With less than a month to go before its new game console hits shelves in Japan, Nintendo unveiled yesterday more details about the Gamecube console, its launch plans and the software that will be available.

The Gamecube will ship in Japan in September, followed in the US in November, and in Europe in early 2002, said Nintendo officials at a Tokyo news conference.

Nintendo holds out big hopes for the success of the console, said Atsushi Asada, executive vice president. Well it might hope — Sony's PlayStation 2 is doing well here already, and Microsoft's Xbox is getting console gamers salivating desperately.

"The console gaming market is still far from healthy," he said. The increasing sales of the last few years have been led by jumps in hardware sales and not software, which is decreasing. "We hope the Gamecube can break this cycle," he said, before describing his company's new console as a "masterpiece of video game console design".

Helping sales by the end of the year will be a selection of consoles available in colours other than the violet console available at launch. Nintendo plans to offer orange and black consoles, complete with matching controllers, and also to put on sale a controller in a colour the company calls violet and clear.

On the software side, three games will be available at launch in Japan — Luigi's Mansion, Wave Race Blue Storm and Super Monkey Ball by erstwhile contender Sega. By the end of the year, these will be joined by Pikmin, Super Smash Brothers DX, Animal Forest Plus, Eternal Darkness, FIFA 2002 Road to World Cup, SSX Tricky, Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II and Universal Studios Japan.

Nintendo has already signalled its intention to compete with the PlayStation 2 by undercutting Sony. The PlayStation 2 is considerably more expensive than the Gamecube will be, even after a recent price cut.