Gamecube readies for local release

Although the third major installment in the Australian gaming console market is about to strike, don't expect Gamecube to topple to dominance of Sony or even Xbox, say insiders.

Hot on the heels of the Xbox launch in March, the Gamecube is set for release in Australia on May 17.

Commenting on the forthcoming launch, Harvey Norman's general manager of computers and communications John Slack-Smith says he sees the Gamecube, and Nintendo in general, as complementary to the dominance of Sony.

"The two don't actually compete head-to-head," he said.

"Nintendo have a great reputation for gaming and for gaming products which has built up over many years. If you look at the PS2 [PlayStation2] and Xbox, they are positioned as entertainment devices, with DVD and music capabilities. Nintendo is just a very good games machine."

Slack-Smith also referred to the differences in price point and age demographics as reasons for each console's strength.

Slack-Smith says Harvey Norman intends to stock similar stock of the Gamecube as of the PS2 and Xbox and expects to finalise details of the Gamecube launch with Nintendo this week. There is plenty of room in the market for the Gamecube, he added.

Sony Computer Entertainment Australia's managing director Michael Ephraim agrees the Gamecube will not be directly competitive with the PS2 and says Sony welcomes the Cube into the market.

"The Cube is another good competitor, but the machine is very different," he said. "It's like comparing apples and oranges."

Unlike the Xbox or PS2, the Gamecube doesn't have DVD capability. The system is based on an IBM PowerPC Gekko processor running at 485MHz (both the Xbox and PS2 have 733MHz Intel Pentium III CPUs) with graphics and I/O chips from ATI Technologies and an NEC Flipper system LSI (large-scale integrated circuit). It has 40MB of memory and an optical drive for proprietary eight-centimetre (3.2-inch) disks developed by Japan's Matsushita Electric, better known by its Panasonic brand name, which have a capacity of 1.5GB.

Nintendo is also confident sales of the new console will be strong, and has anticipated a sell-through of 50,000 units in Australia in the first month.

The Gamecube has already experienced strong sales in Japan since its launch in September last year. During its first three days, retailers sold around 315,000 units, the company said at the time. Currently, Nintendo estimates Japanese shipments will reach 1.4 million by the end of this year, with US shipments close behind at 1.3 million. Japan's Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. is also in the last stages of producing an add-on kit that allows users to watch DVD video discs via the Gamecube.

Dick Smith Electronics and PowerHouse stores as well as Tandy stores will also be stocking the Gamecube. Spokesperson for Dick Smith Nicola Rutzou says they are expecting great things from the launch.

"It's a great product, it does a good job of differentiating itself from the others. It's got a great future," she said.

Rutzou says Dick Smith is still finalising launch plans, but that the retailer will be "out there amongst the players to capitalise on the amount of noise Nintendo are making". The launch will also be bigger for Dick Smith because the Xbox was launched only in the PowerHouse chain of stores, whereas the Gamecube will be available in all stores, she said.

The Gamecube will sell in Australia for $399, with seven game titles available at launch. The company expects to have 50 titles on retailers' shelves by the end of the year.

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Nadia Cameron

Nadia Cameron

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