Nintendo on Monday announced plans to bring Internet play to its GameCube, making the company the last console maker to step into the as-yet unproven online market.
The company announced that it will begin selling a network adapter for broadband Internet connections and a modem for dial-up connections--both priced at $35--starting this fall.
The first games to take advantage of online GameCube play will be two new versions of Sega's "Phantasy Star Online," the first major console game to offer online play, through Sega's now-defunct Dreamcast console. GameCube versions of "Phantasy Star Online I" and "Phantasy Star Online II" are set to be available this fall. The service will work with most ISP (Internet service provider) connections.
Nintendo said it is working with other publishers to add online play to GameCube titles, although the company offered tempered enthusiasm for the new role after nearly a year of silence about online plans.
George Harrison, vice president of marketing for Nintendo of America, said that Nintendo's open approach allows game publishers to experiment with subscription models, other versions of paid online content or free services.
"We think it's a very interesting market," Harrison said. "We also view it as a very small market for the forseeable futue...and one where it's yet to be demonstrated how to make a profit. We're taking an approach that allows publishers to have an environment where we can experiment. They can decide how to approach it based on their own business model, not a model we're imposing on them."
Nintendo's competitors include Microsoft, which is set to unveil a paid online service for its Xbox console at the E3 game industry trade show next week, and Sony, which recently announced plans for online accessories and games for its PlayStation 2.
Nintendo's approach appears to be similar to Sony's, with customers required to purchase extra hardware for online play and game makers expected to bear the cost of offering online services.
"They're going to let the third-party guys do whatever they want," said IDC analyst Schelley Olhava. "Nintendo thinks this is going to be a very small market for a while, and there's going to be a lot of experimentation to find the business model and just to find out if video gamers want to play online."