Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Xbox 360 or Playstation 3: Decisions, decisions...

A while back I declared myself a Wii and PC gamer. I chose the Wii because of its quirky games, affordability and long-standing franchises, while I chose the PC because of its incomparably-huge library and dedicated Valve support. Together I felt that they covered all the bases. About a year after I wrote that article, though, I started to feel I was still missing out. My computer was nowhere near capable of running all the games I wanted and the Wii was still getting shafted by most major third-party developers. With upgrading my PC being too expensive and complicated, I decided that it was time I look into getting a second console. At first I thought that the obvious choice would be the Xbox 360, but as time went on, the Playstation 3 began to appear a more attractive option. This choice wasn't going to be an easy one.

The Xbox 360 was released in 2005, a year before either the Playstation 3 or the then-named Revolution would be seeing the light of day. It's essentially a year ahead of any other console on the market, and this head start certainly seems to have paid off. Being first out of the gate has given the 360 quite the solid selection of software, much of it fitting my admittedly-picky taste. It takes care of my racing addiction with the Forza series, caters to my adventurous side with games like Mass Effect, and fulfills my need for crazy-as-hell fun with Dead Rising. There's a lot more to choose from than the above three games, of course, but these are definitely the titles I'm most eager to get my hands on. I'd say the only real problem with the 360's game library is the apparent lack of adventure or action games. There really doesn't seem to be much of either genre on the console, if any at all. I'll admit I haven't exactly conducted extensive research on the matter, but such games are far less visible than the dozens of shooters clogging the shelves. The large selection of PC ports my computer is too weak to run properly is certainly a plus, though.

The online aspect of gaming is quickly becoming one of the biggest parts of the industry, and I honestly can't disagree with its popularity. Being able to play with 8, 16, 32 or more people from all over the world all at the same time is really quite the amazing feat of technology, and, more importantly, it's insanely fun. Sure, nothing will ever match the thrills of cramming on a couch with all your best friends and going nuts in you game of choice, but it's impossible to deny the importance and fun of playing online. Some say that the 360 has the best online system there is, and what I've seen and read certainly point to them being right. However, unlike any other video game system on the market, this online service isn't free. It's $60 a year to play on Xbox Live, which is somewhat of a kick in the nuts after having played online via Steam for free these last few years. Apparently it's worth the cash, but I'm still not crazy about the idea of paying for what other consoles provide for free.

There are a lot of problems regarding finances on the 360, actually. First off is the matter of the wireless network adapter. While the PS3 and Wii support connections with wireless routers out of the box, the 360 requires a pricey add-on. This is a real problem in my house, where the distance between my main TV and the modem basically necessitates the use of wireless connections for video game consoles. This leaves me with an uncomfortable choice; Either I pay however much they want for a wireless adapter and play this hypothetical 360 on my HDTV downstairs, or I hook it up to a wired connection upstairs and have the "honour" of playing Forza 3 on a TV older than the Nintendo Entertainment System. It appears you win this hypothetical round, Microsoft.

Yet another issue regarding things that should be included in the box is the matter of rechargeable battery packs. For whatever reason, Microsoft decided to skip on including a tiny little battery pack in every controller, instead making the consumer pay $30 apiece for a minuscule plastic cuboid. Of course, just like getting rechargeable battery packs for the Wii remotes, this sort of thing pays for itself in the end, but it's still a real pain at the start. Apparently these battery packs get about 40 hours to the charge, though, so perhaps the convenience is worth the investment. Then again, I could put that $30 towards something more useful, like, say, another controller. A wired one that doesn't require batteries of any kind. Take that, battery manufacturers!! Oh, wait... Crap, I yanked the hypothetical 360 off the hypothetical cabinet while rudely gesturing towards my house's battery drawer. Fine, Microsoft, have it your way...

"That'll be thirty bucks, sir."

