posted on Starpulse.com
Things are starting to shake up in the video game industry now that the holiday season is upon us. For years now there has been a vicious rivalry between the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and it is only going to head up from here.
The 360 always had price advantage, exclusive games, and Xbox Live over its rival, whereas PS3 had the groundbreaking graphics and in-built Blu-ray player. Now PS3 has officially dropped its price to fight back against the cheaper Wii and 360, although the other two systems have dropped in price as well. PS3 is the most significant fall, however. With the prices becoming more even, this may be a tougher battle for Microsoft to win, but it still has one big ace up its sleeve: Xbox Live (XBL).
Even as the Playstation Network (PSN) tries to compete against it, they have some severe weaknesses. The PSN is functionally poor, awkward, and more difficult to utilize than the user friendly gold mine that is XBL. While the PSN does try to bring a huge interactive world (Home), much like the popular online “game” Second Life, it is slower and not as entertaining as its original design would promise. At first the PSN did seem to have its shopping systems down pat, but the renewal of the Xbox Experience turned XBL into an easy place to move around and to cross reference anything you might be looking for.
XBL has achievements for every game that is put out, and PSN tries for trophies but it doesn’t quite get the same competitive edge. I was excited to try out the PSN after buying my new PS3 Slim because I heard it was free (yay), and there were all these wonderful new games to try out. Instead it was one of the most frustrating experiences trying to move around the system and converse with other people. Finding friends was difficult… not to mention that so few people I know actually have PS3’s so there was hardly anyone to play with. This is a complaint a lot of players have; chances are as an XBL player you’ll easily find huge multiplayer options and have hours of fun right at your fingertips. XBL is booming despite the price of its monthly subscription, and it is simple to jump into a fun party with your best friends and go off on an adventure together.
Then there’s the XBL Community Games network which is just fascinating. Arcade games, demos, add-ons, and old favorites are offered on the Experience screen so you always have something interesting to try out. Gamers are encouraged to make their own ideas and submit them to Microsoft, and who knows, your game might be picked up and sold right there on the Games network. PSN had something similar in LittleBigPlanet, but it is not nearly as consistent and eclectic as the XBL offerings. Patches are faster on the XBL, and it now has that nifty Netflix option. You can patch your Netflix account onto the XBL and choose ‘Watch Instantly’ movies to add onto your Netflix XBL list. That way anytime you want to watch them you can simply jump online the 360 and pick the show or movie. Now they’ve added the option for party watching, so you and your friends can enjoy “The Office” together.
Really what it comes down to is that Microsoft may require you to pay for their services, but you get what you pay for. It is an excellent system with many innovative ideas, games you can cycle through for hours, and a great way to connect to your video game buddies. Does it come without flaws? Of course not, there are speed and connection problems, as expected, and this is far from perfect. But XBL is a constantly moving machine, and who knows when the next patch might come along to fix that particularly annoying bug. PSN on the other hand just seems to be trying to keep up in any way they can, offering PlayStation Home and the precious ‘Xi’ game.
My advice to Sony and the PSN is simple: your fancy graphics and ideas would be great … if they worked. Listen to the users and see how your rivals have managed to surpass you, and utilize what they have learned to your own benefit. Sure, you might seem like a copycat for awhile, but it’s better than seeming 10 years behind everyone else. Find ways to let player be more constantly interactive with one another and have smoother multiplayer options. Right now “Uncharted 2” promises a pretty great online gameplay, so pump that up and prove you deserve a seat on online express. Your system might be free, but again … you get what you pay for. We’d rather pay a little for better service and an online world that’s worth visiting.