Before Nintendo released the Switch, the company had early plans to create a similar handheld based on its iconic GameCube console, leaked internal documents suggest. There’s also a leaked presentation which suggests that Nintendo explored the idea of releasing a high-definition console that would have competed more directly with the PS3 and Xbox 360. Eurogamer notes that the documents appear to have come from the same source as July’s “gigaleak.”
A technical diagram outlines a portable console that could be attached to a TV via a dock featuring GameCube controller ports, memory card slots, and a port for an SD card. However, it’s unclear if the project ever made it past this early planning stage. The GameCube had a small carrying handle, meaning that it was technically more portable than either the PlayStation 2 or Xbox, even if you still had to use an external screen, controllers, and power source.
The dock had GC controller ports, SD card / GC Memory Card slot, AV out, and then optional TV tuner + MPEG4 Encoder and wireless stuff. pic.twitter.com/FW5848Wdy0
— LuigiBlood (@LuigiBlood) September 2, 2020
There have been plenty of homebrew attempts to make a portable GameCube console. The most stylish of these came earlier this year when @GingerOfMods produced a beautiful Game Boy Color-style handheld that was capable of playing both Wii and GameCube games. Or, if you prefer the Game Boy Advance SP’s form-factor to the Game Boy Color, then there’s this project from last year.
Alongside details of a portable GameCube, Eurogamer also points to leaked documents that suggest Nintendo explored producing a more traditional console follow-up to the GameCube. This high-definition console would have been released in late 2005 and competed directly with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, with a lower price point and a bigger focus on games over general multimedia.
Of course, Nintendo never followed through with these plans, and instead released the Nintendo Wii in 2006. The Wii offered a unique motion-based control scheme, and hardware that was limited to standard-definition graphics. It was insanely successful, and eventually sold over 100 million units, more than both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Although it was a very different console to what’s shown in this leaked presentation, the Wii did use hardware designed by ATI (now part of AMD), whose branding appears in the pitch deck.
It’s impossible to know from these leaks how far either of these plans progressed, but it’s fascinating to see how far back Nintendo’s interest in the Switch’s hybrid form-factor goes. It’s another fascinating peek into the history of one of gaming’s most secretive companies.