TOKYO - Nintendo officially announced the name of its next-generation console today at a press conference held in Makuhari Messe in Japan. Nintendo's GameCube, the successor to the N64, will be released in Japan in July 2001 along with five yet-unnamed launch titles. The console is currently slated for release in the US in October 2001. The company also showed several game demos for the system including Pokemon, Wave Race, Metroid, Zelda, and Star Wars. The official unveiling of GameCube software will take place at next year's E3 show in Los Angeles.
From a technical standpoint, Nintendo's GameCube is unparalleled in the console industry. At its heart is a hybrid of IBM's Power PC architecture. The .18 microns, 405MHz copper process, dubbed "Gekko," includes 16MB of NEC embedded DRAM. ATI has developed the custom 202.5MHz graphics processor with 24MB of embedded Mosys 1-T SDRAM for a total system memory of 40MB. GameCube's onboard features include fog, subpixel anti-aliasing, HW light x8, alpha blending, virtual texture design, multitexture mapping, bump/environment mapping, MIPMAP, bilinear filtering, and real-time texture decompression (S3TC). The GameCube is reportedly capable of displaying 6-12 million polygons per second with both textures and effects enabled.
"In my experience, there have often been theoretical claims of high performance for game hardware, and although people were very impressed by the figures, the actual products haven't even delivered one-tenth of the claims," said Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo's premier game developer. "It is a given that the Nintendo GameCube will offer better graphics and higher quality sound, but more importantly it will allow developers the freedom to concentrate on creativity without worrying about technical limitations."
At just 6 x 6 x 4.3 inches, the extremely small GameCube uses a 56K modem, which will be available seperately at launch, and can be used to post scores, exchange data with other players, download characters, or play head-to-head on Nintendo's Blue-Tooth network. An additional broadband ethernet card will be available at the console's launch. GameCube software will be released on small (8cm diameter) 1.5GB proprietary optical disks manufactured by Matsushita. Two slots are located on the front of the console just below the four controller ports for 4MB Digicard flash memory cards or the 64MB SD-Digicard adapter that allows the GameCube to communicate with Panasonic products. On the back of the console, both analog and digital AV outputs are available along with a variety of high-speed input ports.
The Game Boy Advance, which was also unveiled at the press conference, will be able to communicate with the GameCube in a number of ways. While plugged into one of the GameCube's controller ports, the 32-bit handheld may be used as a simple controller or to upload data from GBA software. Data may also be sent from the GameCube back to the Game Boy Advance. Nintendo also unveiled a wireless RF GameCube controller, dubbed "Wavebird," in addition to the traditional corded model.
"For several years, virtually every advance in our industry has focused solely on improving the 'look' of games. While our new Nintendo GameCube and Game Boy Advance not only will create the best looking games, more importantly, they will transform how players think about interactivity," explained Minoru Arakawa, president, Nintendo of America.