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How I Got My GameCube - A Remembrance of a System Launch 

Zach's Story

by Zachary Miller - November 18, 2011, 7:41 pm PST

It was a day filled with joy and also humiliation.

The year was 2001—the year we made contact. This was a red-letter year by any stretch of the international imagination. Wikipedia, reliable if unscholarly reference site for lazy college students, was born in January of that year. The Russian space station, Mir, crashed into the Pacific Ocean in March, signaling Russia’s prolonged admittance to losing the space race. Just a few months before our story begins, there was that little incident in New York City that touched off a global war on terror, and just two days prior, the first Harry Potter film hit theaters worldwide, leading to legions of Potter fans bitching about how much of the book was left out of the film. How old do you feel NOW?

It was the morning of November 18th, just seven days before my eighteenth birthday. I had the illustrious career of a municipal lifeguard at the time, working with four good friends to save lives, swim whenever we wanted to, and ogle women in bikinis. It was a good life; a simple life. The day before, sometime after the pool closed to the public and we lifeguards were cleaning the deck, compatriot Shea Loescher suggested something radical: we should totally drive to the midtown Walmart at like four o’clock in the morning and camp out for the GameCube launch. This is something I had never done before, but I liked the idea—crazy as it sounded. Now, some history.

Alaskans have it rough. Winter lasts like seven months, because we don’t really have a spring or fall. Spring just means “breakup and melting,” and fall means “everything dies and freezes, but it hasn’t snowed yet.” Winters are bitter cold, even in southerly Anchorage. To wake up in the middle of the night and sit in a parking lot in the middle of November was tantamount to suicide, though I would again brave Jack Frost’s wrath in 2006 for the launch of the Nintendo Wii—I learn from my mistakes. Anyway, perhaps in an effort to keep people from moving en masse from this icebox, the state government issues every Alaskan citizen something called the Permanent Fund Dividend, basically a yearly check for just over $1,000…that you have to pay taxes on. My parents always put my PFD check into a college fund, but I got a sliver every year to spend on myself. This year, I got a bigger sliver, and I would spend it on a GameCube.

My mother wrote me a check for $250. This is important.

The next morning, I was awoken by the honk of Shea’s car in the driveway. His headlights shone brightly through my bedroom blinds and quickly snapped me up, not that I slept well anyway. I was like a kid trying to sleep on Christmas Eve—not gonna happen. So I hopped out of bed, put on my warmest winter clothes, grabbed my Game Boy Advance (old-school, baby!) and ran out the door. We drove mostly in silence, rubbing our hands together for warmth, to the Walmart parking lot. It was empty. We kept the car on so that some heat was being generated, and pulled out our GBA’s. I had a link cable, but the only game I brought was Mario Kart: Super Circuit, and we played download play on that for about an hour, maybe more. Batteries drain much faster at sub-freezing temperatures! Eventually, more cars started showing up. Around six o’clock a.m., a small line began forming at the door. The store opened at seven. Shea was unprepared for an “outside of the car” line, but decided if he wanted a GameCube, he’d have to man up and get in that line. He called his girlfriend, Kim (who was also a lifeguard), and asked her to bring a parka for him.

Twenty minutes later, we were both in line. I was cold, but not freezing, but Shea was almost comically cold—I seem to recall ice forming on his eyebrows. Kim did arrive and gave him a parka (and a hat), and they huddled together for warmth. The store did, eventually, open, and the small line had, by then, grown into quite the crowd. People rushed into the electronics department, cash in hand, ready to plop down for a system and Luigi’s Mansion. Our little group stayed relatively calm and behind the mob, knowing there’d be enough for everybody. Indeed there was, and I went to the counter with a system and Rogue Leader (I believe I somehow ended up also buying Madden). As payment for these wares, I handed the cashier…

You guessed it. My mother’s check. Made out to Zachary Miller.

