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Parsley talk about Gamecube in this thread. [roundtable]
So, as several of you know, I've been spending the last week or so replaying Super Mario Sunshine. And while my feelings about the game are that it's the worst 3D Mario game out there, I still feel it was a fun game overall. And I think it was unanimously decided that regardless of the quality of it *as a Mario game,* it still ended up being the best platformer from last gen.

After I finished the game (got all 120 Shine Sprites, baby!) I browsed my Gamecube collection, and realized there are a LOT of really great games that came out for it. Unfortunately for the 'Cube, it got the least respect (and least amount of sales) out of the three major consoles last gen. And I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe you guys can help me figure it out.

The system had a lot going for it. It had some of the most top-of-the-line tech behind it at the time. Four controller ports, standard. Not too long after launch, the Wavebird came out - the first wireless controller that actually worked. Dolby Digital Surround output, as well as Progressive Scan support. It could link up with the super-popular Gameboy Advance. It of course had the backing of Nintendo, inarguably one of the best game development companies in the world. Not only did we get old Nintendo standbys, but new franchises from them as well. And at least until 2003 or so, a ton of high-quality 3rd party support, including some really great exclusive stuff.

So what happened? Why didn't the machine sell like gangbusters and take the world by storm?

Well, okay. Yes. The PS2. Sony had an incredible amount of momentum coming off the original Playstation, and the hype train was unstoppable. But Gamecube was coming off the also-very-successful-N64, and had games like WaveRace: Blue Storm, Pikmin, Rogue Leader and Smash Brothers Melee at or near launch.

And yeah, there was the Xbox too. And even to this day, I'm still baffled as to how that system got the success it did. Everything about that system was wrong IMO. I'm not gonna dwell on how or why the Xbox became so successful, but I'm still just amazed/shocked at how a single FPS game could carry a system and let it live and THRIVE as it did.

But anyway, I kind of want to get down to the nitty-gritty stuff. There are a lot of dismissive things said about Gamecube, but one of the most prevailing ones (and one that still kind of haunts the GCN's successor) was the lack of online support. Some gamers believe it was a major sin that the Gamecube did not go online at all (well, outside of Phantasy Star, anyway). But I don't think that was as big of a deal as some make it out to be.

Last gen, online gaming with consoles wasn't as big of a deal overall. Some may say I'm crazy, but look at the games that sold last gen. The best-selling stuff on PS2 was Grand Theft Auto, Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy X, Metal Gear Solid 2, Jak & Daxter and DragonQuest VIII. The common theme among those games? None of them have online support. Not a single one. Oh, but that was PS2. Online gaming really took off on Xbox, right? Well, kinda. LIVE was a big selling feature sure. But the games? Well, not so much. The best-selling Xbox games were stuff like Halo, Halo 2, Grand Theft Auto Collection, Fable, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Morrowind, and the original Splinter Cell. With the exception of Halo 2, none of these games went online, either. So was it really that big of a deal? I'm not convinced.

But I'm just one guy. What do you guys think? Specifically in regards to online stuff. I wanna get into other aspects/features of the Gamecube at a different point. Let me hear your thoughts!

TL;DR VERSION: Did the lack of online support hurt Gamecube sales?

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Posted: 08/25/11, 06:17:46  - Edited by 
 on: 08/26/11, 19:34:15
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Hmm, I think it had to have, to some degree. I'm not sure if it was totally gamer driven either (chicken or egg?) as a lot of developers would make these games that had online as a huge mode and then use that as an excuse to not make a Gamecube version. There was of course a kiddie image to overcome as well.
Posted: 08/25/11, 06:20:13
The Xbox's success baffles me as well, but Halo kind of became the defining FPS of that generation and the nectar of frat boys everywhere. As popular as SSB was, I think FPS multiplayer is generally the most widely accessible for a lot of gamers. And the PS2 had the GTA games, which were massively popular in the early 00's.

It's hard to think of many GCN games with that same HUGE appeal. Rogue Leader was a good start, as was SSBM. Nintendo's Big Three were all a little iffy for mass appeal though: Sunshine was good but no SM64, Wind Waker had the whole cel-shading hurdle, and Metroid Prime, while awesome, was released in a world that perhaps wasn't ready for a first-person adventure (at least according to many Xbox/PS2 owners). Meanwhile, Halo and GTA released sequels that kept the fire going, and while online wasn't too major last gen, it certainly didn't help Nintendo's situation.

And of course, teh kiddie.

