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Nintendo: GameCube to out-entertain rivals

Company executives deflect speculation that the upcoming console will suffer because its hardware won't match the graphics horsepower of rival machines.

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 Sneak peek at GameCube
Peter Main, executive VP, Nintendo
LOS ANGELES--Nintendo is counting on brains to beat brawn in the video game wars.

Showing off the company's upcoming GameCube console--which will arrive in America mere days before Microsoft's Xbox--Nintendo executives on Wednesday deflected speculation that the console will suffer because its hardware won't match the graphics horsepower of competitors Xbox and the Sony PlayStation 2.

Satoro Iwata, director of strategic planning for Nintendo, criticized the game industry for putting "too much focus on graphics over real entertainment."

"There is not much more developers can do to impress players only with pictures. The hardest thing is to entertain," he said at a press conference before the opening of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) trade show here.

Instead of hardware, Nintendo will rely on better programming to not only produce compelling images but make the GameCube easier for software developers to exploit, Iwata said. Combined with Nintendo's strong cast of game characters, he said, the company is in a good position.

"I believe we know more about what makes games great than anyone else," he said.

GameCube will go on sale Sept. 14 in Japan and Nov. 5 in North America, executives announced. Xbox goes on sale Nov. 8.

Aside from the launch date, Nintendo had few new details about the console. The price and launch quantities will be announced at Nintendo's financial analyst meeting in Japan next week.

Besides criticizing the game industry for focusing too much on graphics, Iwata said competitors are too focused on developing blockbuster titles that are then revamped for multiple console formats.

"If that (keeps happening), the console business becomes a commodity business. There is no reason to choose one console over another, except price," he said. Then, he added, "it doesn't matter which machine you choose--they all play the same games."

Nintendo's answer to the commodity conundrum is games with popular characters exclusive to Nintendo machines. Titles shown for GameCube included "Luigi's Mansion," a spinoff of the Mario Brothers series, and "Super Smash Brothers," a fighting game that manages to include just about every Nintendo personality, from Pokemon to Zelda to Donkey Kong.

Executives also demonstrated a wireless game controller for GameCube and took one last chance to tout Game Boy Advance, the new version of the company's portable game player. Game Boy Advance went on sale in Japan last month and arrives June 11 in the United States, where it's expected to repeat the success of the previous two versions of the Game Boy.

"Nintendo doesn't just have leadership in (handheld gaming), we have absolute ownership," said Peter Main, executive vice president of Nintendo America.