The GameCube controller saw two major redesigns of its internals. They are denoted as T1, T2, and T3, which mainly represents the different stick mechanisms, or stickboxes, as it’s the most important component of the controller. I will also document the different internals, and point out small differences in the shells and other molded plastic parts.
Table of Contents
- PCB Variants
- Buttons and Sticks
- Shells and Misc.
- Resources and Traces
1. PCB Variants
Also called “Legacy T1”, this board was produced for the launch of the GameCube, but was phased out very quickly. By 2002, it was gone. It boasts a bright green back side and a detachable cable for the C-stick board. It also comes with a unique purple trigger/rumble motor bracket, and uses T1 stickboxes.
I’ve never actually seen this board, so while I’m not sure it exists, it follows the logical revisions pattern. It might be rare, I’ll update here if I find it.
Pretty much the same board as the first one, but with a painted back and a black trigger/rumble motor bracket. Very rare, thanks to Kubbymo for finding one and sending me a picture!
You might notice a circled “3” next to the Mitsumi logo on the left, this is most likely a machine or factory number, so not too important.
Probably the most common T1 board, this one boasts a few differences from the previous boards. Firstly, the T1 stickboxes are a different color (See the stickboxes section). A small electrical circuit was added to the right of the main chip on this one, with a slot for a capacitor that is actually unused. I do have a Panasonic Q controller that uses this slot, but for the most I’ve seen it’s empty.
A lot of changes here. First of all, this is the first revision with the upgraded T2 stickboxes, and also the C-stick board, which is now revision B (23-0900B). The connector for the C-stick board is now a simple ribbon cable soldered directly onto the board. The oscillator, which was a small silver chip before, is now a huge blue blob thing. Another slot for a capacitor was also added to the top left, unused too. This is the most common T2 board.
A few changes here too. The extra, unused capacitor slots are now removed, and the part number changed from its usual 23-0899 to 23-1167. This is the only variant of this number that was made. You might also notice the strange trigger/rumble motor bracket; it can be seen on both T2 variants and this board also comes with the standard bracket. For more information, see the triggers section.
The biggest upgrade so far, Mitsumi outsourced the production of the boards to Sanyo, and they had to source their own stick mechanisms because they didn’t have access to the Mitsumi ones. We ended up with those high quality, all plastic stickboxes that are screwed onto the board. The Mitsumi logo is no longer here, but you can see the Sanyo logo on the C-stick board on the top left. The connector cable is back in a slightly different shape also. This board is pretty rare, only seen in “Made in Japan” stamped controllers and the “no CE dot” (See the stamps guide for more info).
The most common of the T3 boards. The only difference here is the cable connecting the C-stick board to the main board; back to the ribbon cable, with an indicator for the ground this time.
CFS8280-500020-00 E4 (T3)
The final board revision still produced as of the latest Smash Ultimate GameCube controller. Probably made during the transition from Sanyo to EPC, which not much is known about. See my blog post about it for more information. It is known to have much stiffer stickbox springs than the previous revisions, and stiffer buttons overall.
C-stick and Triggers
The C-stick and trigger boards, while much smaller, also saw some revisions. I will list them here. If you wish to know in which controllers they were included, see my full collection documentation sheet.
T1: Metal casing and ABS plastic moving parts, soldered onto the board. Easy to identify by its darker colors and vertical top bracket. It gets loose really fast. There are 4 variants; on the left are the main sticks and on the right are the c-sticks. The top row is the first version and the bottom row is the second version.
Manufactured by Mitsumi.
T2: Metal casing and white plastic moving parts, soldered onto the board. Has an horizontal top bracket and a much better design than its predecessor. It is also compatible with T1 boards and is a highly recommended upgrade. Those can also be found in Wii Nunchuks.
Manufactured by Mitsumi.
T3: Plastic casing and plastic moving parts, screwed onto the board. This stickbox is not compatible with T1 or T2 boards. Those can also be found in Wii Nunchuks and Wii Classic and Classic Pro controllers, and also in the Hori and Jesnet third party GameCube controllers.
Manufactured by Mitsumi, used externally.
Here’s a catalogue of the Noble potentiometers, including the ones used in the GameCube controller (XV09912PHNSL-0B30K and XVJ09-4R-0B30K): PDF Document
On the left, we have the Matsushita (Panasonic) potentiometers, mostly used in the early controllers, and on the right we have the Noble potentiometers, the most common. They’re both some of the highest quality potentiometers on the market. They connect to the side of the stickbox and read the input given by the player on the X and Y axis. They are both compatible with all the stickbox variants.
