PlayStation 3 vs. Xbox 360… are they both winning? Losing? Or neither?

16 Oct

Which console is on top this generation…

Approximately 15 years ago, at a time when the number of dimensions utilised by developers had just shot up to three, gaming enthusiasts would spend minutes, hours or sometimes even days arguing over which computer was the best – the ZX Spectrum or the block ugly Commodore 64.

Fast forward to the present day and it seems little has changed, apart from the advent of the internet it appears the battle lines have become a little more blurred. What I am referring to is the ongoing scuffle between the Microsoft Xbox 360 and the Sony PlayStation 3. Despite the fact that I have previously been a devout Xbox fan, I don’t pretend that Sony’s consoles don’t exist. I keep both consoles (as well as a Nintendo Wii) at the side of my television and although I would say that both have seen equal use, whimsical fence-sitting isn’t enough for this article.

So, what gets people spending more than a low shelf price? In this cash-strapped economy, the initial price ticket is the one that shouts the loudest. Sure, you can do little to prove that ultimately, pound for pound, the PS3 provides the better value but on the shelves, when mum, dad, boyfriend or girlfriend (if you’re that lucky) is glancing over which console to buy, it’s the one that costs £129 that’ll shift more than the one that costs £300.

So, does Sony need to offer a cut-down PS3, minus Wi-Fi and Blu-ray player, to compete? Sony have always stuck with the rule that bundles are the way forward, to extend the value of the purchase. To an extent this works, though the absence of advertisement of the full entertainment system that the PS3 provides has caused its prospective buyers to overlook the main sale point of the PS3… after all it isn’t just a gaming system.

If you’re clued-up on what the PS3 offers then £300 with Wi-Fi (which costs £60 on the 360) and a HD movie player is a fantastic deal. But for those of you who aren’t, you more than likely own the 360 console.

There is a reason the 360’s interface keeps it gamers locked. Although not the most obviously simple to use, whilst 75% of the menu options end up trying to get you to spend money, the consistent look and feel as you drill down the menus work a treat. It’s fast, slick and very un-Microsoft. Everything is superbly linked and cross-referenced. From anywhere, in any game, a simple tap of the guide button allows you to manage friends, messages and check things like Achievements.

The in-game Cross Media Bar (XMB) on the PS3 does a similar thing, but the decision to present the user with the entire menu wasn’t the best idea. Showing the feature to a non-gamer, unfamiliar with the XMB then even the option to quit the game becomes a task.

The biggest issue: the title updates. If a PS3 game requires a patch, it’s usually at least 25 MB and you’re at the mercy of the PS3’s Wi-Fi as it slowly crawls across the internet to your console. The equivalent 360 update? Grabbed in seconds, literally. If you don’t think this an issue, try un-boxing a brand new PS3 on Christmas day or a birthday and playing LittleBigPlanet (over 800 MB download updates) – it can be very frustrating if you’re as impatient as me.

Finally, we arrive at the thing that gamers want most: games. And it’s probably one of the toughest areas to cover as games usually become the main weapon in the ‘my-console-is-better-than-yours’ war. Does it matter if the PS3 version of GTA has fewer pixels than the Xbox 360 version? Does Devil May Cry’s slightly-quicker-on-PS3 load times really push that version of the game? Probably not.

Games do sell consoles though, and in the war of 2009 it is definitely the exclusive games that fuel the debate. What’s obvious though is that the first quarter of this year went to the PS3, with games like Killzone 2, a first-person shooter that has been at the forefront of PlayStation gamers’ minds since 2005. In terms of system sellers, Killzone 2 is as big as they come.

This year, the PS3 will play host to Gran Turismo 5, God of War III and Heavy Rain, which are all being hyped beyond normal rational levels, and the mere mention of any of them is enough to get gamers not yet on the PS3 wagon well and truly ready to splash the cash. Of course, Microsoft haven’t surrender and let the PS3 walk away with all the bragging rights in terms of software: the 360 exclusives feature Alan Wake, a follow up to Mass Effect and a new Halo title, but in my humble opinion as much of a devout Halo fan as I am, none of these hold the same weight.

The 360 may initially be an attractive purchase, but long term, and where it really matters, the PS3 starts to shine through. 2009 really was the year of the PS3. It had to be: gaming has always been where the PlayStation brand has excelled and it’s clear that the developers are really starting to get to grips with the architecture of the machine and that the publishers are getting behind it more than ever before. This doesn’t mean however that I will be ready to forfeit my 360 just yet.

Originally posted by myself on, February 2nd, 2010 at http://platform-online.net

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