The much-delayed Freeloader product for the GameCube- originally scheduled for release long before Christmas - has finally been shipped by UK-based cheat products specialist Datel, and should be in shops at the end of the week.
The disc, which is not officially sanctioned by Nintendo, allows Cube users to play games from any region - effectively blowing the region coding system on the console wide open, and making importing games possible for even casual players who don't want to have to modify the hardware of their console.
Games such as Metroid Prime and Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker are expected to be widely imported from the USA following the release of Freeloader. Currency and price differences between the USA and Europe mean that imported games are not significantly more expensive than new releases in the UK, and can sometimes even be cheaper.
Nintendo has been widely criticised for its failure to bring key titles to Europe until months after their release in the USA, and much of the dismal performance of the GameCube over Christmas in Europe was attributed to the lack of hit titles such as Metroid Prime and Resident Evil Zero, which drove sales of the console in the USA. The ability to easily import such titles may hurt retail sales of GameCube software in the UK even further.
Freeloader will not encourage piracy, however; it merely removes the region protection of the console. At present, it remains impossible to produce pirate versions of GameCube titles due to the unusual format of the discs used by Nintendo.