Hard as it is to believe, the Nintendo GameCube just celebrated its 20th anniversary in North America, and some new details about the now-retro console have started to emerge. When the console debuted, buyers could choose from two different colors in North America: purple or black. The purple version is the one most closely-associated with the Cube, and the one that Nintendo's Japanese headquarters wanted to push the most. However, the company's American branch was worried the color wouldn't sell in the region. In an interview with Video Games Chronicle, Nintendo's former vice president of marketing and corporate affairs Perrin Kaplan revealed some of the team's concerns.
"We actually suggested that the purple was not the best to start with and [Japan] said, 'no, we're going to use that.' Then we pushed for black and silver, because I think in the US nobody had ever really done the purple colour before," Kaplan told VGC. "It wasn't that you couldn't bring out hardware that was a different colour, it was just a very… 'female' looking colour. It just didn't feel masculine, I think. I remember us being very nervous at E3 that we were going to get bad press purely based on the colour."
In retrospect, it seems quite silly that there was so much hand-wringing over the console's color, but the video game industry was in a very different place at the time. Advertising for video games played heavily on masculine tropes, and anything perceived as "feminine" was construed as a negative. In the years directly following the GameCube's release, Nintendo would begin advertising its products to a much broader demographic. Advertising for the Wii played up the console as a way for friends and families to play together, while advertising for the DS actively courted women gamers.
While the GameCube has developed a strong and passionate following (it's one of my personal favorite systems), it's not hard to see why it failed to find an audience: Nintendo was clearly struggling to find its identity. These days, the company worries less about perceptions of "masculinity," and more on the best ways to appeal to gamers of all varieties.