That said, the GCN might be my second-favorite all-time console. It's got something like six all-time classics that are near the top of my favorite games list: Wind Waker, Melee, Metroid Prime, Resident Evil 4, Skies of Arcadia Legends, Viewtiful Joe, and Paper Mario: TTYD. The only Wii games in that area are both SMGs and maybe Brawl. And not only that, there're a ton of other excellent GCN games as well...Pikmin, Pikmin 2, BGAE, Eternal Darkness, REmake, Super Monkey Ball, Tales of Symphonia, Mega Man Collection/X, Mario Kart:DD, Four Swords Adventures, F-Zero GX, Kirby Air Ride, TimeSplitters 2, Metroid Prime 2, Viewtiful Joe 2, TimeSplitters 3, Twin Snakes, Mario Golf: TT, Mario Power Tennis, Donkey Konga, DK Jungle Beat, Baten Kaitos and Ikaruga are all solid as well.
Posted: 08/25/11, 06:39:28  - Edited by 
 on: 08/25/11, 06:39:52
I really don't think the lack of online was that big a problem.

The Cube in general had an image problem. It was seen as weak and inferior. I have buddies way more knowledgeable about tech than me (or at least, they were into computers, if not consoles), and to this day they insist the PS2 was technologically superior to the Cube. They point at the first God of War and say "the Cube couldn't do this", and they've seen Metroid Prime and F-Zero GX in action. And no amount of pointing out how cross-platform games generally performed better on the Cube could change their minds. And while I'm not 100% sure the Cube was more advanced than the PS2 because I know nothing, you guys assure me it is, and I trust you.

I'm not sure where that perception came from, but I've got a general idea:

1) It was purple.
2) It was small, and the discs were small.
3) It looked toy-like.
4) The controller looked weird (and toy-like).

I think those explain the image.

As for more informed people, it didn't help that the cross-console games were generally inferior when it came to controls and amount of content due to:

1) The small-capacity discs.
2) The weird controller.

Online, though? Who really gave a crap?
Posted: 08/25/11, 06:46:48
I adored the GameCube. Everything about it, really. I think there were many contributing factors to its lackluster showing when the other two consoles of its time are taken into consideration - not just online. I think the name, console look and color, controller, smaller disc size/capacity, and of course, online all affected its impact on the consumer and developer/publisher. However, all of these things (save for maybe the online part) are what gave the console its charm factor and made me like it all the more. I liked that the system wasn't a boring white/black/gray slab of plastic. It was indigo, with a handle! It looked like a fun system, and it certainly was. And yes, the invention and release of WaveBird for the GameCube was nothing short of genius. I weep over the thought of not being able to play Smash Bros. WiiU with my WaveBird. I use it weekly when Brawling. But back to the matter at hand... I'm sure online would have helped the GameCube resonate a bit more with the consumer as a viable platform in which to spend money on, but I think many other factors (such as those mentioned above) would still have kept it from being the beacon of gaming glory to the mass consumer (as it was to me). Oh, and is it just me, or did the GameCube feature some of the best water effects of its generation, even besting Wii? I'm still wowed by such in Pikmin, Wave Race, and Sunshine. Anyway, the GameCube days, at least for me, shall forever be happily remembered upon. Even despite its lack of online (didn't miss it at the time). Though, it would have been great to play Melee online!
Posted: 08/25/11, 06:51:11

Who really gave a crap? Really? I think millions did and it played a huge role in the outcome of what happened with the Cube vs Xbox.

Live didn't just magically appear this generation. If you take Xbox Live and specifically Halo 2 out of the equation, the entire platform does nowhere near as well as it did and it doesn't set up this generation. Halo 2 was an absolute phenomenon when it came out and pushed literally millions of Live subscriptions. It established a userbase and created momentum that Microsoft rode out until this gen when solid online shooters and marquee online games became standard rather than the exception (on consoles at least).

Live and specifically the multiplayer aspect it brought with absolutely played a major role last generation. Beyond Halo you had sports games (I played the shit out of NFL2K5 on Live), more niche (awesome games) like Crimson Skies, racers like Project Gotham, etc. At the time was really the only viable way to play those games online with a console and it attracted millions which started the cycle of why the Xbox gets so much 3rd party support.

I agree with your reasons however outside of the Fisher Price toy look (which was just an awful design decision), I really think Live is what separated the Xbox from the Cube in sales. Take Xbox Live, Halo 2 being online and the rest of the games that helped support it and I think the Xbox falters pretty badly last gen. Live really made the platform something much more than it was out of the box which in the early 2000's was nothing more than a Halo Playing Machine, imo at least.
Posted: 08/25/11, 07:01:58

My perception is no doubt colored by my situation at that time: I was still in college and therefore local multi was still a thing. I knew no one who cared about online, and certainly no one willing to pay for Live. Not even my Xbox-owning roommate.
Posted: 08/25/11, 07:09:07
It might have to some degree. Halo 2 really sold Xbox Live and even if Nintendo had a comparable service they would have needed a killer app like Halo 2 to make it stick I think. I remember they launched Prime 2 with local MP at the same time as Halo 2 which was a pretty weak alternative.

