The GameCube is to be kitted out for broadband online gaming in Japan at last, with the release of a broadband adapter at a price of about £20 on October 3rd – less than a month after the launch of a 56k modem for the system. Both launches come over a year since the launch of the console.
No European or US details are yet available, and the brevity of the launch announcement is telling – compared with the weighty, hyperbole-filled press releases from Sony and Microsoft this month, this terse product announcement is further proof that Nintendo has yet to be sold on the idea of online gaming.
The company has said all along that online multiplayer was not a priority for GameCube, but that it will support online product launches from other publishers – in this instance, the main driving force for the roll-out of the hardware is probably Sega’s Phantasy Star Online title on the ‘Cube.
However, the rumour mill is working overtime on the question of what exactly Nintendo plans to do with online gaming in the medium- to long-term. This month’s Electronic Gaming Monthly suggests that a number of online titles may actually be in development, with rumours of online functionality in the forthcoming Mario Kart title, as well as in a future iteration of Mario Party, Animal Crossing and, perhaps most tantalisingly of all, GameCube Wars – the home console sequel to Advance Wars.
If even half of these rumours are true – and they may well not be, as they are largely unsubstantiated – it would suggest that Nintendo is taking online gaming slightly more seriously than it’s been letting on for the past couple of years. Could it be that the Japanese giant is rattled by the high levels of interest in PS2 online and Xbox Live?