Nintendo Online anyone?
Will the Nintendo GameCube have a Modem?
Yes. Online capability is being incorporated into the GameCube as was originally divulged during E3 1999. NCL’s President, Hiroshi Yamauchi has also confirmed this before Spaceworld. "[The Dolphin] will have a function to access the Internet," said Yamauchi. "We are entering the market as a latecomer so the console will have to outperform Sony Corp.'s PlayStation2."
Nintendo hasn’t revealed too much information about the GameCube’s Internet capability or its online strategy, yet seem to be taking the endeavor seriously.
What kind of Modem will the GameCube have?
The GameCube will be able to utilize either a 56k or a broadband connection. The hardware company Conexant is manufacturing both types of modems for the system. Both online adapters are pictured and described in the Hardware Profiles.
Will the GameCube ship with a Modem?
Although not confirmed by Nintendo & still subject to change, it seems that the GameCube will not include a modem built in. This will clearly be an effort to keep costs down for the NGC, helping make it attractive to consumers. Additionally, by selling the devices separately, consumers will be able to choose between 56k and broadband adapters. Currently, the 56k modem will be released around the time of NGC’s launch, with the broadband adapter being released a bit later.
How will these Online Adapters function?
Details on whether these online adapters will allow interfacing with the Internet with existing dial-ups / services, or if a new, Nintendo-themed subscription service would be necessary have not yet been released. Nintendo is known to be designing an online network of some sorts yet have not revealed how this service will be made available to the public. The details on this aspect of Nintendo’s online plans can be expected around E3 2001.
Is Nintendo Serious about Online plans for its Upcoming Consoles?
Although both online adapters seem poised to be marketed as accessories, Nintendo is dedicated to developing strong online presence. The online adapters are not an afterthought and won’t be an unused NGC upgrade.
Nintendo has envisioned using an online network for years (as early as the 80s), not just for gaming but for things like banking. It has some experience, creating a variety of online services through the 64DD, described below. Nintendo clearly have online ambitions and this round of the console-wars should see many of them realized.
Is Nintendo Working on Online Games?
Yes, Nintendo are already working on many online titles. The first Nintendo game with online functions announced is Mario Kart Advance for GBA. Many more games for both GBA and NGC are expected to follow suit.
Before Spaceworld 2000, Famitsu asked Miyamoto if he was working on Network games. Surprisingly, Miyamoto bluntly answered “yes.” Nintendo is fully aware that it cannot ignore online gaming though is proceeding very carefully in implementing its plans. … The GBA and NGC release lists seem to be getting bigger all the time and E3 2001 will reveal precisely how many will have online features.
Which GameCube Games will Support Online Features?
Well there has been nothing offically announced from Nintendo themselves, although there are rumors that the Zelda game planned for NGC will feature online play. Also, Picassio, (one of the earliest announced titles for NGC) is a good candidate for netplay, since its PC version will include this feature. For more information, take a peek at the Mascot Monitor, or our ever-expanding list of previews.
In a bold move, Sega has announced the critically acclaimed Phantasy Star Online saga will continue on the GC. Phantasy Star Online Version 2 will be the first offical online game for the GC.
Which Game Boy Advance Games will Support Online Features?
In the long run, this FAQ will be unable to track each and every GBA title with online features, though announcements have been made already for online GBA games (most notably, Mario Kart Advance), signaling online features will be widely incorporated into much software. Check out our Previews section for more info.
Will Nintendo’s Online Network be called “Star Road?”
No. Although this seemed to be a pretty big rumor for us before Spaceworld 2000, it seems that it had absolutely no bearing in truth. For more info, check the recap in the Star Cube section.
So What will Nintendo’s Online Network be called?
As it stands, Nintendo’s planned online network is currently dubbed, Nintendo Online. Keep in mind, this may not be the official final name –though the URL www.nintendoonline.com has been registered (and currently points to www.nintendo.com). Jim Merrick, who worked extensively on developing the GameCube hardware, was recently promoted at Nintendo to lead of team of engineers who are concentrating on the creation of Nintendo's top-secret online network.
What will the “Nintendo Online” Network Feature?
Presumably, Nintendo will employ some sort of Network, similar to Sega’s SegaNet gaming network for Dreamcast. Head-to-head gaming over the ‘Net is at the top of Nintedophiles’ GameCube wish lists, though it seems that this is only one small portion of Nintendo’s online plans. Nintendo has yet to offer any official details, though we’ve been able to put some stuff together.
The Star Cube Trademark Clue
Before deciding on the GameCube name, Nintendo registered trademarks for its next system under the name “Star Cube.” Referencing the Star Cube Trademarks, namely SCTM2, a service is described that alludes to Nintendo’s Net plans. As listed in the trademark, this service would provide:
"electronic games [that is] accessed network wide by network users."
The write-up continues:
“descriptions on what appears to be an intranet (internal network) with features such as "providing on-line access to educational services and information regarding electronic game programs, electronic game products, and electronically transmitted news and information regarding entertainment topics; providing computer/video game programs that are may be downloadable … providing electronic game samples (demos), news hints and other electronic game information through a global computer network".
