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Nintendo's current generation home video games console (as of Q4 2001). Previously known before release as the Dolphin and briefly as the StarCube. The machine is powered by an IBM CPU called 'Gekko' running at 475mhz, and a custom GPU developed by ATi called 'Flipper'. The machine has a total memory capacity of 40 megabytes, 24 megabytes of which are 1-T SRAM (i.e. very fast indeed).

The machine is built on the philosophy of making the most efficient and well-suited device to play 3D games on, as well as making it easy to code for. Hence the reliance on specialised components, with an emphasis on efficiency (Nintendo have worked to resolve bottlenecks instead of throwing more resources at the machine.* So we see another consumer-friendly upshot of this is that the machine is cheaper and smaller than either of its main rivals. Critics who claim the machine is seriously underpowered compared to the Xbox would be more credible if they could point to any game that the Xbox can handle that the GC can't. (Apart from Championship Manager, which I reckon is cheating as it's really a PC game.)

The machine uses proprietary 1.5GB mini DVD's developed by Matsushita, which are more difficult to pirate and load very quickly indeed. The case features a carrying handle (intended to move it around the room/house like a portable TV) and four controller ports into which can be plugged either the utterly sublime controller (the best I have ever used, and I've used them all), or a Game Boy Advance (with the appropriate connector lead) allowing for gameplay elements to be presented on the GBA screen. The machine has ports for a modem or broadband adapter.

Along with the two serial ports, there is a parallel port on the base of the unit marked 'HI SPEED PORT'. As of yet, it is unknown what purpose this port serves, the most likely guesses being that it will be used to add a hard disk drive, an additional bank of RAM (perhaps to bring the machine into line with the Triforce arcade board?), or some combination of these and other enhancements in a forthcoming expansion pak. Although going on Nintendo's past record with expansion ports, there is a possibility that it will never be used for anything...

The main thing that the machine has against it is the ferocity of the competition. Things are by no means as bleak as the N64 days, but it seems optimistic to think that the Gamecube will achieve NES/PSX-like dominance - a 30-40% share of the market seems more realistic. This is certainly good enough to make the machine a viable platform for third party developers, and of course Nintendo will be providing their usual top-notch first party games as well. Panasonic have developed a compatible machine called the Q which can play DVD movies as well as Gamecube games, for those who like an all-in-one box under their TV.

The GC has a bunch of great games already, including but not limited to:-

*By way of contrast, the Xbox's processor may run at 733mhz, but it's a general purpose Intel chip running a Windows 2000 based environment - frittering cycles away at every stage. And it costs more when you factor in the PC-derived hardware needed to support it. Likewise, the DVD drives on the xbox and PS2 incur licensing fees from the DVD cartel.

The Next Generation Console from Nintendo.

The Game Cube will be fighting against the Dreamcast,Playstation 2, and the new X-Box for dominance of the video game market.

Games likely to be developed for this console are Super Mario, Metroid, Wave Race and a Star Wars:Rogue Squadron 2 game. These games have been shown as demos in the Space World Convention. Metroid looks particularly amazing, which shows that Nintendo is taking the US market more seriously. Metroid always sold poorly in Japan.

It has comparable or higher power than the Playstation 2. Nintendo has shown an interesting bit of honesty that other companies usually do not show by stating the following in the official specs page:

"The peak figures listed are all for maximum instantaneous performance and cannot be achieved with the actual game. However, following the conventions in the game industry they are listed for your reference."

This is usually true for all consoles, but they all try to hide it.

These are the official specs, from Nintendo.com:

Official Name NINTENDO GAMECUBE

  • MPU("Microprocessor Unit")* IBM Power PC "Gekko"
  • Manufacturing Process 0.18 microns Copper Wire Technology
  • Clock Frequency 475 MHz
  • CPU Capacity 925 Dmips (Dhrystone 2.1)
  • Internal Data Precision 32bit Integer & 64bit Floating-point
  • External Bus Bandwidth 1.6GB/second(Peak)
  • External Bus Bandwidth 1.6GB/second(Peak) (32bit address, 64bit data bus 202.5MHz)
  • Manufacturing Process 0.18 microns NEC Embedded DRAM Process
  • Clock Frequency 202.5MHz
  • Embedded Frame Buffer Approx. 2MB
  • Embedded Frame Buffer Approx. 2MB Sustainable Latency : 5ns (1T-SRAM)
  • Embedded Texture Cache Approx. 1MB Sustainable Latency : 5ns (1T-SRAM)
  • Texture Read Bandwidth 12.8GB/second (Peak)
  • Main Memory Bandwidth 3.2GB/second (Peak)
  • Color, Z Buffer Each is 24bits
  • Image Processing Function Fog, Subpixel Anti-aliasing, HW Light x8, Alpha Blending, Virtual Texture Design, Multi-texture Mapping/Bump/Environment Mapping, MIPMAP, Bilinear Filtering, Real-time Texture Decompression (S3TC), etc.
OTHER
  • Real-time Decompression of Display List, HW Motion Compensation Capability
*The Gekko MPU integrates the power PC CPU into a custom, game-centric chip.

