Year one: GameCube vs. Wii

We imagine the GameCube isn't all that fond of the Wii, as the Wii managed to do everything the GameCube wished to do, only better. And, with the Wii having a year under its belt now, we figured it would be interesting to go back and look at the GameCube's first year and see how the two stacked up.

Hardware sales
Now, it doesn't take a team of rocket scientists to know that the Wii did a much better job from a sales standpoint in its first year. Selling 13.87 million units worldwide, the Wii is the hottest item this side of bread in slices. The GameCube, which launched in September 2001 in Japan, only sold around 4.7 million units. A lot of different things played into the sales of each console, including buzz in both the mainstream press and gaming community (the Wii was a hit at E306, undoubtedly fueling demand come time for launch), target audience and, of course, launch line-up.

The console is its games
Between the Wii and GameCube, both consoles came to launch with several friends in the form of first and third-party releases. For the GameCube, titles releasing in the launch window ranged from third-party ports like Batman Vengeance to first-party titles such as Wave Race: Blue Storm and Luigi's Mansion. By the end of 2001, Pikmin and Super Smash Bros. Melee would help ease the drought of games on the system, but would not be enough. Criticized for its lack of games, the GameCube did not have a very good launch window in the eyes of most.

The Wii, however, did things differently. Nintendo made sure that the console had more third-party support, as it launched with over double the amount of games available during the GameCube's launch window. Also, Nintendo made sure they came out swinging by launching the system with one of its most-anticipated games in one of its biggest franchises, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Other third-party gems such as Elebits and Rayman Raving Rabbids would ensure that gamers had plenty to play on their Wii.

Throughout each console's first year, they each had their fair share of big first-party (and second-party) titles, which are essential to the life of a Nintendo system. The GameCube saw the release of Metroid Prime (a little over its first year, but close enough for us), Super Mario Sunshine, Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem and Japan received The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. Combined with the exclusivity deal to have all of the Resident Evil action you could want, on paper it seemed like the GameCube might be set up to do right by us and by itself. While big titles in their own right, they wouldn't be enough to keep gamers playing as the periods between releases were just too long.

For the Wii, big releases in its first year have been more plentiful. We got Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, WarioWare: Smooth Moves, Super Paper Mario, Mario Party 8, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, Battalion Wars 2 and the bundled Wii Sports game, which has been the driving force behind a lot of the console's success. Let's not forget everyone's drug of choice right now, Super Mario Galaxy.Did Nintendo learn their lesson? You bet they did!

The emergence of online gaming
During the GameCube's generation, online gaming on consoles was starting to be a big deal, thanks to Sony and Microsoft's support through their own systems. The GameCube, which could allow the player to take the game online in a select number of titles through an adapter (sold separately), hardly supported the feature. Some say this is just another reason why the console had the least amount of market share during its generation.

The Wii, which is doing a bit better in allowing gamers to get online and does so through built-in wireless (or an adapter for a hard line connection), is still not where the company needs to be in order to actively compete in the online arena, however. The convoluted Friend Code system that Nintendo employs is disliked widespread throughout the community, but still does what the GameCube did not: allow gamers to actively enjoy games online.

What other features does my console have?
Outside of the realm of games, the Wii and GameCube are very different. More technologically advanced, the Wii can do more than the GameCube's measly ability to play your games and ... uh, well the GameCube can only do that. So, aside from playing games, the GameCube makes for a good paperweight.

The Wii utterly crushes the GameCube in this area, allowing gamers to download older titles through the Virtual Console service (which helps ease the pain during the weeks between anticipated retail releases), access the internet through a built-in Opera web browser and check the news and weather. The Wii can also utilize SD cards to check out photos (which can be shared through a built-in messaging feature).

GameCube and Wii: Endgame
As you can see, the GameCube and Wii are two very different systems, focusing on different things and succeeding in different areas. The Wii took a lot of the same ideas and improved them, delivering an experience that everyone and their mother is into. From a first-year analysis, the Wii has destroyed all expectations and succeeded to heights not imaginable by us and, we're pretty sure, even Nintendo. One thing is for certain: the Wii isn't going to die the slow, horrible death the GameCube did and it certainly looks like 2007 (and, hopefully, 2008) was the year of the Wii.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.