There is less than a month to go until the console graces European territory. Will it be a spectacular affair or go by unnoticed?
It is now halfway between the Xbox launch and the GameCube launch. This is what Europe will be getting come 3rd of May:
GameCube Console: Indigo and Jet Black
Controllers: Purple, black, purple/clear.
Games: 2002 FIFA World Cup (April 26th)
Wave Race: Blue Storm
Bloody Roar: Primal Fury
Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX
Donald Duck Quack Attack
ESPN Winter Sports
International Super Star Soccer 2
Sonic Adventure 2: Battle
Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader
Super Monkey Ball
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3
Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure
...with 5 other titles following in the same month. There have never been so many titles for a European Nintendo launch before; compare this to the N64 launch and the past year’s releases. It has been a long time since Europe has seen so many Nintendo games and such diversity of genres. 500,000 units will be available on the first day and a total of one million consoles are being delivered for the launch rush.
The recommended retail price of the GameCube is €249 but most (if not all) retailers are increasing this for a larger profit margin. Although this does not sound beneficial, it will still be selling for less than the price of the Playstation 2. With the Xbox, retailers were quick to note the low profit margin and many refused to carry the machine, only software and accessories. This may have been a factor preventing Microsoft from selling more machines.
Xbox sales during March, although not discouraging, were not particularly impressive. It has not sold out at all but Microsoft is not revealing how many units were shipped; it is estimated that around half the shipment has been sold. In Japan over half of the initial shipment of 250,000 consoles have been bought, but less software is being sold with each machine compared to the US launch. The tie in ratio is around 1.9 games to each Xbox.
Comparing the sales of the two regions, it is only in America where the Xbox is ahead of GameCube in the console race. The Japanese GameCube launch was thought to be disappointing, but sales picked up in later weeks when new software arrived. The Xbox only sold half the number of units compared to GC at launch and there have not been many titles since then that have been worth purchasing an Xbox for. In fact, recent figures show that the Game Boy Color is selling better than the Xbox in Japan. What will the comparison be this time, in the PAL territories?
Promotion for the new console started last month; since then there have been print ads in magazines, a television commercial, Cube Clubs and in-store demos.
There are over 3,500 demo pods distributed in stores all over the continent. Often these are placed alongside PS2 and Xbox units and attract a lot of attention, as it is the only console still unreleased. The demo disk has playable versions of a few launch games and also some movies. The television ad is the same as the one shown in the US with different music and sporting the slogan “Life’s a Game”.
The European Cube Clubs differ quite greatly from the previous events. These are taking place over 42 days in 28 European cities. Rather than being open to everyone, tickets must be won through the cubeclub.co.uk website for a place. The Cube Clubs are geared specifically towards those over 18 and only to those who already have knowledge of the events and are likely to be supporters of Nintendo’s console. It seems that the target audience is very limited, and aimed at people who are already very likely to be purchasing the console at launch. Is this because they are the demographic that Nintendo wants to win over, because they spend the most money on games? Or is it just a move to satisfy the Europeans who are expecting Cube Clubs as they have heard of the US events? Actions such as this, including a 60hz option for the console and additional features in Luigi’s Mansion may win back gamers who have chosen other consoles in the wait for GameCube.
This launch will hopefully make a better impression than the one for N64 (Perhaps nothing could be worse than last time) and more of an impact than Xbox’s. This is Nintendo’s chance to demonstrate that they take the European console market seriously and win back some of Sony’s dominance.