While there is no guaranteeing Nintendo will establish its online network utilizing all of these parameters, there is clearly a wide range of options from which to work with. Still, it seems possible that Nintendo will establish an on-line network where gamers can log on to receive news reports, cheats, forums, chat, and online servers to connect to for online gaming.
Transferring, Trading, Competing…
With online features seemingly being incorporated into such GBA games as Mario Kart Advance, Battle Network Megaman EXE and Monster Farm Mania, it seems that many games are including an unlocked window to open to online possibilities. Competition will only be part of it, as players will be able to connect and trade data (such as collected Pokemon monsters and such) not just with your friends & neighbors, but with anyone connected to the Nintendo Network.
Has Nintendo Done Anything with Online Gaming Before?
Yes. In Japan, Nintendo launched an online endeavor known as Randnet, an online network for 64DD owners. Randnet is named after the two companies, Recruit and Nintendo, who partnered up to form the network. When the 64DD was released in Japan in Dec, 1999, it came with a cartridge modem which Japanese gamers could use to subscribe to the Randnet service.
The Randnet Network offers the following services (reprinted from IGN64’s Ultimate 64DD FAQ.
Battle: Play against gamers from all over Japan by using the network. Randnet keeps track of player stats and ranks players according to their win/loss history.
Observe: Play "Peeping Tom" and watch other players combat each other in game competition. It's a great way to learn new special techniques.
Beta Testing: Experience pre-release games. Your comments and ideas may be used in newly released games.
Information Exchange: Send messages about how to get through games, ask for help when you're stuck and chat with friends through the Internet.
Community: Send your comments about a game you're currently playing. You may receive replies from your favorite game creators.
Internet Surfing: Surf the web on your TV. Now you can read IGN64 (which is fully 64DD compliant, of course) without getting up from your couch.
Digital Magazine: Get all sorts of sports info and results.
Music Data Distribution: Listen to music through Randnet. Some songs may debut on Randnet before making it out on CD.
Editing Tool: Create your own characters and music using dedicated creation tools.
Print Mail Service (fee applies): Your creations in Mario Artist can be sent out by mail as a postcard, stickers
Email: Randnet users receive five email addresses with the basic service. Enough for the whole family!
Examining the list of features offered by Randnet, suggests what kinds of things Nintendo may have up its sleeve in terms of an Internet Network for GameCube and Game Boy Advance.
Is there any Evidence Nintendo may be Expanding its Randnet Service?
No, just the opposite. Nintendo has actually terminated the Randnet service in Japan as of January, 2000. Overly ambitious (much like the 64DD itself), the Randnet service was not very successful and Nintendo are currently offering refunds to customers. The online network for Game Boy Advance and GameCube will be something new entirely, with hardware being developed by Conexant.
In an interview with Gamecenter, Miyamoto provided a piece to the puzzle. First, Shiggy qualified the need for online games:
“I think we have come to a limit when [it comes to] making interesting applications for the dedicated video-game consoles nowadays. So people are trying to find a way to get out of the world, like putting many other things into online gameplay and trying to improve the quality. Another development is to make use of some other devices like telephones or portable video games and so forth. I think online video gaming is just one of these different alternatives and I think it's kind of an interesting alternative that Nintendo may be interested in.”
Miyamoto then followed up with a something a bit more revealing…
“On the other hand, if you ask me, ‘Can Nintendo do the job of business on the Internet with an online society and can Nintendo further expand a purely Japanese online service into the world?’ my answer would be, ‘I don't know yet.’ And [if you asked], ‘Can Nintendo take care of the responsibility which it has to shoulder once it becomes an online game company?’ again, I don't know. All in all, I just cannot tell if it's interesting enough to go ahead with the online gaming now.”
Miyamoto’s comment about expanding a “purely Japanese online service into the world,” almost certainly refers to network with applications similar to Randnet, although Randnet is no longer in existence.
It is currently unknown if / how Nintendo Online will develop, whether it will act as a sort of Randnet equivalent with global proportions, or what else Nintendo may have in mind are seemingly under construction for the moment.
What Other Kind of Network Features are Planned?
Nintendo will also provide internet-capability for the Game Boy Advance, which will be enabled via cell-phones. Hooking up to a port in the GBA’s game link port, the Mobile Adapter allows Internet multiplay, downloads and data transfer. Because of regional differences, it is possible this service will not be offered outside of Japan. That said, we’re sure Nintendo will include GBA online functionality in North America, one way or another.
“Nintendo Online Shopping Network”
Don’t laugh. Nintendo apparently intends to debut their new Internet business next spring with sales of Nintendo products.
"We are planning to introduce an Internet business next March or April. The first step will be online sales of a brand new type of Pokemon cards," said Yamauchi.
Will this service be for the AGB or GameCube? Will these new Pokemon cards be offered outside of Japan? We’re not sure yet.
Anything else we should know about Nintendo’s Online plans?
There is only one more thing about GameCube online that bears mentioning. Many Nintendophiles are biting their nails with anticipation for news of online play for games like Perfect Dark 2, Wave Race: Blue Storm, Rogue Squadron… Dare we say, maybe even a Smash Bros.: Melee? We won’t push our luck but we’re hoping we don’t have to. Don’t let the legions of "fan-addicts" down Nintendo; push that online support!