Nintendo’s had tons of problems with their unusual design decisions with the Wii U, but their second least-beloved console (which has still sold twice as many units as the Wii U so far), the GameCube, had plenty of its own. Like “You finally switched to discs, so why the hell did you decide to use these tiny weird ones?” and “What is this handle for? Am I supposed to bludgeon someone with this console?”
One of the most enduring mysteries, though, is what is up with the square holes on the bottom of the game cases for this system? If you try to Google the answer, you’ll find a lot of speculation, but no clear answers.
Guess what, internet? I am here to ease your troubled mind. I worked at Blockbuster Video (remember those?) and Hollywood Video (you probably legit do not remember those) during the GameCube era, and I know what the square holes are for.
The idea behind those little square holes was for rental stores, like the ones at which I worked, to be able to place a security lock inside them and use the actual game case as the rental case.
Typically, rental stores (especially big chain ones) would print out their own covers for games. In theory, designing the cases with a spot for a security lock already built-in would lead to rental outlets using the cases themselves for their rentals, saving them time and money and promoting the games themselves with big, clear box art.
As far as I know, it didn’t really work. Both of the stores I worked in didn’t actually use the cases as intended. We threw most of them away and printed out our own boxes and used the security locks we already had (I have a theory as to why, but I’ll get to that). But they did send us a few of the locks to test with when I was at Blockbuster.
The cases, called Zenith Pacs, weren’t made specifically for Nintendo games, as you could and still can buy them in separate full-disc sizes. I don’t know the details on the deal, but I can speculate: I’m betting that the company that Nintendo contracted with for manufacturing the games sold them on the Zenith Pac idea. My suspicion is that Nintendo didn’t specifically request them or anything, but I could very well be wrong.
So what did these security locks look like? I’m glad you asked. Before I even decided to write this article, I was talking with a friend about the Zenith Pacs and how I remembered the locking strips they used as being “bright yellow” and “had, like, these magnets on them”. Turns out, my memory served me well!
The way the locks worked is there are tiny magnets on the sides, like thorns sticking off a rose stem. When stuck inside the case, they spread out and lock around some square edges inside the case. It looks like this:
The way you’d unlock them is place them lock-side down in a magnetic unlocker, which pulled the magnets away from the square edges and allowed you to simply slide it out. This isn’t the unlocker, it’s one for a similar locking system, but it should give you an idea of what it was like:
As for why I don’t think they actually saw much use — They weren’t all that secure. If you could get a good grip on the yellow part that stuck out from the bottom and yanked really hard, the thorns would break away pretty easily. We had to do is a couple of times when we couldn’t get the locks off. I mean, our regular locks weren’t hard to get off either (at either store), but the companies had already invested a bunch of money into those systems.
So now you know. Those little holes in GameCube cases? They were for weird, yellow rose-stem locks that would keep you from stealing Nintendo’s shit.