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GameCube FAQ


by the NWR Staff - March 7, 2001, 2:05 am EST

DVD is a format. Want to know more? READ THE FAQ CLOWNY!

What Does DVD Stand For?

Digital Versatile Disc or Digital Video Disc, depending on who you ask. ;)

I am expensive and will drain your finances. HAHAH

What is DVD?

DVD looks to be the next generation of optical disc storage technology. With its enormous storage medium, DVDs can roughly be considered CDs that are bigger, faster, better—capable of holding cinema-like video, better-than-CD audio and even computer data.

Since its introduction three years ago, the DVD stands to become a single digital format for home entertainment, computers, and business information, replacing all other formats (CD, videotape, laserdisc, CD-ROM, video game cartridges).

Support for the DVD has been enormous from its inception at both the manufacturer and consumer level. Despite initial resistance from some, all major music and movie studios now support DVD. All major electronics companies and all major computer hardware companies also currently back DVD by far. DVD has become the most successful consumer electronics product of all time.

Most importantly of all, DVD is the format Nintendo has chosen as the software medium of its GameCube system.

Did Nintendo Consider Any Other Format Besides DVD?

Yes. Before Nintendo announced they were going with DVD, it was widely reported they were also considering GB sized discs, which would possibly be used in a fashion similar to the 64DD. A closer look at this other format & the 64DD add-on is provided here.

Factors in Nintendo’s DVD Decision


+ Very high capacity medium (it can run 5+ Gigabytes or much more depending on if double-sided or double-layered DVDs ever become common. However the format Nintendo has decided to utilize will hold up to 1.47 gigabytes of memory.)

+ Since it is a generally standard medium production costs wouldn't be as high for a proprietary medium (proprietary- medium cartridges were one of the contributors to developers' poor response to the N64)

+ Would let Nintendo keep up with the Jones’ (in this case Sony and now, Microsoft)

+ It could be enabled to play CDs (only if they choose to support the function - though this has been confirmed not happening.)

+ It could be enabled to play DVD movies (and a Matsushita version of the system will).


-While it could be argued otherwise it is highly doubtful that any more than 10-20% of the developers in the industry would utilize the excessive amount of space afforded by the format… something smaller than a standard DVD (such as Nintendo’s smaller proprietary DVD format) could be adequate.

-Piracy? With the DVD format, piracy is possible. In its earliest version, this FAQ predicted that Nintendo might opt to make their own proprietary version of a DVD or a format very similar in order to make piracy of games on their system more difficult. Nintendo did just that, if they hadn’t, the fact that the standard DVD encryption method has been cracked and even distributed on the Internet, would make piracy a consequence of the DVD format—a very big con for Nintendo.

Will the GameCube Be Able to Play DVD Movies?

Yes and no; apparently, two versions of the machine will be released. Nintendo will release a “base unit” that will play games and nothing else, this is likely the device described in SCTM1. Serving as the central game system, this device will not play DVD movies, yet will be a whole lot cheaper because of it (by avoiding the cost incurred for royalties on the format).

Matsushita will also apparently release its own version of the GameCube console (at least in Japan), one that will be more expensive, but will feature the capability to watch DVD movies.

Why Doesn’t Nintendo Just Release ONE System With DVD Playback?

Nintendo is a video game company and claim they are concentrating on keeping GameCube as a videogame console only. In an interview with Next Generation magazine, Nintendo of America’s CEO Howard Lincoln revealed, “you will not be able to play audio CDs on Nintendo’s machine, and you will not be able to play movies”. He went on to explain that Nintendo is a videogame company and “that’s exactly what our device will do - play the best videogames around.”

This makes sense, especially when the most popular Sony Playstation2 “software” in Japan has been the Matrix on DVD. You buy Nintendo to play games, not watch movies, right? Conversely, the unimagined explosion of the DVD format, along with the fact PS2 has DVD Playback (hey, it’s selling systems) makes Nintendo foolish not to include it.

Money is a big issue though. In accordance with the DVD Forum (a group of international electronics manufacturers) any corporation wishing to release a DVD-branded device capable of playing DVD movies into the mass-market must pay a fee of approximately $20 per unit to the Consortium. In order to include DVD playback, Nintendo would have to pay $20 per unit (game system) shipped to retailers. No wonder they’re sticking to games!

Cutting DVD playback cuts costs & makes the device cheaper. Cheaper is always more attractive to consumers, especially when it allows a possible price point significantly below the competition. As both PS2 and X-Box will include open-DVD capable drives, it is expected that the GameCube will cost significantly less than either system simply by foregoing DVD playback.

Yet, with a companion like Matsushita it doesn’t have to be an “either / or” situation. When the Nintendo/Matsushita deal was first announced, Lincoln outlined their new partner’s role:

"Dolphin [now known as GameCube]'s technology will be integrated into various Matsushita or Panasonic branded DVD consumer electronic products, enabling consumers to play movies and music as well as Dolphin games published by Nintendo and Nintendo's third party publishers."

So Matsushita will release another system, either a companion or entirely separate to the “base unit,” that will allow those interested to pay a bit more to get DVD playback. (It sounds like this may manifest itself as numerous models of Matsushita/Panasonic DVD players having Dolphin capability). Why force gamers to pay for a DVD player, when they already might have one? Releasing two different systems is a bit confusing, but not all bad!

