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The Wii’s closest competitor, both in terms of price point and installed base, is the Xbox 360. The 360 has been out longer, but the Wii’s overwhelming popularity allowed it to quickly surpass the lead Microsoft’s console had gained during its first year.
The two consoles are alike in nearly as many ways as they are different. Check out our category by category comparison of the two systems. Or check out our other guide if you're interested in how the Wii stacks up to the Playstation 3.
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Both systems have a similar number of games available, with the 360 holding a slight edge of 854 to 775 titles (according to Metacritic). The Wii has great games for couples, families, and hardcore gamers alike, with a slight emphasis on couples and families and a smaller number of hardcore titles.
The 360 is definitely more of a system for adults. There are definitely family games to be found on the system, but nowhere near the amount that can be found on the Wii.
Both systems have great system-exclusive games. The Xbox 360 has both the Halo and Gears of War series and the Wii is home to classic franchises like Mario, Zelda, and Metroid.
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If you’re looking for state of the art graphics, the Xbox 360 is the clear choice here. With the ability to display in full HD resolutions and far more processing power than Nintendo’s system, the 360’s graphical capabilities are clearly superior.
This is not to say that games look bad on the Wii. Developers have found interesting ways to work around the Wii’s limited graphical capabilities, and most gamers will tell you that good graphics don’t always equal good games.
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Microsoft’s Xbox Live is the best online service for any modern console. With integrated voice communications, friend lists, Netflix compatibility, the Xbox Live Marketplace, and a host of other features, it’s the clear winner here.
The downside to Live, of course, is the fact that you have to pay for it. At roughly 50 bucks a year, that’s one less game you’ll be buying, but I’ve always found the service well worth the price.
Getting online with the Wii is a complicated process requiring friend codes and lacking in voice chat for most games. Nintendo’s family focus requires it to take drastic steps in order to ensure that no gamers are inadvertently exposed to objectionable material, an approach that many gamers find limits their online enjoyment.
The upside to the Wii’s limited online features? Unlike Xbox Live, they’re absolutely free.
One final note: the Wii allows gamers to browse the internet with its Internet Channel, allowing, among other things, access to many free online Wii browser games.
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The Xbox Live Marketplace is absolutely chock full of game videos, demos, and addons, not to mention downloadable Arcade games and Xbox Originals. Very few games are released without some sort of available marketplace content.
The Wii offers some downloadable game content, (songs for Rock Band, for example) and game videos and demos are available through the Nintendo Channel.
The real advantage of the Nintendo Wii is the Virtual Console. Gamers can download their favorite games for classic consoles like the SNES or Sega Genesis and play them right on their existing setup through the Wii. There’s nothing quite like experiencing a great game like Chrono Trigger in full screen HDTV glory.
No other console offers anything quite like the Virtual Console. It’s one of the most compelling reasons to buy a Wii.
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T he Wii is famous for its innovative motion controls and unique take on how consumers should interact with their game system. For beginners and those who find the overly-complicated button layouts of modern controllers confusing, the intuitive nature of the Wii’s controls can be a godsend. For hardcore gamers who prefer the flexibility modern controllers offer, they can be incredibly frustrating.
The Xbox 360 controller is well-suited for shooters and driving games, but its crappy excuse for a d-pad makes it completely worthless for fighting games. Overall, I’ve always preferred it, even when compared to Sony’s Sixaxis or Dual Shock 3.
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The Xbox 360 plays DVDs as well as games, and thrifty gamers looking to watch high def movies on the cheap can pick up the HD-DVD drive for around forty bucks. With many HD-DVDs available online for around five dollars, it’s possible to build up a decent library of high def movies for not much money.
The Nintendo Wii doesn’t play movies at all. No DVDs, no HD-DVDs, no Blu Rays. The Wii plays games, period. This probably isn’t much of a concern for people with multiple DVD players, but for anyone wishing to cut down on the number of devices attached to their television, it’s an important factor to consider.
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Both the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii carry similar price points. The Wii retails for around $250 and the 360’s multiple price points start at $200 for the Arcade system. Throw in the cost of a hard drive (a pretty much essential accessory) and the two systems cost about the same.
The true test, then, is value for that money. The 360 offers fantastic graphics, a multitude of great games for mature gamers, awesome Xbox 360 exclusives, and access to the best online service on the market. The Wii has a fantastic selection of games for families, a good number of fantastic hardcore and budget titles, innovative controls, and access to the Virtual Console.
Both systems are fantastic in their own ways. In the end, it always comes down to games. Find the system that has the most games you’re interested in playing, and your decision will be easy.