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.