The year 2001 turned out to be one of the best ever in the video game industry, with Sony's PlayStation 2, Microsoft's Xbox and the newest release from gaming giant Nintendo all hitting the shelves in quick succession.

Photo courtesy Nintendo

Nintendo revolutionized game consoles in the mid-1980s, when children all over the world switched from Pac Man and Frogger, played on the Atari systems, to Super Mario Bros., the trademark game of Nintendo. Then, in 1995, Sony launched its PlayStation game, and since then, Nintendo has slowly slipped into second place in console popularity. Many have written off Nintendo as a gaming giant that time and technology has passed by: Sure, they have some good games, but they don't even come on discs, say its critics.

The rumors of Nintendo's demise have been greatly exaggerated. Nintendo proved that it wasn't content with anything but first place on March 3, 1999, when it announced, only a day after the PlayStation 2 was unveiled, that it was working on an advanced video game console of its own. The console was code-named Project Dolphin for more than a year. The system was unveiled on August 24, 2000, and given the name GameCube. In this edition of, we'll look inside the GameCube and see how it compares to the competition.

Inside the Cube
The GameCube is not actually a cube; but at 6 inches long, 6 inches wide and 4.3 inches tall (15 x 15 x 11 cm), it is a very compact block. Like its predecessor, the
Nintendo 64, the GameCube comes in a variety of colors. Strapped to the back of the machine is a handle, making it easy to transport.

Photo courtesy Nintendo
The GameCube's wireless controller
While Nintendo didn't spend a lot of time on the aesthetics of the console, what you find on the inside is rather impressive. One thing that you won't find in Nintendo's GameCube is a DVD player, which the PS2 and Xbox both have. No, Nintendo says, it is sticking to the basics and what it knows best -- video games.

Let's take a look at the components inside the GameCube and see what they can do. If you want to compare the GameCube to the PlayStation 2 or the Microsoft Xbox, be sure to check out this comparison page.

  • The GameCube is powered by a 485-megahertz (MHz) IBM microprocessor, an extension of the IBM PowerPC architecture. It has a maximum bus transfer rate of 2.6 GB per second. The Gekko also features a whopping 256 kilobytes (KB) of level 2 (L2) cache memory.

  • An ATI 162-MHz graphics chip, called "Flipper," allows the GameCube to produce about 12 million polygons per second. Polygons are the building blocks of 3-D graphics. Increasing the number of polygons results in sharper, more detailed images. In comparison, the Nintendo 64 produces 150,000 polygons per second.

  • A special 16-bit digital signal processor supports 64 audio channels.

  • The GameCube has 40 MB of RAM (24 MB 1T-SRAM, 16 MB of 100-MHz DRAM).

  • Gamers will soon be able to attach a modem to the GameCube. The modem fits into a serial port on the underside of the console. It will allow users to connect to an online network, where they can trade data and play games over the Internet.

56K modem

Broadband modem
Photos courtesy Nintendo

  • Other GameCube features include:
    • Four game controller ports
    • Wavebird wireless game controller (sold separately)
    • Two slots for 4-Mb Digicard Flash memory cards or a 64-MB SD-Digicard adapter
    • High speed parallel port
    • Two high-speed serial ports
    • Analog and digital audio/video outputs

The Games
The GameCube is the first Nintendo console not to use game cartridges. Instead, the GameCube uses 1.5-GB proprietary optical discs with a diameter of 8 cm (3.14 inches). A
compact disc has a diameter of 12 cm (4.72 inches), which is the size of the Sony game discs. Since the GameCube operates with discs, the Nintendo 64 games are not compatible with it.

Photo courtesy Nintendo
The GameCube uses small proprietary discs instead of cartridges.

Nintendo has worked with several prominent game developers to create a new line of Nintendo games. When the GameCube was released, gamers already had more than a dozen games to choose from, including Luigi's Mansion, a puzzle adventure featuring familiar characters from the Mario games, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader, a flight action game, and Wave Race: Blue Storm, a jet ski racing game. Games released since then include NBA Courtside 2002, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Pikmin, an otherworldly action strategy game, The Simpsons: Road Rage, a racing game featuring Homer and the rest of the Simpsons cast, Resident Evil and Spider-Man: The Movie.

Resident Evil

Spider-Man: The Movie

Super Smash Bros. Melee

Luigi's Mansion

The GameCube has the ability to interact with the Game Boy Advance (GBA), Nintendo's newest handheld game system. The GBA plugs directly into the GameCube's controller port to control games. Basically, the Game Boy Advance gives players a second screen to view action on while playing the GameCube.

Nintendo will have to pull out all its best titles to win over an incredibly competitive market. Sony has a sizable head start, and Microsoft has spent more than $500 million promoting its Xbox. The winner in the game console wars will most likely be the gamers themselves, as the console manufacturers continue to try to top one another to attract increasingly discriminating buyers.

For more information on the GameCube and other video game systems, check out the links on the next page.

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