One final financial woe regards purchasing things on Xbox Live through the use of a currency called "Microsoft Points". Hoo boy, doesn't that roll off the tongue nicely? "X-Points" not good enough for you or something? Anyways, the problem here isn't the fact that there's a points system. In fact, I like the idea, and have gladly purchased Nintendo Points cards for my Wii and DSi many times. The problem is the fact that the currency itself makes no sense at all. Somehow $20 = 1400 points. Uh... Pardon? It can't possibly have been too difficult to just make $20 equal, well, 2000. When I buy a game on the Wii Shop Channel I can say "That was a good use of $8." On the Xbox store, though... I'm going to have to do math, and by the time I figure it out the satisfaction of my purchase would likely be worn off, replaced by confusion and frustration. I like to be able to figure out how much I spent on a game in dollars. You know what dollars are, Microsoft? Those things that are the currency of the country that buys most of your products? You know, the place where you yourself are located? This isn't a major issue, but it's certainly one of those little things that really gets to me.

The 360 can hardly be considered "cheap" in the long run, but you really seem to get what you pay for. All these accessories and services must be paid for separately, yes, but it's well worth the expense according to many a 360 owner. On another note, while it may cost more than the Playstation 3 once all added costs are factored in, it still totals at less than getting a gaming PC in the ways of both expense and complication. With a 360 I wouldn't have to worry about playing a game that looks nothing like the screenshots on the box. It really bugs me when I buy a game for my computer, bring it home, and find that my computer comes nowhere near to running it as beautifully as depicted in the footage or screenshots I've seen online. Graphics are far from everything, but darn it, if I pay for a game, I want it to look as advertised! Luckily many of these PC games are either simultaneously or later ported to the 360, allowing owners of the latter console to see games the way they were meant to be seen. Finally I'd be able to play these games without every character being made of roughly five polygons! As an added bonus, I also wouldn't have to stand around in game stores and squint at the required minimum specifications to try to figure out whether or not the game would run at all, let alone beautifully. It sure would take a lot of the uncertainty out of buying games.

The 360 is a strange combination of pros and cons, perhaps even being pulled in both directions more than any other console. In my opinion, though, it's being pulled more in the positive direction. While the long-term expense may be great, you really do get what you pay for. The console also has a whole bunch of great games going for it, and that's really what's most important in a situation like this. It's certainly a strong contender in the console wars, and at first it seemed like the obvious choice for me when I began looking for another console, but then another system came along. A system called the Playstation 3.

At first I never would have thought I'd ever consider buying a Playstation 3. When it launched in 2006 the console was expensive, under-supported, and far too akin in appearance to a certain line of counter-top grills. Since then, though, the console has become just as affordable as the 360, support has greatly increased, and it's even received a much-needed makeover. Suddenly it's become a far more attractive a console than ever before!

First off and, of course, most importantly, the Playstation 3's library is really beginning to appeal to me. The Uncharted series is getting insanely good reviews, and games like LittleBigPlanet and the upcoming ModNation Racers are driving my creative side nuts. Again, like on the 360, there's about a billion more shooters than necessary on the console, but I suppose they're easy enough to avoid. After all, I manage to avoid all the party games on the Wii! If there's any sort of severe shortcoming to the PS3's library, though, it's that while all bases seem to be covered, there's not all that much substance to any category (Besides shooters, of course). They do have Naughty Dog, though, which carries the delicious potential for another Jak game. Do that and I'll forgive the shortcomings!

Yes, please.

Unlike on the Xbox 360, playing any of these fine games online won't cost me a dime on the Playstation 3. However, referring back to the "you get what you pay for" theme running through the 360 section of this article, Xbox Live is apparently better than the Playstation Network, even when factoring in the expense. I've heard of Playstation games sometimes cutting out for no apparent reason, while no such reports have been heard from the Xbox side of the online gaming scene. It appears that the annual $60 paid for playing 360 games online helps ensure the stability of the central servers, and while it's apparently not an incredibly common issue on the Playstation Network, I'd gladly sacrifice one game purchase a year to make sure things continue to run smoothly.

Carrying on with the topic of finances, the Playstation 3 has its own version of the 360's Xbox Live Arcade store in the form of the Playstation Store. Unlike the competition, however, there's no strange arbitrary currency assigned to this online shopping centre, instead using good old dollars and cents. The downside, however, kills the service for me entirely: There's no such thing as redeemable cash cards for the Playstation Store. The only way to buy things via the service is with a credit card, something I do not have. In other words, the Playstation Store is completely useless to me. A real pity, too, as there seem to be some truly worthwhile things available on it*.

