We are now half way through the longest gaming console generation ever to exist, with Microsoft’s Xbox 360 being in its seventh year, and Sony’s Playstation 3 in its sixth. Though rumors are ramping up about new consoles being released as soon as next year, both companies have made strong indication to the contrary, repeatedly citing their original intent to make this generation last a full ten years. Despite Nintendo releasing the WiiU later this year, Sony and Microsoft see this as the big N playing catchup and not ushering in a new console generation. That being said, it’s a great time to be a gamer.
A Great Time to be a Gamer
With half a decade under their belts, both the Xbox 360 and PS3 have extensive libraries of games to choose from, price cuts have made the consoles much more affordable than on their launch days, and numerous software updates have added more functionality to the gadgets than ever before. That, along with the promise of four or five more years of being up-to-date, makes either console a compelling buy.
However, despite the general impression that the two are parallel consoles of basically equal capabilities, there are some major differences that cause me to believe that Sony’s console is the better of the two.
Contrary to popular belief, the Xbox 360 is not (in practical terms) truly an HD console. Although the system is capable of 1080p output via HDMI, the hardware is simply not there to run most games at that resolution. In fact, some titles run in sub-720p resolutions that are then upscaled and antialiased to compensate. The PS3, on the other hand, is fast enough to handle full 1080p output on all but a few titles which must operate at 720p to avoid significant frame rate dips. But in any case, it’s still HD. Occasionally a game will appear that has better textures on the 360 than on the PS3, but this is due only to Microsoft installing more RAM in their console, and unfortunately for the Xbox, it’s the CPU that matters most for generating HD content, not memory.
Better Storage Media
When it comes to video playback, the winner is obvious: Bluray trumps DVD in visual quality without question. But Bluray offers other benefits relevant to games that the Xbox misses out on due simply to a lack of storage space. For example, greater storage space allows for more textures and higher resolution textures than could fit on a single DVD. Pre-rendered cutscenes, a popular storytelling element in games, can be stored at great length and in high definition without cutting back on playable areas of the game to save space. Of course the Xbox circumvents the limitations of the DVD by spreading a game across several discs or promoting online HD movie rental over DVD playback, but doing this is not very cost efficient considering online access and bigger hard drives than the default 4GB one will all tack on additional fees just to match services the PS3 offers for free.
Better Exclusive Titles
Microsoft essentially has one killer app, and one killer app only. As you probably guessed, that is none other than Halo. Ever since the original Xbox’s inception, the two names ‘Xbox’ and ‘Halo’ have gone so hand-in-hand that each one is practically an icon for the other. Yet beyond this, there is little to draw one to Microsoft’s console, not to mention that a cliched shooter isn’t the best killer app to have anyway. The Playstation 3, on the other hand, is the flagship console for series’ like Gran Turismo, Wipeout, and Uncharted, just to name a few. Multiplatform games such as Final Fantasy also perform smoother and generally look better on a PS3.
Free Online Access
I already mentioned this as a sidenote earlier, but internet connectivity and features are factors big enough to deserve their own point. Connect a PS3 to your ethernet or WiFi and you immediately have full online access in every game. An Xbox 360 requires one of a few levels of Live access which all involve a rather high monthly fee. Whichever side of the camp you’re on, it’s especially hard to dispute this one; there’s no workaround or alternative. The choices are: free online, or paid online. Which would you choose?
Though it may not have been immediately obvious who the real winner of the console race was five years ago, age has revealed the true character of both popular consoles, and it has become apparent that for better hardware, better exclusives, and free online gaming, the Playstation 3 is the console to have. At just $250 for the latest model, it is even more affordable than an Xbox 360 as well. While Nintendo may give Sony a run for its money come WiiU release day, it is most likely that seniority will preserve the Playstation’s reign as console king until the next generation of gaming begins.
So…what are you waiting for? If like me you waited until now to jump onto the console bandwagon, the time is right for that leap to be made, and to be made straight into the wide world of none other than the Playstation 3.