Nintendo rolls the dice with GameCube

Nintendo officially announced the name of its next-generation console today at a press conference held in Makuhari Messe in Japan.

GameCube, the successor to the Nintendo 64, will be released in Japan in July 2001 along with five yet-unnamed launch titles. The console is currently slated for release in the United States 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 0.18-micron, 405MHz copper wire central processor dubbed "Gekko" includes 16MB of NEC embedded dynamic RAM. ATI has developed the custom 202.5MHz graphics processor with 24MB of embedded Mosys 1-T synchronous RAM for a total system memory of 40MB. GameCube's on-board 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).

GameCube is reportedly capable of displaying 6 to 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 by 6 by 4.3 inches, the extremely small GameCube comes packed with a 56Kbps modem that may be used to post scores, exchange data with other players, download characters or play head-to-head on Nintendo's broadband BlueTooth 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 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.

Communicates with GameBoy Advance GameBoy Advance, Nintendo's 32-bit handheld that was also unveiled at the press conference, will communicate with GameCube in a number of ways. While plugged into one of GameCube's controller ports, GameBoy Advance can be used as a simple controller or to upload data from GBA software. Data can also be sent from GameCube back to GameBoy Advance.Nintendo also revealed 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 GameBoy Advance not only will create the best-looking games, more importantly, they will transform how players think about interactivity," explained Minoru Arakawa, president of Nintendo of America.