I absolutely love the Gamecube though, a few nights ago me and a friend threw on Enter the Matrix and played it for a bit. Man that game could have been so sweet. :(


WTF. If you had a roomate with an Xbox it should have been about local MP and Halo CE/2 LAN. That was such a killer combo back in the day.
Posted: 08/25/11, 07:18:30  - Edited by 
 on: 08/25/11, 07:20:20
It's funny how when it comes to the GameCube, everyone has their own essay to write about it. No short answers. That's because the GameCube is probably the 2nd most controversial console ever released (after the Wii).

When you look back on the GameCube and how it performed, the GameCube's major failing was the marketing put behind it and the image that ensued because of the poor marketing of the system. The GameCube had a fantastic library that pretty much beat the snot out of the Xbox for the first 2-3 years of its life. None of that mattered in the end as far as sales went though, because Microsoft pimped the Xbox and Halo like their life depended on it, which it probably kind of did since if Halo wasn't a hit, the Xbox would have been dead in the water because that system had pretty much jack-squat come out for it until Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic came out for it almost two years after the system launched. The Xbox vs. GameCube war of last gen was style over substance.

The GameCube launched in Nov. of 2001, when no had ever heard the name Reggie Fils-Aime and Hiroshi Yamauchi was still president of Nintendo. Yamauchi's management style was very different than Iwata's. He basically ruled Nintendo like a dictator. His word was law. Which was fine most of the time since most of his decisions were good ones. It's just that his bad decisions ended up being really bad decisions and had repercussions for Nintendo for years to come. So when Yamauchi decided the GCN's primary launch color should be purple, that was that. And that (among other things) pretty much set the GameCube's image in stone for the entirely of its life. The GameCube was never marketed well and it pretty much single-handedly doomed the system to a 3rd place finish.

The GameCube's poor performance in sales never had anything to do with its game library despite what critics of the system (which were many) would tell you.
Posted: 08/25/11, 07:49:59  - Edited by 
 on: 08/25/11, 08:11:29
The thing to remember here is that even though GC did finish 3rd, it was a *bare* 3rd. According to wiki:

Xbox 24 million (as of May 10, 2006)
GameCube 21.74 million (as of September 30, 2010)

Contrast that with the 150 Million trouncing handed out by the PS2...GC and Xbox were pretty even.

As OMW says it was Halo and Live carried the XBox. Without those two factors the GC would have trounced the XBox completely.

Remember the PS2 didn't have much of an online service to speak of either. That didn't stop it from being a sucess. I'd say that online didn't hold the GC back, rather it propped the XBox up.
Posted: 08/25/11, 08:43:34

I didn't give a crap. And yes, it looked like a purple Jack-In-The-Box. Cool dudes wouldn't buy a purple videogame system.

The most fun I ever had playing with other people (sorry MH dudes and Madden leagues) was local franchises in Madden with actual people. You don't get that from online no matter how intuitive or in depth you make it. Those days are sadly gone (but should be kickstarted retro style with the impending completion of my NCAA college rosters, woo!).
Posted: 08/25/11, 09:27:24
Sounds to me that overall, online wasn't that big of a deal in the performance of the Gamecube at retail. Online was really only a big deal to the Xbox, and mostly because of Halo 2. I think I can agree with that.

Some of you have touched upon another aspect of the Gamecube, one I was going to get to later... but since it has been brought up, why not go ahead and tackle it?

So... Gamecube's image/mindshare situation. Yeah. The cube shape with a handle. Purple being the "primary" color. And the overall "teh kiddie" thing. The 'Cube certainly didn't come across as "hardcore" did it? I suppose not, at least not with a cursory glance. And that's likely all a lot of people did. But the 'Cube had a library of games that I thought would really appeal to an older audience. Heck, Resident Evil was exclusive, for crying out loud! Yet it wasn't enough.

Was the purple color and box shape really all it took to turn a good amount of people away?
Posted: 08/25/11, 13:55:06

I don't think so. I mean there was the black one for people who were really worried about the purple.

I''d say the GC's biggest issue was marketing, pure and simple. Here Microsoft and Sony advertising was forced down peoples throats. When it Launched, Halo posters were on the side every bus shelter. You couldn't escape it. But the Gamecube just didn't compete on that front.

That reversed with the Wii. The image of the Wii was burned into the public consciousness from day one. And look at the success it became compared to the 'Cube.
Posted: 08/25/11, 14:06:35  - Edited by 
 on: 08/25/11, 14:07:41
Guillaume said:
The Cube in general had an image problem. It was seen as weak and inferior. I have buddies way more knowledgeable about tech than me (or at least, they were into computers, if not consoles), and to this day they insist the PS2 was technologically superior to the Cube. They point at the first God of War and say "the Cube couldn't do this", and they've seen Metroid Prime and F-Zero GX in action.

