E3 2001: Nintendo unleashes GameCube software, a new Miyamoto game, and more

Nintendo has finally lifted the lid on some of its games for the GameCube console.

Los Angeles - At the annual Electronic Entertainment Exposition (E3) today, Nintendo showed its GameCube software to the press for the first time, with a surprise title from legendary game creator, Shigeru Miyamoto. Nintendo's general manager Satoru Iwata addressed the crowd of reporters first, stating that Nintendo has strong views of how the company should run as he leaned heavily on the catchphrase, the "Nintendo difference." The difference being that Nintendo is an entertainment company and not a technology company, emphasizing that graphics and sequels are becoming too important in gaming. In what was reminiscent of a presidential debate, there was a lot of territory marking, strategizing, and vote swaying, with Nintendo playing the role of the grand philosopher, whereas Microsoft earlier today played the role of the consumers' friend.

Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto finally unveiled the GameCube by saying, "Let me introduce you to our new baby. Like all babies, it is small. But it can make a lot of noise." The GameCube will launch in North America on November 5, 2001. Nintendo did not mention the number of game titles that will be available at launch; however, Pikmin, Miyamoto's new brain child, will be available at launch. The list of coming titles includes Luigi's Mansion, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Stars Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II, Raven Blade, Wave Race Blue Storm, NBA Courtside 2002, Disney's Mickey (working title), Donkey Kong Racing, Pikmin, Animal Forest, Metroid Prime, Mamokia, Eternal Darkness, Kameo: Elements of Power, Star Fox Adventures: Dinosaur Planet, and Zelda (working title). Gameplay footage was shown of Luigi's Mansion, Pokemon, Wave Race Blue Storm, Metroid, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Zelda, and others, to raucous applause from attendees. The system will launch in Japan on September 14, 2001, and in Europe in early 2002. Nintendo plans to announce pricing details for the GameCube software, hardware, and peripherals next week, although a Nintendo spokesman did say that the system will be "competitive."

After the details were delivered, Miyamoto presented an actual game disk for one of his games, Luigi's Mansion. The disks can hold up to 1.5 gigs of info and are minisized to fit in "even a child's hand." Miyamoto demoed the controls in Luigi's Mansion through a lengthy gameplay sequence before eventually revealing another of his projects, an adventure game called Pikmin. He started his presentation by saying, "I don't think I can show you something totally unique, but we have something that's kind of new."

The Pikmin story is based on a group of ants called Pikmin. Your main character has crash-landed on another planet and must use the Pikmin to return home. These Pikmin fall under your control, responding to your orders. In true Pokemon fashion, "collecting 'em all," is sort of the objective. Pikmin expands the adventure model to more interaction with not only your environment but with the characters within it. We'll have more impressions of Pikmin in playable form from the show floor.

The wireless controller was also shown, with claims of working to 30 feet, with Miyamoto quickly correcting to 15 feet, "to be safe for now." Miyamoto fully explained and demonstrated the controllers to the audience, mentioning also the new built-in Rumble feature.

Nintendo didn't mention third-party partnerships relating to software development, but hopefully details will come next week.

Nintendo dedicated a relatively small portion of its presentation to its next handheld game machine, the Game Boy Advance, although the system was mentioned before the GameCube at the beginning of the press conference. Nintendo sold 1.6 million units of the Game Boy Advance since it launched in Japan at the end of March and says it will ship 24 million in the US over the first 12 months following the launch. Five hundred thousand units will be available during the US launch on June 11 for a retail price of US$99.95, with 500,000 more available within two weeks. Seventeen launch titles, including Super Mario Advance and F-Zero: Maximum Velocity, will launch on June 11, alongside the system. Nintendo also emphasized the connection between its Game Boy Advance handheld and the GameCube. The company didn't discuss much beyond that you'll be able to use the Game Boy Advance as a controller as well. Nintendo promises more to come during Spaceworld in Japan, in August.

We'll have firsthand impressions and more details from the show floor in the coming days.

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