I suppose having all of the consoles in a particular generation isn’t that unusual, but it’s also true that most people only buy one console (and maybe one portable). So I thought I would write something from the perspective of someone who has owned and used all of the next-gen systems. I have a longer piece on the back burner examining each of the consoles in detail, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get the time to finish it, so I thought I’d go ahead and get this abbreviated version out while it’s still topical. (More after the jump.)
As you probably know, the Xbox 360 was the first next-gen machine to market, with nearly a year’s head start on both Sony and Nintendo. As such, it has by far the best library of games. This is to be expected, of course. If history has taught us anything, it’s that head starts do not always mean success.
Nice selection of games, with quite a number of stand-out titles.
Great online service in Xbox Live (including innovations like Gametags and Gamerscores, voice chat, HD video downloading, Xbox Live Arcade).
Noisy DVD drive (seriously, how did Microsoft think that this was acceptable?)
Questionable hardware reliability
Little Japanese support (although Blue Dragon is a step in the right direction)
It’s funny to think that just a few months ago, people were arguing about whether a controller like the Wii remote could really sustain a console. I don’t think anybody predicted that the Wii would be such a success, although there is the danger that the novelty will wear off.
Wii remote opens up new kinds of game play.
Great party system.
Virtual Console allows you to play games you used to love or try ones that you always meant to play.
By far the cheapest next-gen system.
Last-gen graphics with no HD support.
Motion controls shoe-horned into cross platform games.
Aside from Zelda, not a lot of good one-player games in launch lineup.
Sony’s next-gen console has already been through a lot, and it launched less than 2 months ago. It started with the announcement that the system would cost $499 and $599. Then manufacturing problems meant that quantities were extremely limited. In addition, auction prices of the Xbox 360 shortly after its launch in 2005 led people to believe that the PS3 would be selling for several times retail price, spurring many non-gamers to stand in line for days to get a system, specifically to eBay it. PS3s are now pretty easy to find if you want one, however. Whether this means that they aren’t selling or that Sony is finally producing them in reasonable quantities is yet to be determined.
Great graphics (although so far not much different from the Xbox 360).
Should have good developer support, including Japanese developers.
Plays Blu–ray HD movies.
Free online play (although the Playstation Network is not really comparable to Microsoft’s pay service at the moment).
Expensive (although actually pretty comparable to the Xbox 360 — more on that later).
Mediocre launch library.
Doesn’t work properly with older HDTVs that don’t support 720p.
If you want the best games available *right now* the Xbox 360 wins hands-down. When you look at the long term, though, things become a little less clear. While I doubt that Sony will dominate the game market quite the way they did in the last generation, anyone expecting them to go from #1 with around 70% markeshare to a distant third will almost certainly be disappointed. Microsoft is doing a better job with the Xbox 360 than with the original Xbox in providing a variety of game types in addition to the everpresent first-person shooters, but I still expect the PS3 to have a better all-around library. In particular, Sony’s robust support in Japan (on the part of developers and consumers) will mean that a fair number of games (role playing games in particular) will get released for the PS3 and not the Xbox 360. This happened last generation and I expect it to happen again. The ability to play HD movies out of the box and to use the vast storage capacity of the Blu-ray disc for games will also be an advantage for the PS3 in the years to come.
The Wii is sort of in a category by itself. So far, it has shown itself to be a great machine for (non-online) multiplayer and quirky games that use the remote, but it’s not clear whether third-party developers will support the Wii more than they did the Gamecube, or if Nintendo will be able to avoid the game droughts that plagued that system. Personally, I think the Wii’s unimpressive graphics are the biggest stumbling block and they prevent me from recommending it as a main system for anyone but the most casual gamer. Its reasonable price does make it a good secondary system for someone who already has a PS3 or 360, though.
All in all, though, I think this is a great time to be a gamer.