Here are the four different trigger slider potentiometers I’ve found. The two top ones are from Matsushita (Panasonic), bottom left is from Alps and bottom right is from Noble. The top two are found in the early controllers while the bottom right is found from T2 upward, with some T3s having the all black slider. See my full collection documentation sheet for the raw data.
The layout for the trigger’s mechanism stayed pretty much the same since the beginning, with only one strange exception. To make it simpler, I will post a picture of the mechanism and then point out some differences you may encounter.
One thing you might notice is this diagonal metal bracket. Very common in the early controller but phased out as of the Smash 4 controller production. Often missing from controllers, its presence was really inconsistent overall. Its purpose is also unknown, as it is detrimental to the trigger functioning as it creates a lot of friction. I suggest removing them entirely.
The mechanism is secured by a plate that screws onto the shell. T3 controllers use a different left plate to allow enough space for the extra screw from the stickbox to fit. This is the most common reason why some controllers won’t close properly when changing the shell – you have to switch the plate onto the new back shell. See the lower plate, which has a larger indent in it.
On controllers that have a purple trigger/rumble motor bracket, you can find those grey trigger parts. So the “Legacy T1” and all the Panasonic Q controllers. They’re exactly the same as standard, just grey instead of black.
A brief oddity exclusive to the T2, there were those strange screw-less trigger parts with the trigger plates fused to the trigger/rumble motor bracket. They work just as fine as the standard design, but it is unknown why they came to be and why the design wasn’t kept through the production of the T3.
5. Buttons and Sticks
While there’s not much to say here, there’s a few differences to note about the buttons and sticks. To avoid an optical illusion that would make lighter-colored controllers look like they have darker buttons, Nintendo fitted them with a lighter set. From left to right, the Grey Wavebird with the whitest set, in the middle the White/Smash 4 White and on the right we have the standard set of buttons. Also funny to note that the Wavebird’s start button is slightly taller than usual.
There are three different casts of the stick cap. I thought it would be fun to include them, without the rubber on.
The GCC also has different pads for the ABXY face buttons. The straight one, which has a stiffer press, is mostly found on T3 controllers while the ridged ones are on T1 and T2 and they are much smoother. The pads from the Smash-themed controllers have a noticeably stiffer press to them compared to the standard T3. Thanks to Battle Beaver Customs for the diagrams!
The Z button is different from the other buttons as it uses a tactile switch instead or the usual rubber dome. The button is wedged between both shell halves on some kind of hinge. There is a small metal plate that acts as a spring, and when pressed it clicks on a sideways switch. The spring can be removed easily with a pair of pliers.
The anatomy of the cable is pretty simple. You’ve got the wires in the middle, a copper shielding to block electrical interference and then a rubber sleeve. It is soldered onto the board, and on the other end you’ve got the plug. Here’s a guide to remove the plug: https://youtu.be/TFveth_Jg60
Here’s a few schematics of the wiring:
3.3V 0.55A voltage supply
5V 1.5A voltage supply
White is power ground (rumble)
Up until 2008, all the cables were black and 2m (6.5ft) long. The White 2008 controller introduced a longer white cable that is 3m (9.8ft) long. The Sm4sh and Ultimate controllers also share this longer cable.
7. Shells and Misc.
The shell, or the casing, also saw some small revisions over time. From the jump from the T2 to the T3 controller, some extra “bones” were added to the back shell to reinforce the shape. Around the C-stick and D-pad parts, and on the back, separating the triggers from the rumble area.
The Smash 4 and Smash Ultimate controllers received a completely new mold for their shells, following the same design than the T3 shells. The Smash 4 shell had fitting issues, where the seams near the shoulder buttons were mismatched by about half a millimetre, which was later fixed on the Smash Ultimate controllers.
Both golden and silver tri-wing screw sets can be found securing the shells closed. They are both visible on nearly every variant, except for the White 08 onward, where every screw is silver. For more info, see the full documentation of my collection.
Crystal Whites exclusively have gold screws, while Pearl Whites only have silver screws. This is the easiest way to tell them apart. For more info, see my “Tracking Down a Crystal White GameCube Controller” blog post.
Some very early T1 controllers can also be seen with a single phillips screw, located exclusively on the right hand side in the middle, where the stamp is located. Those can also be either gold or silver, and are most likely overstock from the N64 days.
8. Resources and Traces
- Parts list from the FCC for the WaveBird: Website
- Noble potentiometers catalogue: PDF Document
- Full documentation of my collection: Document
- Nintendo Gamecube Controller Protocol: Website
- Smash Input Maps and Profiles: Document