Editorial: The State Of The Console War
It's an ongoing topic of conversation amongst all avid gamers, and of course, the ebb and flow of the retail tides tends to dictate which console has the lead. But that's hardly what everyone argues about - how does one argue over cold, hard sales stats? - so let's examine where the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii stand at this point in time.
The disclaimer we always add to our editorials shouldn't be required by now, but I'll drop it in anyway- just because we focus on the PlayStation brand at this site does not mean we're a "fansite;" we're a legitimate site and always will be. Therefore, when I tell you the PS3 appears to be in the best current position, it has nothing whatsoever to do with bias. I was one of the few who said the Intellivision was better than the Atari 2600, but in the end, everyone remembers Atari for blazing the trail (and they did, of course). And when someone started trying to compare the SNES and Genesis, I always remember walking away...they were both so great; both had so many great games, so why even bother to argue about it? But these days, with online, many more genres of games, high-definition, all sorts of extra media content, and all that, there's a lot more to consider.
And about a year and a half ago, nobody in their right mind would say the PS3 was in the best position. The Xbox 360 had already been available for over a year, and had already provided us with some fantastic software (despite the miserable reliability that still continues today), and the Wii had sprinted out to a huge lead. But man, how times have changed. Let's hit the highlights to make it easier for the reader:
First and foremost, the games: Everyone freaked out when Sony lost exclusive rights to Final Fantasy XIII, but in my view, the PS3 still has by far the most impressive list of exclusives. Regardless of what the 360 and Wii may boast - and there are several big ones - neither can compare to the likes of Gran Turismo, Resistance, LittleBigPlanet, Ratchet and Clank, God of War, SOCOM, and perhaps whatever Team ICO has prepared for us. Yes, I realize the latter is just a guess, but I'm sure you get my point. On top of which, I do believe the PS3 versions of multiplatform titles will start getting an edge on 360 games, what with so many developers beginning to use the PS3 as the lead platform.
Blu-Ray: As much as Microsoft wants to discount this as a big deal, it does indeed remain a big deal for consumers. The fact that the PS3 is the only video game console that can also be a high-definition movie player is significant, and will become more significant as Blu-Ray begins its admittedly slow overtaking of DVD. In 2007, over 80% of all TVs purchased during the holiday season where HD-capable, and most analysts believe it'll be around 90% this year. Furthermore, Sony's machine remains by far the cheapest option that will allow consumers to play both Blu-Ray and DVD. This is huge, considering the giant DVD libraries many people have, and their adverse reaction to having two separate movie players hooked up. Do they even have another player that can play both Blu-Ray and DVD yet?
The rise of the PlayStation Network: While it remains true that Xbox Live still has more bells and whistles, the Network and Store are much better than they used to be. The newly revamped Store is excellent, the reliability of most Sony servers is excellent, and it seems that with every new firmware update, more is added. It remains free while Live is not, and with the coming of PlayStation Home (which, by all rights, could have it's own bullet, here), this means the Network should be more and more competitive with Live. In fact, for many casual gamers, it's simply a better option right now.
Where did the Wii games go? I applauded Nintendo for coming out strong with an innovative machine that cast such a huge net over all consumer demographics. It really was an excellent move. But now, all I see is another GameCube...where are the games? What happened? Think of all the big-name games over the past year, and for the next few months. Name as many as you can...go ahead, take your time. How many are on the Wii, and how many are on the PS3 and Xbox 360? The discrepancy is pretty gigantic, isn't it? MGS4, DMC4, GTAIV, GT5: Prologue, Resistance 2, LittleBigPlanet, Gears of War 2, Killzone 2, Too Human, etc, etc, etc. The biggest of the big, and ain't none on the Wii. I'm sorry, but I don't care how innovative your interaction gimmick is; without the software, no video game system on earth can win a console war.
Surprising PS3 reliability: I say "surprising" because I honestly didn't believe this system would be as unbelievably solid as it is. Most all retailers continually report a less than 1% defective:sold ratio, and while this doesn't necessarily separate it from the Wii (another remarkably reliable machine, but that's typical from Nintendo), it certainly separates it from the Xbox 360. That thing is a disaster, plain and simple, and there's no amount of PR twisting-of-words that can change that fact. Plus, with the prices of the consoles being the same and the games all over the place, what's really stopping someone from getting a PS3 over the 360 right now?
I'm not making any long-term predictions; this is only a look at the current state of the console war. Currently, no matter which way I turn or which angle I examine this from, I always end up putting the PS3 on top. Early in 2007, I would never have imagined such a massive turnaround, and I certainly wouldn't have expected it to happen so quickly. If this momentum continues, and unless I see something that spurs either the 360 or the Wii forward in my mind, I will continue to believe the PS3 has the current edge. Of course, I do have both the PS3 and 360, just 'cuz I really like those RPGs like Lost Odyssey and the upcoming Infinite Undiscovery, and of course, I need some way to play Gears of War 2. The Wii? ...I don't think so. Anywho, that's the way I see it; take it or leave it. :)
8/15/2008 Ben Dutka