And they've also seen Rogue Leader and/or Rebel Strike? Resident Evil 4? Starfox Adventures? Heck, one could even look at EA's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King on Gamecube and make a quick judgement call and say that a game like God of War is totally doable on 'Cube.

Oldmanwinter said:
If you take Xbox Live and specifically Halo 2 out of the equation, the entire platform does nowhere near as well as it did and it doesn't set up this generation. Halo 2 was an absolute phenomenon when it came out and pushed literally millions of Live subscriptions.

So Halo sold the Xbox, and Halo 2 sold LIVE? That's... actually completely plausible. No other game really made LIVE what it is, like Halo 2 did. Though I really did enjoy playing Crimson Skies!


Ugh, don't remind us of Enter the Matrix! Also? Double Dash!! LAN Parties > Halo LAN parties. (IMHO)

WrathOfSamus777 said:
It's funny how when it comes to the GameCube, everyone has their own essay to write about it. No short answers. That's because the GameCube is probably the 2nd most controversial console ever released (after the Wii).

I know, right? It was pretty controversial, despite Nintendo's effort to make it as "samey" as the competition's at the time. Funny how that happened.
Posted: 08/25/11, 14:34:54
I finished Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance for the first time a couple weeks ago. Hell of a game! I've got Radiant Dawn waiting to be played.
Posted: 08/25/11, 15:55:06

Nice! Indeed, Path of Radiance was great!

When you start up Radiant Dawn, be sure to have your Gamecube Memory Card inserted in the Wii, so all your save data from Path of Radiance carries over!
Posted: 08/25/11, 16:13:10
Hmm, won't that make the game too easy? A lot of my characters were maxed out...
Posted: 08/25/11, 16:16:05

I don't know, I have yet to actually start Radiant Dawn.

You tell me, okay?
Posted: 08/25/11, 17:35:02
WrathOfSamus777 said:
It's funny how when it comes to the GameCube, everyone has their own essay to write about it. No short answers.

Agreed. I'll try to keep it uncharacteristically short, though.

A robust online certainly would have helped the Cube find its own market, but I don't think that's the reason it failed. As others have mentioned, the PS2 barely had a better online service and it sold like gangbusters. Truth is, online is the reason the Xbox was able to ace the Cube, but lack of online isn't specifically why the Cube failed. If we confuse those two concepts then we might as well say the Cube failed because it didn't have Halo. This could get pretty silly.

I really doubt that the Cube's fate was tied very heavily to the rise of the Xbox. No, I think a more solid argument is that Sony just did a better job of convincing the Cube's intended audience to choose the PS2 instead. There are probably a hundred different reasons why that happened, including the strength of the Playstation brand, the mixed success of the N64, lack of third party support, the fall of SEGA (who were so closely tied to Nintendo in the minds of old school gamers that there was a loud call for Nintendo to cut their losses and go third party, even while Nintendo was turning a profit), brand fatigue, and the general feeling that Nintendo couldn't do anything better than Sony by that point. In Blue Ocean terms, Nintendo was fighting a doomed Red Ocean battle with a more powerful enemy.

I have no loyalty to the Playstation brand at all - not a drop - but if I had to sum up why the Gamecube failed in one word, it'd be: Sony.
Posted: 08/25/11, 21:27:21
I was pretty disappointed with gaming in general during that generation; the Gamecube included. While I loved the N64, I had a hard time finding any games to be interested in on the Gamecube. Rare was sold to Microsoft, and on the PS2 I pretty much only played it for the Mega Man X and Tony Hawk games. As for the Gamecube, almost all of the games didn't interest me. I eventually got Sunshine and Wind Waker, but found them (particularly Wind Waker) to be disappointing. I've never liked Metroid, and the other games, whether they were Super Monkey Ball or Resident Evil (I wasn't into mature games at that point in time), all were unappealing to me. I was interested in Dinosaur Planet on N64, but when it was retooled as a Star Fox game on Gamecube, I lost interest in that as well. The only Gamecube games I actually played and loved during its lifetime were Super Smash Bros. Melee and Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door. Because of finding so few games to be interested in at the time, I stopped playing most games during that generation.

Later on though, when I became interested in gaming again around 2007, I went back and found some other Gamecube games I liked, such as the Resident Evil remake (since I now was interested in the series), and Tales of Symphonia (which was pretty enjoyable overall) and... stuff. I still don't have many Gamecube games though, and from my experience at least it's still my least favorite Nintendo console.
Posted: 08/25/11, 22:21:26
I love my little silver GCN, best console ever IMO.

A lot of people consider the GCN as the dark ages for Nintendo, but I remember my trusty wavebird (comfy and effective), Wind Waker (you could, gulp, control the camera!!!), and the definitive masterpiece of all Gamedom: METROID PRIME
Posted: 08/25/11, 22:30:40  - Edited by 
 on: 08/25/11, 22:31:14
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