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Thursday, 13 September, 2001, 18:58 GMT 19:58 UK
What's in the GameCube
GameCube: Pure gaming console
By BBC News Online's Alfred Hermida

Nintendo's next generation gaming console, the GameCube, is a lean machine that promises to give Sony's Playstation 2 and Microsoft's Xbox a run for their money.

In the Nintendo corner is a compact, purple, toy-like cube. In the opposition's corner are two bulky, black computer-like boxes.

Nintendo has optimised the GameCube to be an extremely powerful gaming machine

Billy Berghammer, Planet GameCube
All three are powerful 128-bit video game systems. But what sets the GameCube apart is that it is a purely gaming console.

"Nintendo is not planning to make the GameCube a second personal computer like Sony and Microsoft intend to make their consoles," says Tim Symons, chief editor of the online magazine, GameCube Europe.

Luxury toy

The Japanese company has focused on creating what is in effect an advanced luxury toy, working with companies like IBM and Matsushita to make a gaming console with serious power.

What's in the GameCube
IBM 485 MHz, 0.18 micron copper custom CPU
Six million to 12 million polygons per second display
40MB total memory
64 sound channels
3.2 GB per second main memory bandwidth
$199 price tag
150mm x 110mm x 161mm
IBM is supplying the central unit processor, (CPU), known as Gekko. This is one of the fastest in a console running at 485 MHz on a 0.18 micron copper wire technology custom CPU, with an ATI graphics chip, all running on 40 MB of memory.

It compares with a 294 MHz custom CPU used by the Playstation 2 and a 733 MHz Intel P3 in the Xbox.

"Nintendo has optimised the GameCube to be an extremely powerful gaming machine. And so far, they have delivered," says Billy Berghammer, founder of the Planet GameCube website.

"I really wasn't that impressed with the PS2's first generation software," he adds.

"And as far as the Xbox is concerned, I haven't see anything spectacular as of yet."

Emphasis on gameplay

Nintendo has adopted a different approach the development of its console to Sony or Microsoft, with the emphasis on gameplay, rather than megabytes and megahertz.

Postive reaction to new controller
It has developed a new controller, which has received a positive reaction from gamers.

"With the GameCube, Nintendo will bring console gaming to a higher level, not only with graphics but with the uniqueness of its controller," says Symons.

"We have already seen various demonstrations of the GameCube controller and it has amazed the media."

The new gamepad features seven buttons, two analog sticks, a D-pad and a built-in rumble device. An optional wireless controller, called the Wavebird, will offer gamers untethered control from up to 10 metres away

Gamers will also be able to connect to Nintendo's Game Boy Advance hand-held, allowing them to transfer a character from one machine to the other and to continue to play the same game.

Games do battle

But Nintendo's ace may be its games, offered on a special optical disk only eight centimetres in diameter, rather than a cumbersome cartridge.

Nintendo's idea was to create a developer-friendly but still next generation game machine

Tim Symons, GameCube Europe
The disks will hold 1.5 GB of data, which is about 190 times more data than there is on a Super Mario N64 cartridge.

Nintendo has an impressive array of games to back the launch of their new console.

It has also encouraged third-party game creators, by providing easy-to-handle development tools and a cheaper loyalty charge.

"Instead of going for the highest possible performance, which doesn't contribute to software development, Nintendo's idea was to create a developer-friendly but still next generation game machine," says Symons.

Hardcore gamers argue the only reason you should buy a console is the software.

"It's all about the games really," says Berghammer. "Nintendo has a very well rounded software line-up for 2002.

"This year, we will see the new Mario and Zelda titles, which I personally can't wait to play," he adds.

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