Comments made by Nintendo of America marketing supreme George Harrison earlier this week have been interpreted as suggesting that there may not be another Mario title in production for the GameCube.
Speaking with Chris Morris of CNN/Money, Harrison commented on the so-called "Mario 128" title which it's widely assumed that legendary designer Shigeru Miyamoto is working on - stating that the title is certainly in development, but refusing to confirm that it would appear on the GameCube.
This was immediately picked up on by a number of news sources which reported that the future of Mario on the Cube was in question. Harrison reportedly told Morris that a new Mario game for the Cube was a possibility, but not a certainty - surprising those who were under the impression that Miyamoto was overseeing development on a follow-up to Super Mario Sunshine.
Much of the early speculation about Mario 128 is based on misinformation, however. The genesis of the rumour mill about the game is the famous "128 Marios" demo which Miyamoto used to show off the power of the GameCube hardware back in 2000 - but this technology eventually found its way into the quirky Pikmin, not into a Mario title at all, with the Mario character merely being used as placeholder art for the tech demo.
However, since the release of Super Mario Sunshine there's been enough of a steady feed of rumours and leaks from Nintendo Japan to suggest that there's definitely a new Mario project in the works - and with the launch of Nintendo's next console, N5, still at least two years away (and probably closer to three), it's extremely unlikely that the company is already exclusively targeting its next hardware platform for new Mario titles. That said, it wouldn't be the first time it's happened; the N64 never got a follow-up to Mario 64, after all.
What's altogether more likely, though, is that George Harrison was telling the truth - in so much as he simply doesn't know what the answer is, and hence cannot confirm or deny the existence of a new Mario for the GameCube. Nintendo Japan is legendary for playing its cards close to its chest in terms of new project development, even when dealing with senior members of the company's overseas staff. Indeed, in the same interview Harrison admitted that he has no idea what the "unconventional" product company president Satoru Iawata has been talking about for early 2004 is - "You can beat me, but I don't know!" being his exact words on the matter.