LOS ANGELES (Reuters) — Video game company Nintendo, the only console maker without a strategy for online game play, will unveil plans for Internet-based services for the GameCube at a key industry trade show later this month, an industry source said Thursday.
Nintendo will announce details of its online strategy for the GameCube at a press conference scheduled for May 21 at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, said the source, who is knowledgeable of Nintendo's plans but asked not to be named.
Representatives for Nintendo said they could not confirm the report.
By adding an online capacity to its $199 GameCube, Nintendo would be keeping pace with its major competitors in the market for game hardware — Sony and Microsoft, both of which charge $299 for their consoles.
Nintendo would also be placed to dominate the online gaming for its core market of children between 6 and 14 years of age.
Microsoft's Xbox has a built-in Ethernet port for high-speed online access, and Sony will release an adapter for both Ethernet and dial-up access for its PlayStation 2 in August. Both of those consoles are more popular with the teenage and young-adults than Nintendo.
Nintendo has been noncommittal on the subject of online gaming, although it has made it clear that it would be possible to add a modem or a broadband adapter to the GameCube through any of three unused ports on the bottom of the device.
Despite high hopes in the late-1990s, online console gaming has not yet taken off in the United States. The most notable attempt, the SegaNet service for Sega's now discontinued Dreamcast, was hampered by slow connections and waning consumer enthusiasm when it launched in 1999.
"I'm pessimistic anyone will ever develop a business model where there is direct pay-for-play," said Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities, who follows the U.S. game industry. "It's probably something that would make me not want to invest in Nintendo, were I a Nintendo investor."
Industry observers have said a major theme of the E3 show this year will be online gaming and the early versions of games for that still-developing market.
Sony has said it will establish a fund to assist publishers with the development of online games, and Microsoft has long touted functions like live updates of games that the Xbox's online access will make possible.
Among the online games scheduled to be shown at the show are Sony's EverQuest Online Adventures for PS2 and Sega's Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II for GameCube, which will launch as a stand-alone game.
EverQuest Online Adventures is being developed by Sony Online Entertainment, a separate division from Sony Computer Entertainment of America, which is the unit responsible for the PS2 in the U.S.
EverQuest, a version of the popular online PC game, is expected sometime early next year.