as a customer... I'm surprised the big 3 don't see it, maybe I'm just a minority though. BC should convince people to jump ship on loyalties to the brand, and also cause earlier adoption as it allows people to view the library for a new console to be much bigger than it really is.

This doesn't work with 'gamers' because they own every console and have every library available. But for me, I only get one or two each gen, it is a huge selling point when starting the next gen for me.

A W
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I live through the Gamecube era, so this history lesson is not new to me. Gamecube was under appreciated during its time, and is over appreciated as a game machine with great exclusives now. Wii U will most likely share the same fate.

Matthew Mouras
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This is one of the more optimistic things I have read about the fate of the Wii U. I hope you are right!

Adam Bishop
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One Gamecube era game that didn't get enough love is Super Mario Sunshine. It wasn't as ground-breaking as Mario 64 was, but it was still a great platformer with solid controls and lots of really interesting and varied levels.

Christian Nutt
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It's a bit sad. It got a lot of backlash at the time and is rarely mentioned anymore.

Ian Uniacke
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That's because I'm not a hippy. If I wanted to clean up the environment I would join a green party.

/trolling

Eric McConnell
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100% the GameCube is my favorite console ever. So many amazing titles and that great feeling controller! Nostalgia rush!

Ian Uniacke
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The wavebird. Lest we forget.

Matthew Mouras
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I found this line in the linked article interesting considering nearly the exact same thing was just said by one of the Next Level Games developers in the currently featured Gamasutra article talking about their relationship with Nintendo:

' ArtXís Greg Buchner told EETimes, ĒThey [Nintendo] had given up on SGI. The last of the people they trusted were gone, and they went looking for the people. Itís not a company-to-company thing for [Nintendo]; itís a person-to-person thing." '

Christian Nutt
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Yeah, I found that REALLY interesting too! The timing of publication is purely coincidental, too.

Michael Williams
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Okay I am new here what does SGI mean.

Christian Nutt
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Silicon Graphics - the company that provided the chips for the N64. Follow the link to the original article if you want to learn more.

Dan Jones
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Despite what the overall sales numbers might have been, the ol' Purple Lunchbox is still in contention for my favorite console of all time. Judging from other comments on here, I'm not alone in this.

Michael Wenk
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Is it me or does there seem to be a bunch of people that just want to blast Nintendo regardless of what they do? I have never understood this.

Steven Christian
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I had a job interview for EA the other day.
I think that the fact that they had a Gamecube in their games room, next to the current gen systems really speaks for itself.

Glenn Sturgeon
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gamecube was the last nin system i bought.
For me GC proved buying a nin system for pretty much only nin's games isn't worth it.
The zelda games were meh & buggy, the mario game was a PITA thus no fun at all compaired to mario64, metroid prime as a fps got so overrated by media it was embarassing.. imo bad filler text and moderate controlls = not a great game. For me smash bros is not intresting at all. (not a fan of ring out fighters) I'm also more of a wipeout guy than a mariokart player.
By far the best thing and one of far too few redeeming qualities of the GC was the gameboy player.
For those of us who don't care how good a game is if it has to be stuck on a 4-5" screen, it was a joy.
If not for the GB player i wouldn't care whether or not i own a GC today. With a GBP the GC is truely irreplaceable.

Blackjack Goren
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While the PlayStation 2 enjoyed the most playtime in my home, the GameCube was still a solid machine with at least two games I consider some of the best of all time: Metroid Prime and Resident Evil 4, and highly enjoyable games like Eternal Darkness and F-Zero GX (Nintendo is wrong about not needing a new FZ entry).

However, I admit the GCN was the first Nintendo console that didn't blow me away with its Zelda and Mario offerings, though I wonder if age and experience played a part in that. And while I grew up with Nintendo characters and fighting games, SSBM did nothing for me after several attempts to enjoy it. That series, for whatever reason, does not resonate with me. I like it as a museum of Nintendo, yet despise it as a game.

Regardless, I still have plenty of GCN games left to play that interest me, such as P.N.03, Custom Robo, Resident Evil: Zero and Cubivore, among others. I'd also like to give Viewtiful Joe a second try, as I'm otherwise a fan of Clover Studios and Platinum Games.


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