(The following sound related functions are all incorporated into the System LSI)

  • Sound Processor Special 16bit DSP
  • Instruction Memory 8KB RAM + 8KB ROM
  • Data Memory 8KB RAM + 4KB ROM
  • Clock Frequency 101.25 MHz
  • Maximum Number of Simultaneously Produced Sounds ADPCM: 64ch
  • Sampling Frequency 48KHz
  • System Floating-point Arithmetic Capability 13.0GFLOPS (Peak) (MPU, Geometry Engine, HW Lighting Total)
  • Actual Display Capability 6 million to 12 million polygons/second
  • Actual Display Capability 6 million to 12 million polygons/second (Display capability assuming actual game with complexity model, texture, etc.)
  • System Main Memory 24MB Sustainable Latency : 10ns or lower (1T-SRAM)
  • A-Memory 16MB (100MHz DRAM)
  • Disc Drive CAV (Constant Angular Velocity) System
  • Disc Drive CAV (Constant Angular Velocity) System Average
Access Time Data Transfer Speed 16Mbps to 25Mbps 128ms

MEDIA

  • 8cm NINTENDO GAMECUBE Disc based on Matsushita's Optical Disc Technology Approx. 1.5GB Capacity
  • Input/Output Controller Port x4
  • Digicard Slot x2
  • Analog AV Output x1
  • Digital AV Output x1
  • High-Speed Serial Port x2
  • High-speed Parallel Port x1
  • Power Supply AC Adapter DC12V x 3.5A
  • Main Unit Dimensions 150mm(W) x 110mm(H) x 161mm(D)

(It is not really a cube. A cube needs the 3 axis lengths to be equal, in order to be considered a cube. I guess "Game Rectangular Prism" did not sound as attractive.)

AN INTRODUCTION TO THE NINTENDO GAMECUBE*

please note: Written in Australian English

The entertainment industry has become more and more digitalized over recent years with digital music, digital movies and, of course digital games. Although computer games have been around for some time now it has only been in the last couple of years that they have really taken off as a widely accepted form of entertainment. Lately there have been many advances in computer games consoles allowing for noticeable improvements in the caliber of computer games. They have been transformed from the blips and flashing dots of the past to the, musical, multi-textured masterpieces of today.

In the realm of console based computer games there are three leading systems. They are the Microsoft X-box, The Sony Playstation 2 and the Nintendo Gamecube. The most promising of these three state-of-the-art gaming systems is the Gamecube.

The Nintendo Gamecube has been in development for some time and during this period was known by the codename “Project dolphin”. Many gaming fans have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Gamecube after the let down of Nintendo’s previous console, the Nintendo 64. The 64 was a powerful console, but was difficult for third party developers to program for. This lead to a lack of support from popular games developers and with not a lot of reputable games to play, gamers looked elsewhere to find a console to satisfy their need for variety of top of the range games. Another factor that had an adverse effect on the success of the 64 was the choice of Nintendo President Hiroshi Yamauchi to continue using cartridges for games instead of updating to CDs. Although cartridges can be accessed faster than CDs, they cannot hold nearly as much information and are far more expensive to make. Another reason for using the cartridges was to avoid piracy. Counterfeit CDs could be burnt on personal computers and, with the correct modification could have been used as an alternative to purchasing legitimate copies of games. Piracy such as this costs the industry a considerable amount of money each year. The problem with this strategy is that at the time of the 64’s release, the technology for burning CDs was still very expensive and the amount of people with access to CD burners was too little to have had any considerable affect.

The Gamecube was designed to avoid all of these downfalls and as a result is very popular amongst game designers as they are now able to transform their concepts into reality with greater ease than ever before. Now, Nintendo has signed up many top developers such as Namco, Capcom, Sega, Factor 5 and the ever faithful Rare to make games for their new and improved system. The benefit of having developers such as these creating games for the Gamecube is not only quality games, but also the licenses they bring with them. Sega will bring all new Sonic games to Gamecube, Factor 5 will bring future Lucasarts games and Namco will bring all of their top selling series as well including Soul Calibur 2 This will eliminate any problems that Nintendo have had in the past with a lack of support. We have learnt from the Playstation that the more support a console has, the more successful it will be.