One final note on the matter of expense is that, unlike the Xbox 360, the Playstation 3 comes with wireless internet capabilities built-in, free of charge, and the controllers have internal, rechargeable batteries as a standard feature. As a result of this, though, the Playstation 3 controllers cost a little more than those for the 360, but not as much as a 360 controller plus a battery pack. This means that the Playstation 3 is actually more affordable than the 360. And to think, only three years ago everyone was still going on about "FIVE HUNDRED AND NINETY-NINE US DOLLARS"!

Hey, Microsoft, apparently it's possible, both economically
and physically, to cram a battery pack in there. Take note!

There's one more subject about the Playstation 3 that deserves attention, and that's the matter of multiplatform games. While there are many games that release on both this console and on the 360, the Playstation 3 versions tend to suffer from a higher amount of technical problems. Frame rate issues, disappearing objects, slow connections to online lobbies and more tend to pop up more frequently in the Playstation 3 version of these games than on the 360. This is a big problem for me, as one of the main reasons I'm looking into a new console is the fact that they share so many great games unavailable on the Wii. Dragon Age: Origins, Batman: Arkham Asylum and Grand Theft Auto IV are all large factors in my decision to seek an additional video game console, and there's plenty more where that came from. The fear that the game I buy may be inferior to the one on the 360 makes me hesitant to invest in the Playstation 3. The lack of any sort of definitive list of these porting errors only increases my apprehension. For all I know these problems could just be getting blown way out of proportion. It's really hard to tell sometimes! As a side note, a few Playstation 3 games contain features absent in their 360 counterparts, such as the ability to play as the Joker in Batman: Arkham Asylum, but I don't really think it's enough to counter the myriad of problems with other ported games.

The Playstation 3 has really surprised me with how much it's improved in the last year or two. It's finally beginning to grab my attention, doing so without me really noticing until my consciousness was firmly in its grasp. However, it, like the 360, is being pulled by many positive and negative forces, and again, like its competition, it emerges on the positive end of the spectrum. The Playstation 3 is a fine console, and few serious arguments can be made that indicate otherwise. What matters here, though, is if it's the right console for me. Looking at all the facts and weighing its many pros and cons, I come to the conclusion that...

...I want the Playstation 3. As a matter of fact, I want the Xbox 360, too! They're both really great in their own way, and I'm eager to get my hands on both. The decision now becomes which to pursue first, and after thinking about it for quite some time, I've decided to begin with the Xbox 360. Lately I've just been going nuts for a realistic racing game, and Forza 3 has really got me under its spell. The draw of playing the many PC games I've either been unwilling or unable to get for my computer is also beginning to get to me. Playstation 3 games like LittleBigPlanet and Uncharted are still really going to grab my eye and will continue to do so for quite some time, but they'll have to wait a while. As of now, the game selection on the 360 is most synced with my current interests, and it's for that reason I've decided to go with Microsoft's console first. It may wind up costing me a bit more at the start, but I'm sure it will be worth it. Maybe next year, Playstation 3... Maybe next year.

*EDIT: According to user NintenDood on the One Duck's Opinion forums, there is such a thing as a Playstation Network cash card. I've never seen these in any store I've ever been too, from Wal-Mart to EBGames. In fact, they only appear to be online... Meaning I'd still need a credit card. If they are in stores somewhere, they certainly aren't in any shop near me, pretty much bringing things back to where I started.


Mope Loyal said...

I see Playstation Network cards all over the place. Target, Rite-Aid, and Costco, specifically. I'd go for the PS3. I think it's expanded the appeal of the its library recently and it plays Blu-Ray.

Anonymous said...

Get the Xbox 360 IMO.Xbox has much more games.

Lisa said...

Hello, I was just Blog-Hopping and ran across your blog. Very well written!


slim said...

PS3 beats the 360 hands down. I was on the f**king Xbox until it broke down, and I switched over. Never regreted it. No more crappy Xbox live credits and PSN is free!

Quacthulhu said...

How very odd. Without even knowing of you beforehand, we've both had the same "which console?" debacle at almost the same exact time. And both quandaries from malformed duck avatars.

I picked the 360 though, with an eventual PS3. The MS points thing is truly annoying as hell, though. Too bad the gamer points (for achievements) don't grant you any MS points.