The cashier looked confused. He said he couldn’t take this, as it wasn’t made out to Walmart. My heart sank, and I immediately understood how checks operated. Wonderful time for an economics lesson, Universe! I may have been close to tears, but Kim, standing behind me, valiantly offered to buy the stuff for me on her debit card, as long as I got her the money that night at work. If Shea hadn’t been there, I would’ve asked this girl to marry me at that moment. Neither Shea nor myself offered any serious objection to her plan, but I did catch a lot of flak for the check incident for days afterward—and deservedly so. To be fair, I didn’t really write or use checks. I had a debit card, but there must not have been $250 in my account (I was fast and loose with my earned money back then—weren’t we all?). Sadly, I was actually unable to play the system upon getting it home; I had a swim meet across town and left the purple cube to my eager younger brother, who I think played Rogue Leader for the rest of the morning and afternoon. On the way home from the meet, I cashed the check and gave the money to Kim that night. Things were back to normal, my debt was paid, and I was able to fully engorge on GameCube goodness.

The GameCube was a special system for me. It was the first system I bought wholly with my own money. Previously, my parents had bought me a Super Nintendo for my birthday and an N64 bundle for getting straight A’s in my AP classes for a semester. The GameCube was also the only console I took with me when I moved into the college dorms. Madden, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, and Smash Bros. Melee dominated my floor, and my dorm room became a popular hangout among the gamers in my hall. I stayed up way too late playing The Wind Waker and beat Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 with every character. Funny thing about Tony Hawk—I had a DVD player that doubled as a CD player, so I would often pop a CD in there and play my own jams while turning the in-game music volume all the way down in Tony Hawk. Good freaking times. I also went through a brief but intense Law & Order phase. Very odd.

Happy Birthday, purple box; you still have lots of eager fans.


StrawHousePigNovember 18, 2011

*wewt* OGCN represent! 8)

I too lament the lack of the spice 'Cube. I went for purple (was it really called indigo?) but would have given it away and bought the orange one in a second. I'm on my second 'Cube, the first having been stolen. This one is a goner though since controller port 1 is dead. :(

Like most folks I picked up things to use with it before it was launched. I went in well after opening, like mid-day, and they still had plenty. Rogue Leader was king with me. Monkey Ball was great too.

The GCN reminds me of the internet and the IGN boards. I had gotten a new TiBook and was a newb on the gaming forums at that time too, but it was all tied together and was great fun. I've "known" Mr. Bivens since about then, too, from the IGN I-Board. A real good guy, he is. I remember them all fondly. Well, most of them...  :-X ;)

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterNovember 19, 2011

Wait, IGN forums? Dude, I used to be a regular on the IGN forums back in 2001! I used to be on the SSB boards mostly, but I was totally around for that! :D

Those were some really awesome times! Basically, it got me started with talking about gaming online, which provided an awesome outlet that was (and still can be) hard to have in the "real world." I remember StrawHouse being a real bastard, and I didn't much care for him. :-p (j/k of course!) Pedro, what was your username back then?

Right now, I own four GameCubes - Jet Black (launch, baby! Still kicking'!), Indigo, Tales of Symphonia Mint Green Edition (complete with GB Player), and the Panasonic Q. I NEED all of the variations, such as the Red Gundam version (Char Zak II or some stuff), Spice Orange, and maybe some of the other limited edition ones if I can find.

NintendadNovember 19, 2011

I live in a small town compared to most and figured I'd have no problem getting a GameCube on launch day. I planned to drive to Walmart at 11:45pm, wait 15 mins and walk out with a new system. I wasn't about to wait in line for hours. So the day before I went to Walmart and bought an extra controller, memory card, Luigi's Mansion and Waverace. While there I checked with the worker who told me they would have 28 GameCubes, plenty I figured.

So that evening I was waiting till late to drive back to Walmart, about a 30 minute drive. At around 10:00 I got online to kill some time. There I saw the reports of massive lines already forming in the bigger cities, and even some smaller ones. I started to get nervous and called Walmart to check the situation. You can imagine my despair when the worker told me there was already a big line. I then asked if they were already all spoken for. He went to check for what seemed an eternity, then came back and told me 21 of the 28 were already taken. I couldn't believe it. I jumped in my car and made the long drive as quick as I could. All I remember is there were deer all over the place but I wasn't slowing down. When I got there and walked back to the game section, my throat was dry and I was expecting the worst. However, I made it in time and became number 23. Happy, but then it dawned on my I'd probably be stuck with the purple GameCube. I really didn't like it and wanted black. However, it seemed most people ahead of me were choosing purple so I even go the black GameCube I wanted. I drove home much more slowly and content. I didn't even play it when I got home, but went to bed and played the next morning.

