Lately, I’ve been thinking of getting one of the three next-generation gaming consoles: Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony Playstation 3. Sad to say, I can afford to spend money on only one so I have to choose carefully. After selling our old Playstation 2 recently, I only played games on either my PC or laptop. Although I still love playing Counter-strike on the PC, that’s about all I can play on it. The newer PC games have steeper minimum requirements and I have to upgrade my PC (again!) every couple of years maybe just to play those.
Unless I pay up for expensive top-of-the-line hardware, I’ll only get a mediocre to decent media experience out of these newer PC games if ever. At least with a console game, I won’t have to worry about minimum requirements and upgrading all the time. Any game I buy for the console I own will always play the way it was meant to (and as reviewed by game reviewers) and a console should last about five or so years.
Of course, consoles aren’t cheap. But if I compare the cost of the console to the cost of hardware needed to bring my current PC up to spec (or buying a totally new cutting-edge PC), I get to save a lot of money in the long run. Another advantage of consoles over PCs is that whenever I want to play a game, all I have to do is place the CD in the console, boot it up then play. On a PC, I have to boot up Windows first, then run the game I want to play. This takes quite a while specially if you don’t have a top-end PC. Since I don’t have a lot of time to play nowadays, being able to get into the game as quickly as possible is a big bonus as every little minute counts.
Another cool thing about playing console games is that it doesn’t require installing anything. And here in Australia’s EB Games at least, if I buy any console game, I can return it within 7 days if I’m not happy with it. It’s a good way for me to try games that I’m not sure I’d like. I can’t do this for PC games though.
So, I want a gaming console. But which one? I had to do a lot of research on the Web, comparing features of the three current consoles to get to my choice. Each console has pros and cons, so it was a bit difficult to choose from among the three.
Here is my personal pros and cons list for each console:
- Cheapest of the three.
- Great family and party games due to its user-friendly wiimote motion-sensing controllers.
- Free online gaming.
- Not a lot of games I’d love to play for now and the foreseeable future.
- For games that I’d like to play, there is a version of the same game on the two other consoles and provides better graphics.
Microsoft Xbox 360
- Lots of awesome games I’d like to play right now.
- XBox Live. The online features on the 360 are well developed and the community is already large.
- Can be used as a media centre.
- The Xbox Live Gold service isn’t free. That means, I have to pay a subscription fee just to play online against other players.
- According to users who post in forums, there is a big chance of getting a machine that conks out in about a year or so. hence the popularity of the terms “red ring of death” and “bricking” in gaming circles.
- Wifi adaptor costs extra.
- Downloaded content only works on the hard-disk and Xbox 360 combination it was downloaded on. Meaning, I wouldn’t be able to view the stuff I bought on my hard disk if I use it on a different Xbox 360.
- Supposedly, very noisy.
Sony Playstation 3
- Plays a lot of popular Playstation 2 games including God of War II and few more of my old favourite PS2 games.
- Free online gaming.
- Built-in Wifi capability.
- Built-in Blu-ray Disc player.
- Controllers get recharged via USB cable.
- Slots for standard-type memory cards (like SD and Memory Stick).
- Easily upgradable hard disks (and cheaper than the proprietary hard disks used by 360).
- Can be used as a PC if Linux is installed.
- Can be used as a media centre.
- Most expensive of the three.
- Not a lot of games I like at this moment but according to release lists, there are games I’d like to play to be released soon.
From my list above, you must’ve guessed by now that I’m leaning towards getting the PS3. Sure, it’s more expensive but it has most of the things I wanted out of the box. With the Xbox 360, I still have to buy a separate Wifi adaptor and an extended warranty. After that, I still wouldn’t have a Blu-ray player, a recharge kit and only a 20GB hard disk. As for the Wii, it may be the cheapest in the market now, but I really think the novelty of the games I’d like to play on it would wear off after a while. And the type of games I’d probably want to continue to play (like first-person shooters) are better played on either the 360 or the PS3.
