Why Was the GameCube Considered a “Flop" When It Is So Widely Loved?
Five main reasons why it should have had exponential success, and why it's still a great console.
Nintendo's GameCube has historically been one of the most nostalgia-inducing consoles over the last several generations of gaming consoles. Capitalizing on the love for Nintendo's icons like the bounty hunter Samus, the legendary princess Zelda, and everyone's favorite plumber, the GameCube is often regarded as a fan-favorite.
The line up of top-selling games on the console is almost mythic, with Super Smash Bros. Melee, Mario Kart: Double Dash, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and Metroid Prime – just to name a few. All of these games, plus several other notables, have created a legacy of quality games and fan experience.
So, for many, it comes as a surprise to know that the GameCube was (and is) actually considered a flop - especially since it was expected to become the champion of the three way console war between Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.
The GameCube, regardless of fan-favoritism just never seemed to be able to meet its own expectations, and it proved to be a commercial failure. It flopped hard, and never really looked back.
The GameCube was Nintendo's sixth generation console that went up against Sony's PlayStation 2 and Microsoft's Xbox. And, although it was a solid step up from the Nintendo 64, it just never wound up getting the glory it deserved, especially when it was overtaken in sales by staggering numbers with the PlayStation 2. Surprisingly enough, it was also almost beat out in sales by console newcomer, Microsoft's Xbox.
There are a lot of thoughts as to why the GameCube never really panned out, especially since it was a great little system. Today I'm going to talk about five main reasons why it should have had exponential success, and why it's still a great console.
Nintendo's First 3rd Party Support Outing
Now, the GameCube didn't have a ton 3rd party games, but compared to the N64 (which had none) it was a major step. The GameCube had a plethora of good games from 3rd party developers, some were even exclusive to the GameCube (more on that in a bit). There was even the iconic fighting game Soul Calibur 2, which featured Link as a console-exclusive character.
The 3rd party support was a huge bonus for the GameCube considering Nintendo's history with outside sources. Nintendo likes keeping things in-house and close to the chest to assure quality – so, adding as many developers as they did was a huge positive for the GameCube. Although the volume of 3rd party titles was tame when compared to Sony's PlayStation 2 of Microsoft's Xbox, this was a big change for Nintendo.
The GameCube Was Fast
The GameCube, regardless of what some doubters may say, actually had an incredibly fast processing speed which led to short load times.
For some games, such as Luigi's Mansion, there were zero noticeable load times, it was seamless gameplay which at the time was unheard of and no other game console could match it. Often, the boot screen was the longest load time you'd experience.
In terms of raw technical specs, the GameCube wasn't heads and shoulders above the competition, but it utilized the hardware effectively and it showed in terms of gameplay and processing speed. The console used smaller discs and had a fantastically speedy memory card save/load port.
The Exclusives Were Amazing
This isn't just an excuse to talk about Zelda or Smash Bros., but rather an attempt to remind fans that the GameCube had much more exclusives besides the big franchises. Back in the day, the GameCube introduced us to several brilliant games including Baten Kaitos, the puzzle-laced role playing game, Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat, the bongo controlled side-scroller and of course Chibi-Robo!, the touching story of a friendly toy robot.
These three games only scratch the surface since the GameCube had over a dozen exclusive titles that ranged in genre, offering gamers the joy of winning their own personal victory against their PS2 or Xbox owning friends. Here's a quick list of some of the most notable exclusives:
- Mario Kart: Double Dash
- Animal Crossing
- Super Mario Sunshine
- Luigi's Mansion
- Resident Evil 4 (initially a GameCube exclusive)
- Metroid Prime
- Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
- Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
- Mario Party 4, 5, 6, 7
- Super Smash Bros Melee
That's a very, very tough list of exclusives to top.
Nintendo Has a Creative X-Factor and Strong Franchises
If you grew up with any sort of Nintendo console in your home (NES, SNES, GameBoy or N64) then you know where I'm going. The Nintendo consoles were built on the shoulders of Samus Aran, Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong and the ever-popular Zelda.
These iconic characters are a major reason why the fan-base loved the GameCube. Each beloved Nintendo character joined the next generation console with fantastic games like Metroid Prime, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, Super Mario Sunshine, Pokemon Colosseum and, of course, Super Smash Bros. Melee.
The GameCube Plays Games, That's It
Before you scoff at that idea, take a second to step back.
The GameCube was only created to be a gaming console, nothing more. It wasn't intended to be a multimedia entertainment system, as Sony and Microsoft promoted with the PS2 and Xbox. It was, in a sense, the final major gaming-only console before the 2000s rang in the era of multimedia consoles.
Now, granted, in the long run the game-only play didn't pan out for Nintendo, as Xbox and PlayStation ended up taking to online functionality earlier and Nintendo ended up chasing that success. But, while it was on the market, the GameCube could officially be listed as the only "traditional" gaming console of the sixth generation. The Xbox and the PS2 dabbled in functions that would later define them, but were pretty 'meh' at the time. The GameCube knew exactly what it wanted to do.
One aspect of beauty for the GameCube was that even the addons were directly focused on playing games. You could even use your Game Boy Advance as a controller and play some of your favorite games that way through a Link Cable connector cable, which was truly unique and something that no other console would come close to replicating. Every GameCube peripheral, be it bongos, link cables, or even the Wavebird wireless controller (remember, wireless controllers weren't really a thing pre-GameCube!) had gameplay in mind.
So, whatever your thoughts are on Nintendo and how they've progressed since the GameCube's introduction, the GameCube was a one-of-a-kind console that had so many great features. Even if it ultimately will be viewed as a financial flop, it is still one of the most beloved consoles ever made and the GameCube will always hold a special place in our hearts.