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Will Third-Parties Support the GCN?
Written By:
Jared Black

In places like our own VGF Message Boards, the fanboys are perhaps more active than they have ever been. With one system just released and two more due out this year, followers of each system are getting in line to bash the other two systems. Many different reasons are given why the GameCube will fail, but none is mentioned more than a lack of third-party support.

Let's take a moment and look at this largest argument against the GameCube: "It just won't have a lot of third-party support". This reason is given perhaps more than any other as to why the GameCube is destined to fail, and yet it couldn't be any further from the truth. It's understandable why people think that (Nintendo hasn't exactly encouraged third-parties to talk), but I think these people are going to be very surprised later this year.

Let's make one thing clear from the start: The GameCube probably will not have as much third-party support as the Xbox or PS2. That doesn't mean that it won't have plenty of third-party support of its own though. Here now are a few reasons why the GameCube will have plenty of third-party support:

1) The NDAs Are Still in Place

This is the most obvious reason, and yet people always seem to forget this. Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are the bane of the press' existence. As long as NDAs are in place, third-parties aren't allowed to discuss with the press about what they're working on for the GameCube. As a result, the mainstream press doesn't have a lot of GameCube news to report. In turn, this makes it seem like nothing is going on. It's true that a few things slip out on occasion, but usually NDAs do their job really well.

I could cite evidence of the NDAs all day, but one big example pretty much sums it up. Activision recently announced that they're working on Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, and that it's coming to six different systems: PSOne, PS2, Xbox, PC, GBA and GBC. As you've no doubt noticed, the GameCube isn't mentioned at all. Seriously, does ANYONE in his or her right mind think THPS3 isn't coming to GameCube? Not only is it one of the biggest franchises in gaming, but Activision has continually shown support for Nintendo (going so far as to bring THPS2 to the comatose N64 this summer). So why didn't Activision announce a GameCube version? Simple, NDA.

From what we understand, the NDAs run out around E3. Nintendo has always liked to do things "big" (such as holding Spaceworld in Japan), and having lots of third-party announcements at E3 (to go along with Nintendo's own games) is definitely big.

2) Nintendo Likes Surprises

This ties in to reason #1. Historically, Nintendo have always shown that they like to surprise people. Year after year, they announce a lot of new stuff (such as Diddy Kong Racing coming out of nowhere in 1998) at E3. This year is certainly going to be no different, as there will be lots of new GameCube (and to a lesser extent GBA) stuff revealed at E3. No doubt, there will be some surprising third-party announcements as well.

Whether surprising people is a good idea or not (as opposed to hyping up your products) however is another editorial entirely…

3) Good Support Already

Despite Nintendo's clamp of silence, a number of third-party projects have already been uncovered by the gaming press. This includes major projects from companies like Capcom (Resident Evil 0), EA (SSX, Madden, FIFA, etc.), Infogrames (Mission Impossible 2), 3DO (Army Men), Ubisoft (19 total GC games in development), Konami (Crash, Track & Field, etc.), Sega (nothing specific yet, but they've pledged support), Acclaim, LucasArts and many others. The odds are that most stuff hasn't even been hinted at yet, so just imagine what kind of projects are just waiting to be discovered…

4) Lower Development Costs

This one is pretty simple. The GameCube features a more friendly development environment than the PS2 does (it's unknown how it compares overall to the Xbox), making game production cheaper and easier on the GameCube. Publishers really like cheap and easy. Even if this doesn't draw exclusives, this will mean that a lot of games that start on other systems will eventually be ported to make some quick cash.

5) The GBA Factor

It's no secret that everyone (except Square, and they want to) is supporting the Game Boy Advance. With the GameCube and the GBA featuring a natural connection and with Nintendo's commitment to making it a big part of their plans (heck, the worst they could do is make a Pokémon game that uses it and sell million of copies), the duo holds much more promise than the N64 Transfer Pak ever did. Assuming the GBA/GC connectivity thing really catches on, a lot of developers are going to support that feature so they can sell more games. And of course, you need a GameCube game to take advantage of the GBA/GameCube connection…

6) Own Market

Make no mistake about it, Nintendo isn't going for the same market that Sony and Microsoft are going after. Nintendo's primarily focused on the 14 and under market (although their games are fun for any age), while Microsoft and Sony look set to fight it out for the teen and adult market. What this means is that, not only will Nintendo get virtually every game targeted at younger gamers, but they will also get most games targeted at both age groups. Of course, the GBA is also targeted at primarily that age group, further emphasizing the importance of the way the GBA and GameCube can interact.

The effect of this runs much deeper than that though. With Microsoft and Sony both going after essentially the same markets, there's a real good chance that they will cancel each other out. It's almost certain that Microsoft and Sony will steal a lot more users from each other than they will steal from Nintendo, and the result will be that neither company should run away with the "mature" race (unless Microsoft really screws up). With both companies weakening each other, the overall race should stay pretty wide-open. It's a lot like a stock-car race…when the top two cars battle it out and slow each other down, often the third-place car will sneak up and take the lead. The only real uncertainty is how big this "niche" (younger gamers) will really be, but at worst case Nintendo will have a large enough installed base to warrant plenty of ports.

So either one of three scenarios will happen (c. seems highly unlikely):

a. MS and Sony both battle hard, stealing sales from each other and tightening up the overall race.
b. Sony blows MS away (or vice-versa), thus making Nintendo #2 by default.
c. The GameCube doesn't sell to young or old gamers, and meets an early death.

7) Port Trend

This is a no-brainer. Companies continue to port more and more games to other systems (thanks largely to the emergence of middleware), and no doubt Nintendo (along with Sony and Microsoft) will benefit from this emerging trend.

8) Scared of Sony

With the grip Sony have on Japan right now, a lot of third-parties are simply scared to talk about their Xbox and GameCube projects currently underway for fear of alienating Sony. A great example of this happened at the recent Tokyo Games Show. Rather than show any Xbox games at the show, Namco (who's never been scared to show off new products) instead remained silent. The VERY next day, Namco reaffirmed their support for the Xbox. Coincidence? Perhaps, but given how much Namco relies on Sony right now I seriously doubt it. Not only that, but there are growing rumors that Sony is pressuring a number of Japanese companies to only support the Xbox with "lesser" franchises (Konami's showing off Air Force Delta 2 for and not MGS for Xbox?). With the Xbox being more of a perceived threat to Sony (since MS is essentially going after Sony's throat, whereas Nintendo is just biting Sony's ankles), Nintendo will be the victim of less abuse from the current market leader.

Conclusion

There are more examples I could cite, but those are the major ones why the GameCube will have plenty of third-party support. While the GameCube likely won't have as much third-party support as the Xbox or PS2, it will have all the major franchises that really matter (in both sales and quality) with the obvious exception of Square.  Combine these with Nintendo's own quality lineup, and you've definitely got a winning combination.

Now before all you fanboys tell me how wrong I am, please keep in mind that this is only my opinion. If you don't agree with me, then write me an intelligent letter explaining why. In fact, if I get enough responses I'll even post a follow-up editorial full of your comments. So send me some e-mail telling me how right or wrong I am.

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