Is this a hint of more online games in 2004?
According to a story by Reuters news agency, AOL's new online gaming "ladder" service will be serving GameCube users next year. The service is currently launching for the PS2 and is available free to AOL subscribers, or for about twenty bucks per month for everyone else.
AOL Ladders is based on the Case's Ladder service, which allows online players to find opponents, play each other, and then report the results of the game to a ranking server. The results are used to keep global rankings, so the best players will be recognized. In some services, the top players can even receive prizes. Ladder rankings have been used in online PC gaming and Xbox Live for years, while console games have sometimes replicated the concept through passwords that can be entered on a special website. Ikaruga for GameCube had just such a feature.
What's unusual about this announcement is the plan to support GameCube in 2004. Currently, the only GameCube title with confirmed online play is Phantasy Star Online III, which is not conducive to ladder rankings anyway. So, considering recent deals and plans for cooperation between Nintendo and AOL, this announcement could indicate that there are unannounced online titles being planned for GameCube in the coming year.
Thanks to nintendofan for the tip!