So, I grew up in a tiny rural town in MA. When I say tiny, I mean it was a big deal in high school when we got lines painted on the sides of the road. The town still doesn’t actually have lane-dividing lines in the middle of the road, last I checked. It's that kind of tiny. To get to school as a kid, I would have to walk to my friend Alex’s house every morning and get a lift to class.
Alex had a GameCube.
I did not.
Naturally, I got there an hour early every morning.
I would knock on the door at 6am and be greeted by a bleary-eyed, coffee-deficient parent. I’d squeak out a “good morning Mrs. Alex’s mom!” and scoot right on down to the basement so Alex and I could settle grudges in Super Smash Bros, take turns hunting for Heart Containers in Wind Waker, and pour over a prized Nintendo Power Strategy Guide as we explored the eerie world of Metroid Prime. Without contest, it was the best part of little me’s day.
I doubt many other kids grew up in such a small town, or woke up so early play video games. But I do know that there’s a whole generation of us that grew up passing a controller back and forth in front of a little purple cube, even if we didn’t own one ourselves. It's GameCube's 15th Anniversary on September 14th, 2016 – and it's the perfect time to reminisce.
The GameCube Has Always Been A Perfect Excuse For Friendship
Ever since those early morning basement gaming sessions, the GameCube has always seemed to be a great unifier. When I was sent to a new school, I quickly was able to make new friends by picking up the controller. When my high school girlfriend wanted me to get to know her crew, it happened with a GameCube and gaucamole (the other great unifer).
When I went to college and no one could afford a shiny new console, we’d hang out with cheap beer and Super Smash Melee and get to know a new classmate. You can learn a lot about someone who mains Ice Climbers.
After college, the GameCube has continued to be an easy, cheap way to hang out in while living in a city where everything is expensive.
It has always been a common language, an easy way to bond.
I've never owned the games, nor the console, but I've been fluent in GameCube for the past 15 years. It never mattered that I didn't own one, and I get the feeling that's exactly what Nintendo was aiming for.
It Was a Cheap, Portable System Meant For Play, Not Ownership
In light of this year's ever-developing console war and news about the next iterations of the PS4 and Xbox One, it's almost astonishing to look back at the GameCube's marketing strategy. It's like looking at an alien universe.
Where Sony and Microsoft pushed for the idea of their consoles as living room staples, Nintendo simply had a whole different mindset and core philosophy for video gaming. Nintendo wanted you to play GameCube games, they didn't seem to care if you owned a GameCube or not.
Unfortunately, this approach meant that the system didn't actually sell very well, and is widely considered a commercial flop. Why would you buy a new console for your living room when your friend had one with an actual handle on it? Someone could throw their 'Cube in a backpack and bring it over.
And if you did want to buy a GameCube, it was cheap. Really cheap. The GameCube retailed at $199 at launch and was later reduced in price to a now-unfathomable $99. Remarking on the launch price point, Nintendo's then-president Hiroshi Yamauchi said in a 2001 E3 interview:
"People do not play with the game machine itself. They play with the software, and they are forced to purchase a game machine in order to use the software. Therefore the price of the machine should be as cheap as possible."
And this quote embodies the attitude that made the GameCube so widely played and loved, even if it wasn't a commercial cash cow. The emphasis was on playing games, not obtaining a living room set piece. If Nintendo wanted a GameCube in every living room, there wouldn't have been a handle.
It's Hard to Find Someone Who Hasn't Played a GameCube Game
Even if you never owned a GameCube, you've most likely played on one if you've played video games in the last 15 years. You might have had a quick round or two of Mario Kart Double Dash, or tried your hand at Smash Bros, or played Soul Calibur 2, or anything else. And you probably played on a couch or a floor with a friend and had a great time.
The GameCube was, and is, a fantastic little system and it's a pleasure to celebrate its 15th anniversary. I never owned one, but I've got a treasure trove of great memories because of it, and I bet you do too.
For me, I’ll always remember passing around controllers in a cramped dorm with classmates. I'll remember waiting for that purple cube to come out of a buddy's backpack in a tangle of cords. And I’ll definitely always remember waking up an hour early to run over to my neighbor’s house to play some GameCube before school.