Back in 2002, Nintendo tried to enter the Brazilian market with the GameCube. However, due to some laws that restrict imports into the country, Nintendo had to find a loophole to officially sell their merchandise in this market. A deal with Gradiente, a local electronics company, allowed us to see two special variants of the GameCube controller, and I’ve finally got my hands on these.
A bit of backstory first, to put into context why these are so rare and hard to come by. While the deal with Gradiente allowed Nintendo to access the Brazilian market, a tradeoff was that Gradiente itself had to produce some of the hardware within Brazil, along with requiring a special portuguese version of the GameCube menu (see it in action here). Gradiente did an initial production of 20,000 units of Preto (Jet Black) and Azul (Indigo) units, hoping that it would sell well so they could expand the GameCube support inside the Brazilian market.
However, it did not sell well, at all. Those units sat on shelves, due to its high price of R$ 1.199 at launch (which was the equivalent of $500 USD), and probably the fact that the PS2 was also a DVD player and was easy to hack. It was also much cheaper to import the GameCube from Amazon. The warranty offered by Gradiente and the price drop to R$ 899 two months later was not enough to persuade customers to purchase the GameCube.
So about its rarity, I assume most units were scrapped after they sat on shelves for a few years. I would also guess that more people bought Jet Black units over Indigo units, which is why it took me so much time to track down a Indigo unit, alone finding an actual picture of the plastic sticker on the back. Getting your hands on them is another thing though, as Brazil is in a pretty remote part of the world.
So what makes those controllers so special? While they might look like standard Indigo and Jet Black controllers, they comes with a matching black sticker with grey lettering and a surprisingly well matching indigo sticker with white lettering, covering the original stamp. They also originally came with a serial number sticker, which I luckily still have on my Jet Black unit. A weird quirk of the Gradiente units is that they say “DOL-002”, which is usually the code for the power supply in other regions. This is also the case for the console itself.
I did mention that Gradiente took care of some of the assembly, and it is indeed the case for the controller itself. While most of the board’s assembly was done at Mitsumi, Gradiente took care of soldering on the cables for the small trigger boards and the rumble, with a soldering work that would not pass quality control at Mitsumi. Of the three Gradiente units I had the chance to see the internals, all have been the 23-0899D variant, so I would assume that all the units have T1 stickboxes.
And that’s it! With those in hand, the GameCube controller documentation is officially complete! Big shoutouts to Matheus Lacerda, Mew Contra, Frost, Kyle and the whole BR gang for giving me the opportunity to document those rare units.