Released back in November 2001, the follow up to the Nintendo 64 marked a turning point for the Big N that saw the company in the position of underdog in an industry it had once ruled with an unquestioned authority.
Gone were the days of the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. Now was the era of the PlayStation 2, a veritable juggernaut of video gaming, and Nintendo was struggling to come up with something to compete with the system that would go on to become history’s best-selling console of all time.
The Nintendo 64 was a success but it was still second fiddle to the original PlayStation. Many analysts then and now pointed to Nintendo’s reluctance to move away from the cartridge format as much of the reason for the N64’s inability to attract developers like the PlayStation did. Citing the security of cartridges, the Nintendo 64 was limited by capacity towards the end of its life as making larger cartridges necessitated a higher price, making these types of games unviable in the market. Of course, Nintendo considered alternatives to the Nintendo 64’s cartridge-based existence, the biggest of which being their born again Nintendo Famicom Disk Drive in the form of the Nintendo 64DD, or disk drive.
The GameCube was meant to be Nintendo’s fix for these shortcomings and that’s why the system uses small discs that, while capable of holding a considerable amount of data, were still not comparable to Sony’s DVD-based PS2. From the beginning, the GameCube was working from a different palette and, while this usually benefits Nintendo, in the case of the GameCube it led to the stagnation of the system.
Launched in North America with a handful of games, among them being a title starring Mario’s brother Luigi, the GameCube was different from the three previous systems from Nintendo in that it lacked a marquee Mario titles…or really any marquee title…to sell the system from day one. Luigi’s Mansion doesn’t count and was a woefully disappointing game for those gamers that wanted a sequel to Super Mario 64. Super Mario Sunshine eventually came out, as did the classic Super Mario Kart Double Dash, but Nintendo’s slapshot approach to getting these titles to market coupled with the overwhelming presence of the PlayStation 2 meant the GameCube was going to be a Nintendo fanboy’s system and that was about it.
But don’t count Nintendo out: The GameCube led to developments on Nintendo’s part that not only catapulted them back to the top of the industry but also provided much of the template for the company’s current business model today. Deciding to no longer bring the heat in high-end gaming to companies like Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo’s Wii console instead decided to pursue a mass-market audience and backed it up with groundbreaking motion controls. The console dominated, to everyone’s surprise, and featured a lineup of classic Nintendo titles that will stand the test of time alongside the best from the SNES and NES.