GameCube LCD monitor prototype footage has been uncovered

Nintendo Gamecube

See the future that once was

A piece of Nintendo history has resurfaced on YouTube. Once-lost footage of Nintendo’s prototype LCD monitor for the GameCube has shown up, years after the hardware was shown at E3 2002.

YouTuber and IGN parent company Ziff Davis employee Adam Doree uploaded some footage from the show, as noticed by GoNintendo. This LCD monitor was apparently shown at E3 2002, but was never released.

The attached LCD monitor would have made that GameCube handle suddenly make a lot more sense. To me, it feels like a distant murmur of the ideas that would lead to the Wii U and Switch. Part of the thinking, as Nintendo’s Satoru Iwata explains in the footage, is that players might be able to carry their GameCube around and link them up, using something like a broadband cable.

A different dimension

Having a small screen on top of the GameCube wasn’t the only gimmick of this monitor, though. This may have also contained another wild potential twist: 3D technology. In an Iwata Asks about the Nintendo 3DS, Iwata talked with producer Hideki Konno about early attempts at glasses-free 3D.

Iwata: Then after development had advanced a bit, the 3D idea came up.

Konno: Yes. I think the timing was good. Some of the staff members around me were saying things like, “Today’s 3D LCDs really look good!” I thought so, too. I had a connection with 3D games anyway. After the development of Luigi’s Mansion for Nintendo GameCube was over, I was involved in the experiment of making a 3D version of it.

Iwata: Luigi’s Mansion 3D. Unfortunately, we never released it.

Konno: Yeah. We tried fitting the Nintendo GameCube with a small, roughly four-inch, LCD that allowed you to enjoy Luigi’s Mansion in glasses-free 3D.

Iwata: We showed that LCD as a reference exhibit at the 2002 E317, but kept the 3D aspect secret. I liked that, though.

Konno: Yeah. It had depth, so it really pulled you into the world of the game. I thought it was great, but…

Iwata: But we just couldn’t get past the problem of how to sell it.

Konno: Right. Liquid crystal was still expensive back then, and no matter how new an experience we could provide through the games, there would have been a need for players to buy the LCD as an accessory. There was even talk that it could turn out to be more expensive than the console itself!

Iwata: In the end, we couldn’t overcome that hurdle and it never made it out into the light as a product.

LCD Wonderworld

As if the development history of this long-lost LCD screen couldn’t get more interesting, here comes Yuji Naka. Also included in Doree’s tape archives from the show is footage of Iwata discussing the history of this monitor. As Iwata shares, Nintendo brought out the LCD monitor to show off the technology. But this screen also lead to a collaboration between two other well-known developers: Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto and, at the time from Sega, Yuji Naka.

According to Iwata, Miyamoto was talking to Naka about Phantasy Star Online. The question was floated: is there a way PSO could go portable? Naka responded, saying it would be a good idea, but there was something else he had been thinking about and wanted to propose.

Naka then forwarded a card game based on Phantasy Star, which Iwata says is being shown off on the consoles. Obviously, this never came to fruition in this form. But given the timing (E3 2002), that sounds vaguely similar to 2003’s GameCube entry Phantasy Star Online Episode III: C.A.R.D. Revolution.

Either way, it’s an incredible piece of GameCube history, for a console that’s seemed to only grow fonder in peoples’ hearts as time goes on. While we may dream of what may have been, we do at least have the Switch now for our on-the-go Nintendo needs.

Eric Van Allen
Senior News Reporter