Nintendo needed to overcome their previous problems with cartridges. What they needed was a medium that could be accessed faster than a cartridge or standard CD, that could store more data than a standard CD and also, at a time when CD burning technology has become affordable, a medium that was counterfeit-proof. So Nintendo turned to the 3” Gamecube disk using Panasonics Optical Disk technology. The disk can hold far more data than a standard CD, 1.5gig to be exact. It uses an ultra fast drive to eliminate loading times and is comprised of technology that is counterfeit-proof.

Even with these major problems solved, Nintendo still needed to put Gamecube ahead of its competitors, the Playstation 2 and the X-box. The Gamecube is set to beet the competition with power, smarts and outstanding gameplay elements. The Playstation 2, although a powerful console in its own right, is out gunned by the shear power of the Gamecube’s graphical capabilities.

Many popular games will be appearing on both systems, but the versions appearing on Gamecube will be graphically superior

The X-box is Microsoft’s first attempt at a console based gaming system and is slightly more powerful than the Gamecube. But some questionable decisions about its target audience leave a big question mark over its future. Microsoft has chosen to enter the console gaming genre with a system that targets more mature, adult gamers. At first this seems like a good idea, relying on adults to buy the system for themselves instead of their kids. But as Microsoft started production on mature games, gamers started to notice a striking resemblance between Microsoft’s X-box lineup and their PC lineup. Not only is Microsoft using a lot of the same styles for PC and X-box, but the same actual games. For gamers wanting to play PC games, the best thing to do is to buy a PC. Microsoft is trying to target the same audience that is, at the moment playing its PC games. It would have to steel its own customers to make the X-box a success. Another factor that may hold the X-box back is the difficulty which developers are having trying to program games for it. It has gained a reputation for being very difficult to handle when it comes to converting games from the concept stage into an actual game that closely resemble what was intended.

Nintendo has committed itself to creating games for the game cube that cater to all gamers from the very young to the very mature. As the saying goes: “Over specialize and you breed in weakness”.

Another wise choice by Nintendo was no to include DVD playback. Both Playstation 2 and X-box come standard with DVD playback, but this feature boosts the price of the system and when it comes to purchasing a gaming console, price, whether gamers like it or not, will be the determining factor. But if a gamer wanted DVD playback and could afford it, Nintendo have licensed Panasonic to create a version of the Gamecube that can play DVDs, which will be available a few months after the release of Nintendo’s Gamecube. The Panasonics Gamecube will be more expensive, but give gamers the choice of DVD playback if they want. On top of that, the Panasonic Gamecube has full DVD playback features and comes standard with a full function remote control, both of which the other Consoles lack.

The actual price of the Gamecube has not yet been confirmed for Australia yet, but it is certain that it will be cheaper than both the X-box and the Playstation 2. It is estimated it will retail for around $400Aus

To conclude: Nintendo has shrugged off the problems of the past and devoted itself to creating a console that is flexible, powerful and easy to program for. The Gamecube seems to have all its bases covered, being able fend its competition from every angle. In the coming year, when the Gamecube is released in Australia, Nintendo loyalists and newcomers alike have a whole lot of gaming fun ahead of them. ^/ ^

*This is a biased introduction, but still deals with the facts.

Nintendo's next-generation gaming console, which eventually became the Gamecube, was originally named Project Dolphin. In a 1999 press conference, Nintendo of America chairman Howard Lincoln admitted that he had no clue why the system was originally named after marine mammals, but he did propose that perhaps the original developers had a thing for dolphins.

The first pictures of the Dolphin were curvy and rounded with almost no edges to speak of. The irony of this, of course, is that the present-day Gamecube has absolutely no curves at all. I can't even imagine what kind of R&D warfare must have occurred for them to do such a complete redesign.

In December of 1999, Nintendo filed a patent for the name Star Cube with a description eerily similar to the N64. Rumors started flying and intensified when Computer and Video Games announced that they had received word from "sources close to Nintendo's Japanese Office" that Nintendo's new system will be called "Star Cube", with an official announcement coming at Space World on August 24-27 of 2000 (Space World is Nintendo's trade show held annually in Tokyo).

Nintendo of Sweden also misreported this unfortunate name in a mistaken press release on their website. Mass panic ensued. Apparently, folks close to the Nintendo scene believed that the Star Cube was not just a name, but a visual description. This begged the question of what exactly did they think that a Star Cube would look like? A cube shaped like a star, or a star shaped like a cube? This is as nonsensical as saying I have invented a square circle.

Fortunately (for Nintendo's marketing department), Nintendo of America convinced Nintendo of Japan that Star Cube was a horrible name. They both eventually decided on naming the console the Gamecube, probably in reference to the popular Game Boy.

I think that Gamecube was an unfortunate name. It is a gross misrepresentation of the console. After careful measurements, it has become apparent that the Gamecube is not a cube at all. A better name would have been the Nintendo Rectangular Gameprism.

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