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Last Updated:  Monday, 24 March, 2003, 00:45 GMT
GameCube squares up for a fight
BBC News Online Darren Waters looks at the future of Nintendo's GameCube following reports of slow sales and drastic price cuts in the UK.

Metroid Prime screenshot, Nintendo

A next generation console for 80 plus a free game sounds too good to be true.

But that is the price for a GameCube at Argos, as the retailer hopes to kick-start sales of Nintendo's squat box.

The price cut in the UK- the cube has dropped in price by more than 30% since launch - is good news for gamers but bad news for Nintendo.

Despite enormous success in Japan and the US, the GameCube is struggling to make an impact in Europe.

Online battle

Depending on whose figures you read, the GameCube is either in second or third place in Europe.

Whatever the truth of current sales, there is a growing perception that Nintendo is losing the gaming credibility battle with Microsoft and Sony.

Pikmin screenshot, Nintendo
Quirky releases such as Pikmin are not just for kids
Ambitious online plans announced by Nintendo's main rivals have left the GameCube looking a little outdated.

Nintendo has dipped a cautious toe into the market in Japan, while at the same time underplaying the importance of online gaming.

But more than 500,000 gamers are playing consoles online right now, and that figure is only going to grow, and probably exponentially.

By the time Nintendo rolls out its plans for online gaming, Xbox and PlayStation 2 may already have disappeared over the horizon.

More than 50 Xbox Live-enabled titles will be out by Christmas 2003, and a similar number will be available for Sony's machine.

Nintendo has yet to announce more than a handful.

Out-muscled by the Xbox and out-marketed by Sony, Nintendo is belatedly realising that the market for video games consoles has moved on.

Cube crunch

There is a maturity to the industry that has not seen before and, for whatever reason, Nintendo retains an image as a toy maker.

Key titles for the machine since launch, while universally praised, have perhaps been a bit too universal in their appeal.

Zelda screenshot, Nintendo
Popular Zelda titles can take months to reach Europe
Younger gamers love Super Mario and Star Fox, and while there is enough depth for adults, the older market remains unconvinced.

Titles such as Metroid Prime and Resident Evil Zero are clearly aimed at a more mature gamer and Nintendo hopes these exclusive titles will persuade more gamers to jump ship.

Part of the problem is the raw deal European GameCube fans get compared to their American and Japanese counterparts.

Triple-A titles for the GameCube are released in the US and Japan months before they debut in Europe.

Zelda, one of Nintendo's most popular franchises, was released in Japan in December and is due out in the US soon. However, European gamers will have to wait until May before they can play it.

Some fans have simply become sick of waiting.

European consumers about to choose a console will look at what is on the shelf now, not what will be on the shelf in six or seven months.

In Europe, the next 12 months could be difficult for Nintendo.




SEE ALSO:
GameCube drops in price
11 Mar 03 |  Technology
Nintendo looks to next-gen console
23 Jan 03 |  Technology
Mario shines again
03 Oct 02 |  Entertainment
PlayStation 2 leads console wars
10 May 02 |  Entertainment
GameCube gets midnight launch
02 May 02 |  Entertainment
Melting pot of online gaming
19 Mar 03 |  Technology
Xbox mounts online assault
14 Mar 03 |  Technology
Gaming comes of age
17 Dec 02 |  Technology


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