Online Service Battle: Network Outstripping Live
When I first brought home the PlayStation 3 in 2006, I already had an Xbox 360. At the time, Xbox Live was the undisputed leader in terms of online service for consoles, and although I was interested to see the Network take early strides on the PS3, I basically dismissed it. I knew it had a long way to go, and while I'd keep an eye on it, I wasn't the type who spends hours and hours online every week, anyway.
But now it's time to reevaluate the situation and I have to say, based on the available software alone, the PSN has Live beat. I like to check both on a relatively frequent basis just to see if I can nab something cool for a great price. Well, the PSN library already has gems like flOw, Flower, Wipeout HD, echochrome, and others, and while I know you can find original Xbox classics on Live, the lineup really can't compare to the PS1 classic selection on the PSN. Furthermore, as third-party developers have now begun to include both the PS3 and 360 in its content production, there isn't much of a discrepancy in terms of add-ons and extra DLC these days. Yes, Live still has the edge, but it's mostly due to the early jump the service had, although I certainly think getting the exclusive rights to GTAIV DLC was big for Live. Beyond that, though, the Network just continues to push forward with some great stuff.
I've also noticed that first-party titles get better support on the Network as far as DLC goes; the amount of stuff on the PSN for LittleBigPlanet, Killzone 2, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, and other exclusives is pretty impressive, and one can almost assume that future exclusives will get the same treatment. Then we have to factor in PlayStation Home, which certainly outdoes the revamped Live with its upgraded Wii-like avatar feature. Of course, many will just point to Live's populace - which isn't even that much bigger than the PSN's now, statistically speaking - and say Live is still more popular, but you have to admit: the PSN closed that gap quick. Now, you're starting to find major developers with their very own dedicated sections on the store, Qore is typically worth a look, and the movie download service is plenty appealing. I know what Live has and I get stuff there, too, but it seems as if the Network is where I'm spending most of my time lately.
Lastly, you've got what are still exclusives in MAG and Final Fantasy XIV, with more like The Agency on the way. Perhaps all of these will help to redefine how we view online gaming and if Microsoft isn't careful, Sony will wrench this crown from the 360's now-tenuous grasp. The Network remains free and if and when Sony drops the price of the PS3, not only will you probably see the PS3 catch up to the 360 in the sales category (the vastly better exclusive lineup will see to that), but you'll likely see the Network start matching Live stride for stride. And I'm only talking about the number of users; just in regards to available software and overall quality, I really think the PSN has more going for it right now.
6/22/2009 Ben Dutka