The Nintendo GameCube (ニンテンドー ゲームキューブ, Hepburn: Nintendō Gēmukyūbu) (commonly abbreviated as GameCube) is a home video game console released by Nintendo in Japan and North America in 2001 and in the PAL territories in 2002. The GameCube is Nintendo's entry in the sixth generation of video game consoles and is the successor to their previous console, the Nintendo 64. The GameCube competed with Sony'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 in a miniDVD-based format and the system was initially not designed to play full-sized DVDs or audio CDs, unlike its competitors, and focused on gaming instead. However, Nintendo did eventually release a GameCube that could fit full-sized DVDs and CDs, and even allow it to play video DVDs and audio CDs. The console supports limited online gaming for a small number of games via a GameCube broadband or modem adapter and can connect to a Game Boy Advance with a link cable, which allows players to access exclusive in-game features using the handheld as a second screen and controller.
The GameCube uses composite video cables to display games on the television; however, there are differences in the two GameCube models. The models produced before May 2004 also have the ability to use digital component AV cables and progressive scan and a second serial port. The nameplate on the top of the console with the words "Nintendo GameCube" can be removed. This model is known as DOL-001. The previously mentioned features were removed in GameCube consoles produced between 2004-2007; the later model was known as DOL-101. The newer model has updated firmware that disables Action Replay cheats and cheat codes (a newer version was developed to circumvent this) and the disc-reading laser was improved in many ways, though it is not as durable. The newer model came with a 48-watt AC adapter to power the console, while the original is 46 watts.
Reception of the GameCube was generally positive. The console was praised for its controller, extensive software library and high-quality games, but was criticized for its exterior design and lack of features. Nevertheless, its well-critically-acclaimed games were released across all sixth-generation consoles and for Windows worldwide. Nintendo sold 21.74 million GameCube units worldwide before the console was discontinued in 2007. Its successor, the seventh-generation Wii (some models of which have backward compatibility with most GameCube software), was released in November 2006.
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. Subsequently, Nintendo began providing development kits to game developers such as Rare and Retro Studios. Nintendo also formed a strategic partnership with IBM, who created the Dolphin's CPU, 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 GameCube at a press conference in Japan on August 25, 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 games, including Luigi's Mansion and Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader. Several games originally scheduled to launch with the console were delayed. It is also the first Nintendo console since the Famicom not to accompany a Super Mario platform game at launch.
Long before 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 games. 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 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 games originally destined for the Nintendo 64 console were postponed in favor of becoming early releases on the GameCube. The last first-party game 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 games, such as The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, can 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 its E3 2001 reveal. The goal was to distinguish itself from the competition as an entertainment company. Later advertisements have the slogan, "Born to Play", and game ads feature a rotating cube animation that morphs into a GameCube logo and ends with a voice whispering, "GameCube". On May 21, 2001, the console's launch price of US$199 was announced, US$100 lower than that of the PlayStation 2 and Xbox.
The GameCube was 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 titled MusyX. In collaboration with Dolby Laboratories, MusyX provides motion-based surround sound encoded as Dolby Pro Logic II.
In February 2007, Nintendo announced that it had ceased first-party support for the GameCube and that the console had been discontinued, as it was shifting its manufacturing and development efforts towards the Wii and Nintendo DS. Despite this, Nintendo still manufactures and repairs GameCube units in Japan.