Nintendo Unveils New Video-Game Console

C H I B A, Japan, Aug. 24, 2000 -- Scurrying, squealing, bouncing, each of the more than 100 Marios does something different on the screen. One waves. Another yelps. A third Mario rolls a fourth one along the ground.

Nintendo Co. gave a preview today of its new video-gameconsole, GameCube, equipped with the technological finesse, memorycapacity and dazzling graphics to compete with Sony Corp.’sPlayStation2 and the planned X-Box from Microsoft Corp. GameCube isexpected to reach U.S. stores in October 2001.

It’s All Fun and Games

In a clear stab at competitors, the Japanese manufacturer behindthe Pokemon animated monster craze stuck to a single strongmessage: GameCube is for playing games. It’s neither anotherliving-room appliance nor a personal computer.

Sony’s PlayStation2, which went on sale in Japan in March and isslated for the U.S. market Oct. 26, also plays digital video disksand is expected to be Sony’s flagship machine to access theInternet.

Microsoft is expected to exploit its prowess in the computerbusiness when it comes out with the X-Box next year.

“We don’t have the motive of spreading our machines to thepublic so they will be later used as multipurpose audiovisualmachines,” said Genyo Takeda, a Nintendo official overseeingresearch and development. “We aimed for the best possible machinefor playing games.”

The still unpriced GameCube, which is about half the size of ashoe box, is expected to hit Japanese stores in July 2001 and U.S.shelves in October 2001.

Besides the regular remote control, it comes with a wireless onethat works from as far as 10 yards away. A modem that hooks up to aregular phone line as well as the faster broadband will also beavailable.

Analysts said Nintendo was making a wise choice by sticking tothe niche game business, instead of trying to challenge Sony andMicrosoft on their turf.

“It’s going to be different marketing scheme. They still have ahuge hold on the little kiddie market,” said Zachary Liggett,analyst with WestLB Panmure in Tokyo.

“Those who are going to survive and really bang it out on thehardware market are Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft.”

Day of the Dolphin

Nintendo was shy about showing the reporters in a packed hallnear Tokyo any of the games being developed for GameCube, which wascode-named Dolphin during its development.

On a huge screen, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto showed off thedozens of replications of the red-capped little plumber, all inmovie-quality imagery, instead of the solitary Mario battlingmonsters that is familiar to players of the current Nintendo 64.

Nintendo was less secretive about its prototype Game BoyAdvance, the improved version of its popular handheld game machineplanned for the Japanese market for March 21, 2001 at a price of$90 and for July in the United States. Nintendo did not give a U.S.price.

Improving Your Game

About the size of the current Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advancehas an easier-to-see liquid crystal display that is about 1½ timesbigger than the current one.

An adapter that will allow Game Boys to connect to cell phonesis planned for Dec. 14 in Japan.

Nintendo showed about 10 games planned for the Game Boy Advancebut made no secret of the fact that the machine was strictly forsimple, two-dimensional images that can still be fun.

Sony has shipped 3 million PlayStation2s so far. And it hasmanaged to dominate the world game market, having sold 73 millionof the original PlayStations so far.

But Nintendo has managed to stay in the game. Worldwide sales ofits Game Boy topped 100 million this summer. And Nintendo 64 salestotal more than 29 million worldwide.

As with any new game machine, the quality of the games that comeout with the GameCube machine will determine its popularity,analysts say.

“Nintendo can certainly put up a good fight,” said Eiji Maeda,analyst with the Daiwa Institute of Research. “Maybe they can’tdominate, but they can certainly rally from behind.”