"State of GameCube" Response

by Rick Powers - August 16, 2001, 7:23 pm PDT

A Counterpoint to Matt Casamassina’s editorial at IGNCube. Not only does Nintendo know what it has coming, Matt … it’s executing perfectly.

Matt isn’t the only one walking through his local malls, and seeing a plethora of XBox ads and promotional materials. The lack of Nintendo POP presence is certainly disturbing with launch now two and a half months out. The difference is that Nintendo is counting on the price difference, the games, and the positive press to sell the system INSTEAD of traditional advertising.

Nintendo has already thanked Microsoft profusely for cutting deals with developers that allow for cheap development of GCN titles. So along those same lines, what if Nintendo is intentionally allowing Microsoft to do all of its next-generation advertising for it? Buyers get all excited, go to buy it, and then see the GameCube at $100 lower. Once they see the titles that we all know and love, the choice will be clear. The lack of a pre-order program is not an issue yet, and is entirely planned. Nintendo announced at E3 that pre-order programs would start around Labor Day.

Nintendo is also going for a more grass-roots approach this time around, letting the press and word-of-mouth do all of the heavy lifting. Plus, “sources tell us” that Nintendo is planning a last-minute all out assault on your senses right before Launch. Regardless, all of this cloak and dagger business is absolutely intentional, and right in line with Nintendo’s silence before E3 and now before SpaceWorld. Nintendo is keeping as mum as it can, mainly because it CAN. GameCube will sell out at launch anyway, and Nintendo doesn’t have to drum up demand yet. So why not save those crucial dollars for when you need them … when there’s actual competition to worry about?

Microsoft is advertising heavily and schmoozing everyone in sight out of necessity. This is their first foray into the console gaming world, and they have no choice but to hit the ground running. Nintendo is allowing Microsoft to put one foot in its own grave, heavily advertising a system that may slip its date, and may launch with buggy software. They have no “killer app” (and they KNOW it), uncomfortable controllers, no DVD out of the box, no working Online Network … advertising dollars are all Microsoft DOES have.

Nintendo is secure in knowing that every title it releases has the potential of being a killer app, isn’t relying on third parties to sell it’s system, and it shouldn’t have to. Third Party support typically only makes consumers feel better about their choice of console, but can’t sell systems on its own (Square’s Final Fantasy notwithstanding). Having tons of lackluster third-party support at launch can even be a detriment, as Sony will quickly tell you. No third-party game for PS2 has sold over one million copies except for Onimusha.

It also depends on what you consider “third-party”. Rogue Leader and Super Monkey Ball are both major third-party releases (Factor 5/LucasArts for RL and Sega for Monkey Ball), launching with the system. When people say “third-party”, they are clearly thinking Konami, Capcom, Square, etc. Those players will come when GameCube sells enough consoles to make it economically prohibitive NOT to, missing too much market share.

Nintendo has this GameCube launch firmly in hand and under control. Microsoft is really out on a limb promoting a machine heavily that has lackluster software, bad controller design, and too many cooks in the kitchen. Microsoft was the company to beat before E3, seemingly making no mistakes and capitalizing on Sony’s failure to create a machine developers would respect and praise. But since May, Microsoft has made blunder after blunder, losing more ground and developer faith than they can afford for a first-time console company. Nintendo has given them just enough rope to hang themselves, and is simply biding its time. Kids (Nintendo’s primary market) are fickle, and advertising too soon can give them too much time to change their minds. Nintendo is going to ramp up slow, starting with launch, and deliver their final advertising blowout when it really counts … right before Christmas.

To suggest that Nintendo is doing something wrong at this point is ludicrous. Nintendo has been in this game longer than Sony and Microsoft combined, and Nintendo is using that to their advantage. Let Microsoft make their mistakes, and while they’re licking their wounds, Nintendo will step right in with the less kid-oriented titles (like Eternal Darkness and Rogue Squadron) and steal away that vital market share, leveraging a cheaper machine and higher quality titles. Nintendo is creating demand quietly and effective, and isn’t spending a single dime to do it. It’s busy creating the RIGHT kind of buzz and not allowing a competitor to force their hand before they’re ready.

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