Consumers Will Choose The PS3 Slim Over The Xbox 360
Normally, I'm not one to make bold statements in the headlines of my articles; as nothing is 100% and much of what I say is often subjective, I'd rather pose a question. In other words, I'd normally title this article, "Will Consumers Consider the PS3 Slim a Better Option than the Xbox 360?" or something to that effect. But the more I look at it, the more difficult it is for me to believe that a rational, logical, unbiased consumer will come to any other conclusion.
Please bear in mind that I'm not predicting the future; I'm merely talking about the current state of affairs. And also remember that there are more than enough reasons to own a 360 (there always have been) and I'm not suggesting that people get rid of their 360 to buy a PS3 Slim. But what I am saying is that when someone sits down to determine which console they wish to buy, they are invariably going to consider a number of factors...and just about all of them will fall in favor of Sony's new machine. What do we think about when we have to decide on a new console to buy?
Impact on the wallet
For the first time in the PS3's near three-year history, it is officially on par with its primary competition in the price category. It's easy to forget that Sony's next-gen console launched with a $600 price tag and that it was always deemed as being "too expensive," especially during its first year of existence when other factors were working against it. But at $299, it has suddenly become a major competitor and, when you add it up, a better value than the Xbox 360 Elite.
Behind price, which is unfortunately the primary determining factor unless we're wealthy, we care most about the games. During the early days of the PS3, not only was the selection a little thin, but multiplatform titles were typically superior on the Xbox 360. Developers simply didn't have a firm handle on the PS3's complex architecture, and it showed. But now, if you match exclusives vs. exclusives, either current and/or future, it seems painfully obvious to any informed gamer that the PS3 has the definite edge. I could go off on a rant and list all the exclusives for each console, but it has been done to death and I've seen both lists a million times. And unless you are extraordinarily biased, you in no way can say the 360 list can compare to MGS4, Killzone 2, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, LittleBigPlanet, Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction (and A Crack in Time), MAG, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, The Last Guardian, God of War III, Heavy Rain, and Gran Turismo 5.
Look, I was the first to admit the 360 had better exclusives early on with the likes of Gears of War and Halo 3. I will also play Halo 3 ODST and I really like the look of Alan Wake and Fable III, but come on...can we please just be realistic about this?
Xbox Live vs. PlayStation Network
Again, early on, this wasn't much of a contest. But the Network has made tremendous strides since then and again, I would take the PSN's exclusives (Flower, flOw, echochrome, Wipeout HD, Shatter, Fat Princess, etc.) any day of the week over the Live exclusives. The PSN remains free, it's just as stable and reliable as Live (I'd say they're both pretty similar in this regard), and while Live still has a few more bells and whistles, I say none of them place a significant gap between Microsoft and Sony. Besides, if you toss in PlayStation Home, which is expanding at a surprisingly fast rate, along with Qore and Pulse, it seems to me that the Network has the edge. And if you don't agree, I think you might agree that, at the very least, both services are on close to equal footing right now.
At first, it was going to battle against HD-DVD but that war didn't last very long, and now, Blu-Ray is on deck to become the default home entertainment media. More and more people - non-gamers as well - are starting to recognize the fact that the PS3 is a Blu-Ray player, and a great one at that. The PS2 wasn't much of a DVD player but if you check recent technical compare-and-contrasts between the PS3 and the top standalone Blu-Ray players around, the PS3 often comes out on top. And at $299, combined with its other multimedia capabilities, Sony's console is suddenly a great option for movie-viewing buffs as well as gamers. The 360 simply doesn't have this option.
Reliability and performance
I believe the newer 360s aren't as bad in terms of reliability as the first batch of 360s, but the recent evidence of a defective rate being as high as 54% isn't encouraging. The fact of the matter is - and this isn't subject to any debate whatsoever - that the 360 is easily the most unreliable console in history. Whether you believe the 1 in 3 ratio we heard reported by the five major game retailers in North America last year or the recent (and even worse) reports, the 360 just breaks...a lot. We all know people who have gone through multiple 360s in a very short span of time, and the PS3 has had an excellent reliability rating since it first launched. There was a small "yellow ring of death" snafu that may still exist, but it's hardly as bad as the 360. No-brainer, here.
Lastly, I would like to point out something important as it pertains to the history of this generation: the 360 sits at about 30 million worldwide sales while the PS3 is just shy of 24 million. Now, consider that the 360 launched one year earlier, that we suffered through a recession when the PS3 was significantly more expensive, that the Network and the games were lagging behind the 360 most of the time, that developers were issuing substandard multiplat PS3 versions, etc, etc, etc. With all of this, the PS3 still managed to sell just as many 360s on a yearly basis, and actually a little more?
No matter how you slice it, that's just nuts. Then take into account the drastic shift - as outlined above - and it seems almost impossible to believe that consumers won't see that the current clear choice is the PS3 Slim. Oh, and I know I didn't mention other things, like HDD size (120GB for both the Slim and Elite) and controller preferences and things like that, but I consider those slightly smaller considerations than what I listed above. And so, I conclude. Is there another way to see it?
8/20/2009 Ben Dutka