College of Arts and Sciences
Doctor of Philosophy in History (PhD)
Nintendo, GameCube, History, Video Games, Digital History, History of Video Games
Computer Sciences | History
Barnette, Izsak Kayne, "Lost at Sea: The Nintendo GameCube’s Failure and the Transformation of an Industry 1996-2006" (2022). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 3954.
The history of video games is critically underdeveloped. Long simmering under a veil of academic neglect, video games have long been denied the sort of academic relevance of their sister industries: books, film, music, and TV. It is long-past time that such neglect was addressed. Most historical analyses of games begin with their origins in the 1950s, discuss their ubiquity during the heyday of Atari or Nintendo, or rope in modern views of games as tools of diversity and inclusion. Very few studies pay attention to the rather ugly adolescent years of the game industry, its motorcycle-jacket wearing, rebellious teenage years, so to speak. This era of game design maturation, from the end of Nintendo’s dominance in 1995 until the release of the Wii in 2006 saw a dramatic shift in games marketing. It was a dark age where games moved away from their roots as experiences meant for any person into an era of concentrated marketing toward young males where female nudity, sex, and gratuitous violence were the main selling points of successful titles. The GameCube, Nintendo’s home console from 2001-2006, suffered from this same myopia. Dominated by marketers who saw the need to advertise to adolescent males but coupled with software that was still primarily family-focused, the GameCube floundered, finding itself neither hither nor thither in its pursuit to be all things to all markets. In its failure, Nintendo found the seeds of success for its following console, the Wii, and embarked on a mission to once again bring games back to the general public. Through the GameCube’s failure, Nintendo, under visionary leader Satoru Iwata, reimagined games as a product that everyone could enjoy and, in the process, helped lead the industry into modernity.