Nintendo announces 5 November launch for Gamecube

Just hours ahead of Nintendo's announcement, Microsoft had said that its Xbox console will go on sale in North America on 8 November.

Nintendo had no inkling of Microsoft's plans ahead of that company's Webcast this morning, according to Nintendo of America Technical Director Jim Merrick. "We were just glad that our date was on the right side of theirs," Merrick said, speaking Wednesday from the E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) gaming show in Los Angeles.

"We knew it would be close. Everybody wants to have inventory in the channel for the Thanksgiving weekend," he said. The Gamecube will go on sale in Japan on 14 September and in Europe early next year.

While Microsoft revealed its plans for pricing and unit shipments, Nintendo's Merrick was tight-lipped, saying only that these details would be announced by Nintendo's chairman at a meeting in Tokyo on 24 May.

Details of the package -- including the number of game controllers that will ship with the console -- have yet to be finalised. "It's purely an economic decision," Merrick said. "My instinct is that to get the initial price down, we will ship only one controller."

The Gamecube includes an expansion port that will accept either a 56Kbps modem or a broadband modem, enabling gamers to interact across a network. However, neither option will ship with the console at launch. There are a number of interesting possibilities offered by the network adapters, said Merrick, but at this stage "very few are compelling for gameplay or business" reasons.

At launch, the Gamecube will be accompanied by between five and seven new Nintendo games, said Merrick. He said he did not know how many other games would be released by third-party developers but he believes "Lucas Arts' Rogue Squadron and Electronic Arts' John Madden's Football will be there at launch."

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Peter Sayer

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