The downward slide in sales that began with the SNES and escalated with the N64 continued full force with the GameCube. Released in 2001, Nintendo’s new machine went on to sell 11 million less units than the N64. Most of this decrease occurred in the US and I attribute it largely to the new competition from the Xbox. As I mentioned before the N64 was almost as popular in the US as the SNES was, defying world trends. When the Xbox hit the scene six months ahead of the GameCube it seemed to pull in many of the non-PlayStation gamers remaining out there. Unlike the previous generation, there was really very little to distinguish the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube.
Whatever the reason for the slide, Nintendo couldn’t blame it on the 3rd party developers. It would be an exaggeration to say that they came back in droves but none of them neglected the GameCube. Konami released a Metal Gear Solid remake and Square released a GameCube-exclusive Final Fantasy spin-off. There were many games that hit PS2, Xbox and GC like Prince of Persia and Soulcalibur. Although this helped GameCube’s library, it also made it less distinguishable from its competition.
In spite of the sliding sales, the GameCube was, in my opinion, definitely a better console than the N64, thanks largely to the return of the 3rd party publishers. Nintendo racked their brains and came up with some great new series of their own like Animal Crossing and Pikmin. Despite these artistic successes, Nintendo seemed to smell desperation and started to think really differently, coming up with a very bold design for their next system . . .
WHAT WERE THE COMPETITORS UP TO?
KICKING NINTENDO’S ASS, THAT’S WHAT!
PLAYSTATION 2 by Sony
Who could have foreseen that the PS2 would outsell even the PS1? The PS2 has now sold almost twice as many units as the NES. In fact, it’s still going strong and outselling the newer PlayStation 3. Many of the good 3rd party games for GameCube were also released for PS2 but these games almost always look crappier on PS2. The defining series on PS2? Grand Theft Auto.
XBOX by Microsoft
Microsoft pushed its way onto the scene with this gigantic, ugly system. It’s not much more powerful than the GameCube but about 5 times as massive. The thing that sets Xbox apart from the others and what partially explains its huge size is that it had an actual hard drive built into it for storage. So no messing around with memory cards. You can also rip CDs to the hard drive and in some games use your own ripped music to replace the in-game music. Xbox also brought online gaming into the mainstream. It seems like every Xbox owner played boring first person shooters online against all their boring friends.
Woe! The underrated and underpurchased member of this generation. It came out 2 years before any of the others and was pronounced dead by SEGA before GameCube even hit the shelves. This system really delivered on the promise of an arcade at home. It was as powerful as most arcade units and was nearly identical to SEGA’s main arcade hardware at the time. There were a ton of fun, brainless fighters, racers and shooters on this system. I like it! Dreamcast sold about 9 million units and SEGA decided to leave the console market.