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Monday June 13, 2005 1:00 pm

Nintendo Tried To Be Cool Once - It Didn’t Work

Posted by Andru Edwards Categories: Features, Nintendo Gamecube, Wii,

Nintendo GamecubeRemember the problems that plagued the N64? Lack of a disc based format and difficult console to develop for. Nintendo tried to fix this with the Gamecube and tried to be cool. “We can match anything our friends over at Sony can do” I was skeptical when I heard that line from Nintendo, but they were right. The Gamecube proved to be a far more capable machine than the PS2. What was achieved? Not much. Nintendo went with a cheaper more efficient disc based format, and even then people looked down on them. While they fixed the problems with the N64, and believe me they fixed quite a bit, they also created many mistakes with the GCN.

The disc capacity proved to be problematic with 3rd party developers. 24 MB’s of main RAM hurt the Gamecube’s ability to see quality ports of which many 3rd parties depend on and as such many opted not to make Gamecube ports of their games simply because the allocation of memory proved to be quite difficult.

The unveiling of the laughing stock at first thanks in part to the GCN’s stupid looking design which I believe was a step backwards for Nintendo.

Another problem the Gamecube faced was the ridiculous stigma that Nintendo had from the N64 era and that was that it was a machine for kids. If you don’t think this was a problem you’re a fool. The Gamecube didn’t see a game slated for adults for over 6 months! While the Xbox and PS2 launched with their fair share. Why is this bad? Well Nintendo really didn’t have much to do with it but they didn’t try to correct the problem. The truth is most people who have Gamecubes are adults as are people who own PS2 and Xbox, fair enough. However 3rd parties felt that the GCN would fail to capture an adult audience even before the system launched! Trust me many 3rd parties did not want to risk making an M rated game on the Gamecube for fear that the many, many working adults that stood in line and bought the machine wouldn’t have bought their games. It wasn’t until Capcom slapped them in the face with Resident Evil who went on to be a success for the Gamecube did they realize that there was a market for adult games on the Gamecube. Too little too late.

2002 saw the porting of many PS2 and Xbox M rated hits. This however proved to be futile thanks in part to Nintendo’s lack of foresight when it came to the GCN’s main RAM. The ports were quick and sloppy (even though the GCN featured easy to use OpenGL architecture) and as such the GCN owners shun the half-assed PS2 ports that they already played in 2001.

3rd Party support seemed to be getting worse and by the end of the year some publishers began to drop Gamecube support, a trend that continues to this day. The first major loss was Sega’s sports franchise. NFL 2K3 sold so horrible across all 3 consoles that they had to cut costs down and dropping the Gamecube seemed only fitting considering that it sold the least. Pretty sad considering that Sega had access to Nintendo’s online adaptors long before any one else did and still they opted not to support online on the Gamecube version which probably led to many people choosing a version on a rival system.

The wait for an announcement from Nintendo about online that never came was pretty tough to bear but it was even far more worse as companies opted never to support Nintendo’s online adapters and as such even went as for as to use it as an excuse to not develop for the console.

Godzilla: Save the Earth never came to the Nintendo console in spite of the fact that Godzilla: DAMM sold much better on the Gamecube than it did on the Xbox and even enjoyed a few months of exclusivity on the console. Criterion Games cited that the lack of an online community on the Gamecube was the reason for it to drop support for the GCN and never even started on a port of the stellar (but lacking in the online department) Burnout 3: Takedown.

Lack of online was now being used as an excuse to not develop sloppy half assed ports of PS2 games on the Gamecube.

Free Radical Design may have dropped online support for it’s TS2 game but went ahead and pushed for LAN on both the PS2 and the Xbox again neglecting the GCN. With TS:FP they didn’t even bother to use the Broadband Adaptor at all event stating that they wish they had access to the specs back during the TS2 development days. The game was released on the other 2 consoles with online support.

Nintendo later dropped the Digital A/V port from the Gamecube. A move many were disgusted with. Nintendo’s reason? Lack of users actually taking advantage of the port. Reason being? Nintendo never shipped them to retail. It’s a nut kicking contest with Nintendo being the victor and the loser at the same time. 3rd parties are now starting to drop Progressive Scan support for Gamecube games thanks to Nintendo’s ingenious decision.

Never mind the fact that Nintendo fully supported shipping Modems and Broadband Adaptors to retail chains even though Sega only released 2 online games with Nintendo coughing up a few LAN games all the while Nintendo and many 3rd party developers supported progressive scan in over 140 games.

Now at the dawn of a new console and a chance to make amends Nintendo further distance itself from developers by not providing much information about its new console most of which don’t want anything to do with it. Nintendo loyalists Silicon Knights and Factor 5 gave Nintendo the finger and swam for shore. Nintendo couldn’t be happier as it actively sought to make better relationships with Japanese developers in order to save the Japanese market .

I truly believe that Nintendo doesn’t care about the American market as most American developers don’t care about them. You’d think that in the land where technology is king Nintendo would embrace the future of home entertainment but instead shuns it. Nintendo is weird even for a Japanese company. It wouldn’t surprise me if deep within the Kyoto HQ Nintendo had an army of Japanese oompa loompas testing their games.

- Albert Lopez

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