What else is known about the Matsushita-DVD Capable Version?

Initially the DVD-playback NGC is set to be released in Japan. Along with being able to play DVD movies it may include other as-of-yet unknown enhancements. It is unknown if it will include all standard features of the “base unit” or may also serve as a companion unit, via the GameCube’s network of interactivity with other systems, such as the Game Boy Advance.

Will the Matsushita-DVD Version Be Released at the Same Time as the “Base Unit?”

Currently there are no specifics but to avoid consumer confusion it is likely there will be a delay in the release of the Matsushita unit. Additionally, it seems that there are no current plans to release the DVD-playback version of GameCube outside of Japan yet.

Will there be an Add-On or Upgrade that will enable DVD Playback on the “Base Unit?”

Maybe, yet exremely unlikely. Despite Nintendo’s smaller, proprietary-DVD format, There were rumors that system’s DVD caddy might be able to hold regular sized DVDs though the small size of the GameCube makes this impossible. Additionally, the interactive nature of the console and applications discussed in Star Cube Trademarks leave plenty of room for such an application would the need arise.

The current design of the GameCube will not allow a full-sized DVD to fit in the GC's caddy. Remember, it would make pirates' lives easier if a regular DVD disc was used. Nintendo, being the anti-pirate zealot it is, will do everything in its power to prevent a single "burned" game.

Will the DVD Format allow for FMV on GameCube?

FMV (or Full Motion Video) has become a popular tool for cinematic storytelling in video games. However, due to the N64’s cartridge format and its space limitations, FMV was not feasibly possible.

Although the GameCube “Base Unit” will not be able to play DVD movies, it will be fully capable of decoding MPEG-2, allowing for FMV cinema scenes.

As exhibited in Space World demos, GameCube games will not have to rely on FMV to provide fantastic looking graphics. FMV-quality graphics seem to be able to be rendered in real time without problem on NGC.

For an opinion on how these capabilities will eventually make the need for FMV non-existent, check out Jonathan Metts’ editorial, Hasta La Vista, FMV.

What about Load Time?

Although the DVD format is highly superior to the CD-ROM, discs still experience some load time. Load time was a primary factor in Nintendo’s decision to forgo the CD-ROM format, apparently with some urging from Shigeru Miyamoto. At the Game Developers Conference in March 1999, Miyamoto was asked how load time might affect Nintendo’s next system.

"You have a good point there," observed Miyamoto. "The system may become greater and faster, but the contents of the software will also become greater. If we can make use of the extra power in a very smart fashion, I think we can come up with great new solutions around this problem."

Considering that some N64 were still brought down by load time issues (and that smart PSX developers were able to hide them), it is doubtful that Nintendo fans should notice much change in their gaming on GameCube.

What Kind of DVDs will the system use?

It has been revealed that Nintendo GameCube will not utilize Open DVD format but a new design, proprietary to Nintendo. The 1.5 GB proprietary optical disk from Matsushita is much smaller than your average DVD, comparable in size to a mini-disc. Nintendo has been adamant that these discs not be called "DVDs". Instead, they have been referred to as "GameCube Optical Discs", or "G.O.Ds" for short.

Small. Evil. Will eat Kids. Oops. Mini-DVD rather.
Smaller. Cooler. It is a G.O.D. before the DVD

If these Proprietary Discs are Smaller, wouldn’t they have Less Storage Space?

The storage space of the proprietary format is less than that of most DVDs. Still, weighing in at 1.5 GB, game developers should have lots of room to work with.

Couldn’t Nintendo Use things such as make the Discs Dual-Layered, Dual-Sided to Increase Storage Space?

Sure, though it would up production costs. One of Nintendo’s primary objectives is to keep things cheap. It may become an option in the future, though does not seem likely at this point.

What about Multi-Disk Games?

This seems to be the most obvious and likely solution to anyone (including developers) who may feel that the GameCube’s proprietary DVD format does not provide enough space.

Will Nintendo lay on the Fees for its format? Like cartridges?

This looks to be left in the past. Because Nintendo manufactured cartridges, it tacked on heavy fees to development costs.

However, Matsushita, who can easily mass-produce the disks and best of all, make them available cheaply, are developing Nintendo’s proprietary format. Therefore, Nintendo's proprietary Gamecube disks fortunately won’t up development costs. Nintendo has stated that its licensing fees for third-parties are equal to, if not better than development costs of competitor Sony's PlayStation 2.

Why Doesn’t Nintendo Use Open (“Normal”) DVDs?

Another central objective for Nintendo is to prevent software piracy any way they can. Going with a proprietary format makes it harder to counterfeit, Nintendo protects themselves and third-party publishers developing for the system.

Won’t Somebody Figure Out a Way to Pirate GameCube Software?

Regardless of what measures Nintendo employs, with the rash of piracy in Hong Kong and elsewhere, piracy devices will likely pop-up at some point after the system is released. Piracy isn’t cool though & hurts the industry we all love.

For an excellent article on piracy, Nintendo and the scope of the problem, check this out.

Remember, folks:


Piracy makes Baby Mario cry.

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