On the main site, E.D. asks “The question is, which is the better machine: Sony’s Playstation 3 or Microsoft’s Xbox 360?”
While my own personal preferences provide an answer to this question, the answer is not exactly clear-cut. For E.D. (or anybody, actually) I need the answers to the following questions before I can give my best advice.
How often do you play? How important is playing the new game, when it comes out, to you? How important is getting the newest, latest, and greatest DLC to you? How important is playing online multiplayer to you? Are there young kids in the house? Are there adolescents in the house? How important is owning a Kinect? How important are console-exclusive games?
First question is “How often do you play?”
If you play only once every two months for a *HUGE* session taking up Friday/Saturday/Sunday and then let the machine sit there for another few months, I might suggest the PS3. The PS3 has a blu-ray player. Until recently, the XBox didn’t have 1080p capability (the new slim black 360s do)… so if you want to use 1080p Netflix capability, you’re going to need a new 360 but you could get away with purchasing a used PS3. (I have both consoles… it’s likely to find that my 360 tray is holding a game and my PS3 is holding a DVD or Blu-Ray disc.)
The next questions are: “How important is playing the new game, when it comes out, to you? How important is getting the newest, latest, and greatest DLC to you?”
In recent years, we’ve seen a lot of games coming out with “Game of the Year Editions” (such as Fallout 3, Borderlands, and Red Dead Redemption) where the game is released a year or two after its initial release with all of the DLC bundled within (most of this DLC costs about 10 bucks each as it drip drip drips out during the aforementioned couple of years). If it is vitally important to you to play the new DLC the moment it comes out, I’d probably recommend the 360. I find the 360’s store much more pleasant to work with that the PS3’s store. If, however, you plan on never purchasing content from an online store, I’d say that you’ve probably got yourself a tie between the two systems (with the tiniest edge to the PS3 for reasons pertaining to interface customability… my PS3 interface, for example, looks like a pip-boy and that makes me happy).
The next question comes: “How important is playing online multiplayer to you?”
Well, the most important question that needs to be asked is “what system do your friends that you want to play with use?” If your three IRL best buds all have System X, you’re going to want System X and it’s just that simple. You can’t play with 360 people from the PS3 and you can’t play with PS3 people from the 360. If, however, you take the attitude that online strangers are just friends you haven’t made yet, there is a particular dynamic that you need to address:
The 360 requires an annual subscription to XBox Live Gold to play multiplayer and the PS3 does not. The list price for Gold is $60, but you should be able to easily find a sale or a discount card that will bring that price down by 10 bucks (Costco, for example, sells cards with a code on them that will give you a year’s worth of Gold for $47.99). The PS3 is free, free, free. The PS3 also just this year had an outage that lasted more than a month. (I also understand that PS3 has dedicated servers for games while the 360 has a cloud thing going on but I don’t play multiplayer and so cannot speak to how much of an impact that has upon games.)
The last questions are: “Are there young kids in the house? Are there adolescents in the house? How important is owning a Kinect?”
The most kid-friendly peripheral I’ve ever seen is the Kinect. Games like Kinectimals and Dance Central (and for the littler little ones, Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster) are not only kid-friendly but it’ll have them doing something approaching exercising while they play (and if they want to five-star a hard song, they’ll be sweating). The PS3 has, sigh, the PS3 Move. While the hardware has some really, really interesting potential there has not been a single game that meets this potential. Dance Central has sold 360 Kinect bundles (and there are a number of games that are sweeteners… games that wouldn’t make you buy a Kinect but glad you already have one). I don’t know of a single Move game that has sold a single console. I don’t know of a single Move game that has made folks glad they already had a Move. If you find these kind of games intruiging, the 360 wins hands down.
(Puts on grown-up hat. There is also the issue of the PS3 having an internet browser that can go anywhere, yes, anywhere. The 360 does not have such a browser. The internet can be a wild and wooly place and having access to a browser that mom/dad might easily forget about monitoring would have been THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ME when I was that age. I could see how a parent might feel differently, however.)
The last question comes: “How important are console-exclusive games?”
We’ve already discussed the 360’s console-exclusive games that use the Kinect, but there are a number of games for the PS3 only that are very, very good. LittleBigPlanet is one of the most charming platformers I’ve ever seen. The UNCHARTED games have stories and special effects that make them better than many big-budget action movies I’ve seen. (I played Uncharted 2 for an hour and was blown away… I asked Maribou to come into the room and just watch the first five minutes… she found reasons to stick around for a few hours and, over the next week or so, found excuses to read or pay the electricity bill while sitting on the couch in the basement rather than elsewhere and, even if she was using the computer in the next room, had me call her in for the cut scenes and the platforming scenes). Heavy Rain will get in your head and mess with it. It’s one of the best thriller titles out there and it’s spectacularly intense (I had to turn one gameplay video off because it had a dad walking through a mall calling the name of his son… man, that’s messed up). AND ON TOP OF THAT, there are new collections coming out like for God of War or The ICO and Shadow of the Colossus… and these were games that sold consoles in their own right.
There’s also an issue of how games that come out on both consoles look and feel… I, personally, think that games look better on the PS3 but handle better on the 360 (but that may be little more than a matter of taste). I’d say that this one comes out to a wash.
Clear as mud? Let me sum up:
If you are going to play games every day, play DLC as soon as it comes out, and ignore such things as Game of the Year games, you’re going to want a 360. If you’re going to play with your kids and occasionally tell them to get off their butts and exercise, you’re going to want a 360 and a Kinect.
If you are going to play games once in a blue moon but watch movies and/or Netflix quite regularly, you’re going to want a PS3. If you care about games that are only released on one console rather than another (that isn’t a Kinect game, of course), you’re going to want a PS3.
All that to say: you need *BOTH*.