One of the major draws of the 360 for me is its large and growing Xbox Live community. This meant that there are a lot of players I can go up against in games. My main problem with it is that I have to pay $79 per year for the benefit of playing against other players online. And if Raquel wants to play online too on her own account, that’s another $79 a year. This wouldn’t really be such a big deal if I had lots of free time to play because I’d be getting my money’s worth of online gaming time. As it is, it’s possible for me not to play for days, weeks or even months. That’s why free online gaming provided by the PS3 appeals so much to me. I can skip playing for a month and I won’t feel like I’m throwing my money away on a subscription service I’m not using.
Another thing that turns me off from buying a 360 is that, according to reports on the Internet, the 360 is a lot more noisy and literally hotter than the PS3. There’s also that off chance that the 360 will scratch and ruin my gaming CDs if I’m unlucky (I’m not sure if this problem still happens though). At worst, I’ll get the infamous Red Ring of Death where my 360 will become “bricked” and unusable. It’s scary to think that the machine I’m buying might become useless in a year or so.
It’s good if the 360 breaks down before the standard one-year warranty ends. I can ship it off to Microsoft to get get it “fixed” (which could mean getting a different refurbished machine instead). But according to my research, there are quite a number of people who got their 360 bricked after year one. So, to be safe, I should get an extended warranty that’ll cost extra but at least I can just have the 360 replaced with a brand-new one in the event my the one breaks down within two years of purchase.
As for the Hi-Definition (HD) aspect of the 360 and the PS3, I don’t care much for it right now because I don’t own an HDMI TV yet anyway. Supposedly though, PS3 does have the better HDMI capability at the moment. That is, until the Xbox 360 Elite (a more beefed-up but more expensive version of 360) comes out some time this year.
Nevertheless, I’d like to be able to play HD movies eventually. To do that on the 360, I’d have to purchase a separate external HD-DVD drive while the Blu-ray drive comes built-in on the PS3. Note that although these two formats are both HD, these two are incompatible with each other, hence the format war going on between HD-DVD and Blu-ray. In my opinion, Blu-ray will likely win though because more film studios (including Disney and Sony Pictures) support Blu-ray whilst only a couple of studios back HD-DVD. So, Blu-ray seems like a safe bet and the ability to play those movies already comes built-in on the PS3.
And even if the Blu-ray format loses the HD format war, the built-in Blu-ray drive will still guarantee that games for the PS3 can contain a lot of content as one Blu-ray disc can hold up to 46GB of data. On the other hand, the 360 only uses DVDs for its games which can only hold up to 8GB of data. The 360 can probably get around this limitation by using multiple discs and swapping between them when needed or make use of the hard disk for pre-storing of important data like 3D textures and sound effects.
That reminds me of another thing I’m disappointed about the 360. Microsoft released a Core version of the 360 without a hard disk. This made the hard disk an optional requirement for 360 games. So game developers should assume that there is no hard disk that can be taken advantaged of when developing a game. That meant, no hard disk caching of data during game play that could result in slower loading times. I suppose eventually, they can program the games to still use the hard disk if it is detected by the game at start up. We’ll see if this happens. Last generation of consoles, Xbox has this advantage over the PS2. This generation, it’s now the PS3 that has this advantage over the 360 as all PS3s come with a hard disk.
Still, I may want to buy a 360 solely for its great games (like Gears of War, Lost Planet and the upcoming Command & Conquer Tiberium Wars) and the ability to play with or against countless other gamers on Xbox Live (if I’m willing to pay for it). However, I can’t be sure I’d get to play all the time. It just seems like a big waste of money to be paying a periodical subscription fee for a service I’ll only use on occasion.
So, my choice comes down to the PS3. You may choose differently though and that’s fine. For me, the PS3 is the way to go. The PS3 may be more expensive right now, but it would be cheaper in the long run as I wouldn’t be wasting extra cash on subscription fees. And although I won’t be playing the great 360 games, there are still cool games out for the PS3 right now anyway (like Resistance: Fall of Man and Motorstorm) and some games I like coming real soon (like Half-Life, Unreal Tournament 3 and God of War 3). On top of it all, I would also have a Blu-ray player and maybe a Linux PC (after I install Linux on the PS3) that can play XVid and DivX movies. What’s not to like?