One thing I do remember is the kid with his mom in front of me throwing a fit. He got his GameCube but had forgot about the memory card. He ran back to pick one up but discovered they were sold out. That must have sucked.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterNovember 19, 2011

My username back in the day was pappel64, Danny.

Xero!November 19, 2011

I was a late adopter all throughout my gaming life up to after the GCN generation. That being said, I spent most of that gen only managing to play the Gamecube when my school had near-vacation arcades and when my friends invited me over. I would then go home to continue playing my trusty N64.

The time eventually came for me to get my own Gamecube because one night I nearly screamed when I heard about this: "Get the Gamecube system and Mario Kart Double Dash for just $99.99". I could NOT pass this up and so I kept talking to my mom about how cheap the system was now.

So one travelling Aunt and $100 bucks from my Xmas job's income later and I somehow forgot what I was expecting. Probably because it took so long for my Aunt to get back and I was perhaps focused on my job. However, that boxing day was the best EVER cause my mom gently woke me up with the Gamecube bundle in her hands. I never woke up so happy in my life and I don't think I ever did since that day. :D

purevalNovember 19, 2011

I wanted a Gamecube at launch but did not have the extra cash to spend due to my wedding and my parents decided I was too old for games so I did not get one at Christmas. About a year after the system launched I came home from work and my wife told me she had something in the trunk of her car and asked me to bring it in. I went to get it (expecting something REALLY heavy) and much to my surprise there was a Gamecube waiting for me. Unfortunately she did not get me a game so we ran out to the local Blockbuster to grab a game. The only game that was interesting to me that I could afford at the time was Legends of Wrestling.

UncleBobRichard Cook, Guest ContributorNovember 19, 2011

Good times, good times...


SundoulosNovember 20, 2011

I never had much of a problem getting one.  I think I bought one for myself at launch, one for my dad as a Christmas gift (as a proxy for my mom) a few weeks later, and one for my sister's wedding gift also a few weeks later.

ThePermNovember 20, 2011

I woke up early in the morning, walked into the wal-mart and bought it. There was no line, and no other people buying it. I got luigis mansion with it, and when Smash Bros came out I rented it for like 2 weeks straight before I bought it.

SourdoughNovember 22, 2011

I myself had just started college up in Fairbanks, AK (if you think Anchorage is bad, try going to Interior Alaska in the middle of January... two weeks of -50 is ugly...), hanging out with some friends and talking about the "Micro$oft whore" who lived down the hall from us who was so damn proud of his new X-box.  For some reason we thought it'd be funny for all of us to go out and get Gamecubes and just walk into his room with them in our hands, so one of the guys, Nick, started calling around and asking if anyone wanted to go out in the morning and buy one.  Imagine our surprise when he found out from one of the guys that K-Mart was open 24/7 and they had started selling the 'Cubes at midnight!  So we all piled into Nick's car and putted off in -20 at 1:30 am to get our consoles.

The astonishing thing was that, according to the sales clerk, this store had received 150 consoles,  and there was quite a stack of them left when we got there (probably close to 80 or so)!  We each chose a black version of the machine and a game of some sort.  There wasn't much in the way of software to choose from at the time, and I ended up getting that year's edition of Madden.  And we all did indeed walk into the "Micro$oft whore's" room to show off our 'Cubes... though it didn't turn out to be as funny as we initially thought it'd be...

Despite my console dying on me six or seven months afterwards and having to get a replacement console from the local Nintendo service center, I've never regretted the purchase.

Why in Cthulhu's name would you move to Fairbanks?!

SourdoughNovember 24, 2011

Why in Cthulhu's name would you move to Fairbanks?!

nickmitchNovember 25, 2011

I remember having saved up birthday/other gift money and allowance to buy one. One of parents drove me to Toys 'R' Us and waiting in the car while I walked in excitedly. There was a huge stack of them behind the register in all the colors. The games were in a cardboard display, IIRC.

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