Nintendo earmarks 100,000 GameCubes for Canadian shoppers

Primed to maintain its leadership position in the Canadian video game market, Nintendo of Canada Ltd. this week offered a sneak peek at its GameCube system in Toronto.

Vancouver-based spokesperson Ron Bertram said Nintendo has 100,000 GameCube units earmarked for sale in Canada between Nov. 18 (the official release date for North America) and Christmas Day. Moreover, 300,000 pieces of gaming software will also hit the streets just 38 days before Christmas morning.

“We estimate between November 18 to Christmas, we will sell about 100,000 Nintendo GameCubes in Canada and about 300,000 pieces of software. We’re going to need every one of them, judging by the initial reaction we’ve had by sampling the game across the country,” he said. “Hardware sales for our industry are up 67 per cent and software is up 32 per cent in Canada, and in the United States we’re up overall by 35 per cent.”

Retailing for $299 – allegedly $150 cheaper than Microsoft’s forthcoming Xbox system or the Sony PlayStation2 – the console is 4.3 inches high, 5.9 inches wide and 6.3-inches deep. The GameCube’s microprocessor unit (MPU) is a custom-built IBM Power PC “Gekko”, with 485 MHz frequency. The Cube houses 1.3 GBps bandwidth (32-bit address space, 64-bit data bus, 162 MHz clock), a 24-bit colour pixel depth, and 2.6 GB per second memory bandwidth. Its controller – the part that provides the crucial connection between the player and the game – helps comprise what Greg Buchner, vice-president of engineering for ATI Technologies Inc. of Markham, Ont., called the “perfect gaming experience”.

“We set out with a high level goal of making the system that game developers would just love,” said Buchner. ATI’s created the GameCube’s graphic chip. “If we could succeed in getting the game developers to love the system and be successful with the system, everything else would fall into place.”

Buchner added that the collective partners managed to achieve all of its goals while keeping GameCube’s retail price competitive.

“From a cost point of view, I think we nailed the cost well,” he said. “That’s evident by the price gap at retail, $150 difference, between the (competing) systems on the market.”

Nintendo plans to release a means for its Game Boy Advance handheld video game to connect with the GameCube for use as an additional screen and/or controller. In addition, it will offer both a 56K modem and a broadband Internet adapter so the Cube can partake in online gaming; come 2002. However, Bertram said Nintendo has no plans whatsoever to pursue offering online games.

“GameCube has broadband capability, but there are no plans to launch online games,” he said.

The Cube will arrive to Canadian consumers compatible with an SD-memory card adapter, a digital memory card (a 4 Mb card to enhance the system’s games), a wireless Wavebird controller (good for up to 10 metres), and a digital video cable.

Bertram said Nintendo would be introducing a bunch of new games for the Cube, including classics like Zelda and Mario Bros. In the meantime, Wave Race: Blue Storm, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, LucasArt’s Rogue Leader (a Star Wars based-game in which the goal is to fly an X-Wing fighter into battle against the evil Death Star and Darth Vader), and NBA Courtside 2002 round out the top games offerings. But there’s more: Star Fox Adventures, Super Smash Bros.’ Melee, Pikmin, Madden NFL 2002, Luigi’s Mansion, XG3 Extreme G Racing, and SSX Tricky.

“This is the year we show gamers a new paradigm of gaming,” Bertram said. “We’re the leader in the Canadian market to the tune of over 54 per cent in a $700 million dollar industry.”

Brent Tosti, senior producer of the Rogue Leader game for San Francisco-based LucasArts, said GameCube was made for people who understand how games should be made.

“As a developer, I found it…very easy to get the game up and going and not spend 60 per cent of your development time trying to the program to work,” he said. The system has an internal clock and Rogue Leader takes advantage of that feature by actually having some visions that’ll change depending on the time and date that you play. For example, if you play at 10:20 at night, the game will actually be played at night.

Other partners offering software for GameCube: Midway Sports Inc. will ship its NHL Hitz 2002 on Nov. 13, Sega’s Super Monkey Ball is out in November, and Montreal-based Ubi Soft Entertainment’s Batman: Vengeance and Disney’s Tarzan Untamed will be apart of the initial Cube launch.

“We will be launching an additional six titles (for GameCube) by March 2002…and a total of 20 game titles in 2002,” said Ubi Soft’s product manager, Chantal Cloutier. “Ubi Soft is in a strong position to build a catalogue of GameCube titles.

“Many of the Game Boy titles are being manufactured in Montreal…several of our developers mentioned they enjoy developing games on this platform because it’s easy to work with.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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