Unfortunately Nintendo says it still doesn’t plan to make any online games.
It sounds like a bit of a pointless agreement, and to a certain degree it is – because without first-party online games to support it, the GameCube network adapters are never going to achieve enough of an installed base to justify significant work on online third party titles.
However, any publishers mad enough to bother going online with the Cube will now be licensed AOL connectivity software which will allow the games to connect to the Internet over AOL.
If Nintendo decides to make any online games for the Cube, they’ll go online over AOL as well – but the company is at pains to point out that they have no intention of making any online games at the moment.
Pointless indeed – but wait. The real meat of this agreement is nothing to do with AOL providing connectivity for the GameCube, and everything to do with a cross-promotional deal between Nintendo (still arguably the strongest family brand in gaming in the USA) and AOL Time Warner (the strongest family brand in Internet access, and one of the largest media companies in the world).
Down in the small print, we discover that AOL and AOL Time Warner online properties will be featuring promotions for Nintendo products and services – a valuable piece of marketing if ever there was one. Meanwhile, Nintendo will be helping AOL to push the AOL For Broadband service, and may even be bundling those ubiquitous AOL demo discs with the GameCube console.
Making AOL into the official ISP of the GameCube isn’t exactly a surprising announcement – we reported months ago on documents leaked from within AOL which outlined the company’s plans to support the Cube online. It doesn’t represent a massive step forward for Nintendo in the online arena either – there are still no signs of online titles for the Cube on the horizon. As a marketing deal between Nintendo and AOL Time Warner, however, it’s a clever manoeuvre for both companies which should help to build their dominance of their respective core markets.