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Josh Tolentino avatar 9:39 AM on 01.20.2009  (server time)
Why We Don't Have "The New GameCube" On Our Hands

VentureBeat posted a story today about how, sales-wise, the Wii is the new PS2, and the PS3 is the new Gamecube. Quotables include:

"Based on the first 26 months of availability, the Wii is on its way to becoming the best-selling console of all time, a title currently held by the PlayStation 2, which has sold more than 50 million units in America and an estimated 140 million worldwide....If the sales pattern holds, we expect Nintendo to sell 55 million Wiis in America by 2014 and 154 million units worldwide."

"By comparison, the PS3 sold 6.79 million units in the U.S. during the same initial 26-month period, compared to 6.75 million GameCubes, which finished a distant third last generation and forced Nintendo to rethink how it sold video games."

Sounds about right, right? Sure, if sales at the time are the only thing that matters when deciding which generation "equals" which generation.

Not quite.

Last generation, the GameCube did indeed finish in third place, and one of its major critiques was a serious lack of quality third-party titles, or titles at all, for that matter. There were dozens of landmark games on the platform, and players think the GameCube was the best console of all, their righteous fury matched only by Dreamcast lovers.

When you really think about it, relative sales are one of the only ways these generations are truly similar.

Take into account hardware differences. If you thought the GameCube controller was one of the reasons some games never made it onto the Skittle-colored happy machine, what about the Wii?

I think it's fair to say that it would be almost impossible to make a true port of any current PS3 or 360 game to the Wii, just by difference of control. The Wii versions of many multiplatform titles are practically different games in themselves. And I doubt anyone'd be able to make a "faithful" PS3/360 port of any Wii game, at least not until Microsoft and Sony start selling their "Many-Axis" and "MS-mote" controllers.

You couldn't say the same the GameCube placed up against the PS2 and Xbox (and Dreamcast). About the only difference between those 3 consoles was that GameCube discs were teeny and that its controller had a literal "big red button". You could still make a reliable port of a PS2 game to a GameCube, with relatively minor differences.

Simply put, the Wii is now in a market all of its own. It can longer be regarded from the same perspective as its competitors, because it has no competitors. Sony and Microsoft's concentrating on trolling each other is justified.

And we haven't even started talking about graphics. 7 years ago all three consoles existed in a state of relative graphical parity. You didn't lose all that much preferring the weakest (PS2) over the strongest (Xbox). And now, whoo! Even PS2-to-Wii ports can't be relied upon to be the same, much less equivalent to the big boxes of LIVE and Blu-Ray.

And with the audience expanding and development costs rising, you can't expect any major title to launch (or remain) platform exclusive between the PS3 and 360 (with exceptions of course).

In the end PS3 is not the new GameCube. For better or worse, it is the PS3.

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