Readers of this blog will already know I don’t own a HD console yet, due to there being no games on either that I have a visceral need to play, at least none that I can’t already play on other platforms. In many ways this generation has been the ‘FPS coming of age’ for consoles, with online play being far more widespread and console lovers lauding it like a new age, but I already did all that on the PC a few years ago so it holds no particular magic for me. Despite the promise that the new platforms hold, mostly so far they’re carriers of slightly nicer looking FPS/racing/sport games I feel I’ve already played enough of, unless they have special qualities like Bioshock.
No, for me there is one clear watershed upon which a purchase decision must hinge; and that’s Rock Band. It’s not released until early 2008 here in Europe (hence why I’ll be enjoying GH3 on PS2 over the festive season), but recently it’s been confirmed that it will cost a whopping $170 in the US in late November, which will come with a guitar, a drumkit and microphone, leaving you to buy the extra guitar if you want the full 4-player experience (or getting a friend to bring one down). In theory that should be about £85 here in the UK but I’m expecting to be ripped off on the exchange rate, as is usual with electronic goods (where the dollar seems to be teutonically strong irrespective of economic reality). Thus, choosing the right platform for this monster investment is critical - I could get it on PS2 but the almost infinite availability of songs online for the modern consoles makes that a poor choice in this instance.
So, let’s rack up the current pros / cons (from my perspective).
- Great online system, considerably better integrated than PS3s
- Cheaper, although not by as much when you add the (daylight robbery) wireless adapter and an extra controller, both of which you get for free on PS3 (in Europe - plus 2 games)
- More games
- Better exclusives (Bioshock - which I have on PC, Halo 3, PGR4) - although I’m not sure I actually want any of them
- Red ring of death a constant source of fear
- Proprietary wireless makes controllers more expensive (Rock Band’s guitar will be wired on 360, wireless on PS3)
- Environmental factors: it’s noisy & gets very hot
- Better build quality; quieter, cooler, much lower incidence of failure
- In theory slightly more capable technically in the long-term (although little perceivable difference now)
- The friend I’m most likely to play Rock Band with has one 😉
- ‘Free’ Blu-ray player
- Online service not as well organised & standardised, Home delayed & unknown
- No controller rumble (until next iteration)
- Exclusives relatively poor (so far, although Little Big Planet & Haze look interesting but can’t count yet)
Now, my conclusion from this differs depending on what point of view I take. If I played more games, particularly FPS’s, on a console I think the current choice would be easy - the 360. For a hardcore gamer there’s simply more to be had on that platform in terms of good exclusives and a fantastic online service. Sony clearly hasn’t got it’s act together on the online front yet and it’s doubtful now (I think) whether they actually will - I think the PS3 online service will be pretty much like the PC was / is, boutique-style and variable per game. Which is not to say that’s bad, it’s just not up to the level the 360 offers - I don’t think Sony will achieve that this generation.
My personal gaming preferences pretty much nullify that advantage though since I don’t like dual-stick control on FPS’s, play few racing games and have little time / patience for most online play, so that’s not the biggest factor for me. Really I’m left considering my choice based on a small subset of games I’m interested in, and the future potential. 360 still makes me more confident in its ability to pull off a very polished game lineup, even if in fact most of them aren’t my particular cup of tea. But the red ring of death thing does put me off, the PS3 is definitely far better engineered and feels like it will actually last if I use it a lot for a few years. PS3 is still very disappointing in terms of exclusive games, but on the other hand the games I’m most looking to play right now (Rock Band, Skate and Assassins Creed) are all cross-platform. I can also see myself using the Blu-ray player on occasion.
So, I’m still wavering, but I have a few months yet before Rock Band forces my hand. Considered, intelligent opinions welcome via the comments; no fanboys please, there are plenty of forums dedicated to your ranting already.