Ok - so you have been planning on getting your next gen console and with all the deals around this time of year your itching to buy. As of today, now that the Playstation 3 40G and Xbox 360 20G models are almost evenly priced at around $400, at first glance, you actually have a difficult choice to make. On one hand there is the PS3 Bundle from dell. It comes with the Spyder Man Blue-ray movie, Rachet and Clank: Tools of Destruction game and a 6ft HDMI cable. Your other option is the Pro Holiday Bundle that comes with the games Forza Motorsport 2, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, Halo 3 and a 6ft HDMI. Without doing any research, both systems look fairly comparable. However, if you have done some online searches you will find a unbelievable number of zealots pushing their favorite system or many old arguments from 2006. This makes getting a non-bias and reliable answer to what system is better rather difficult. I wrote this article because when I was looking to buy a system a month ago, I could not find a decent analysis of the current state of both systems. I will say that I am unbiased writer with no allegiances to Sony or Microsoft. Having said that, after spending a lot of time doing research on both systems I did make a purchase.
Now lets try to cut through all the hype and fanboy'ism you may have read and help you figure out what you should buy. This article is broken a few sections. Section 1 discusses the gaming hardware on board and Section 2 is about what the systems can do other then play games. For most people, the most important part is Section 3 titled "Games! Games! Games!" Here I breakdown the current state of gaming on both systems and also take a look at the foreseeable future. And finally I wrap up the article with a conclusion and some final thoughts and suggestions on what to buy given your situation.
Alright.... Section 1: The Gaming System.
So, these little boxes cost about 400$, I know they play games but what is so special?.
Visually, both systems are capable of producing the same high quality graphics. Both the PS3 and 360 output HD signals up to 1080p via HDMI output. This makes everyone with an HDTV happy because your finally using that beautiful technology sitting on on your wall. Not only that but the games look almost lifelike even if they are not using the full 1080p resolution.
Other video output support comes in the form of VGA, SVideo or Component. For Component output you should only be able to produce a 720p/1080i image. However, my 360 let's me produce a 1080p signal through component(? can anyone please tell me how this works).
In the audio department, the PS3 has a slightly better audio system. Instead of a being able to produce a meager 5.1 Channel Dolby Digital Signal, it can produce 7.1 Channel Dolby Digital Signal! For those of you with a 7.1 receiver, you can be sure that the ps3 will take advantage of it. However, while in-game music is extremely important, I am not sure that you will be able to notice a difference between the two systems.
One really nice feature that the 360 has over the PS3 right now is rumble in its wireless controller. When used well, the shaking, vibrating of the controller in your hands adds another level of immersion to the gameplay. For example in Forza 2 car racing game, I have no idea how they developers did it, but the rumble 'shifts' just right. It is fantastic and produces a feeling of acceleration. In what many would argue was a blunder by Sony, the PS3 did not ship with a remote with rumble. Luckily, they have recently announced that a rumble remote is on the way this winter at a cost of $80. While this means you wont have rumble for existing PS3 games, future ones will make good use of this feature.
Both systems can connect to the Internet via wired and wireless access points. The PS3 has built in wireless but the 360 does not. And so, if your like everyone I know whose router is NOT next to your TV, you can purchase a wireless adapter for the 360 for about $100. A perhaps cheaper alternative is to find an old router and turn it into a wireless receiver.
Pound for pound, the hardware war is won by the PS3 with better audio and wireless and rumble on the way. I am ignoring the PS3's Cell Architecture and Blue ray player. Because neither of them have yet to show an improvement difference in the quality of games. (The evidence is in Section 3 ).
Section 2. All the other things these system do!
Once connected to a router, both systems show significant differences. Both systems can connect to multiplayer games and download additional games and content but only the Xbox can download HD movies(720p/1080i), TV shows via XBox Live(XBL). The PS3 will introducing HD movie download in Japan sometime next year. So for those waiting on this service to hit North America(if it ever comes), at least you can busy yourself with the PS3's Internet browser.
A nice feature of both systems is to act as a home theater system. They can display pictures, play music and videos. One very nice feature of the Xbox is that all of these can be directly streamed from your home computer. This means that all your files on your computer will be accessible to the xbox. On the PS3 you will need to carry the data over on a USB drive or use third party software.
Of course, a major difference between the PS3 and the 360 is its ability to play read Bluy-ray Discs. Technically, this translates to the ability of having more information on a single disc. Excluding a few exceptions, the capacity of traditional DVDs has not been a significant factor affecting the game development. But!!! You can play High Definition movies out of the box. The PS3 has a Blue-ray player built in making it very cheap HD player. And although you can get your 360 to play the comparable HD-DVD's you'll need to pay $170 to buy an attachable player. On the bright side of the, you will get 5 Free HD-DVD's with the purchase.
One great feature for all the techies out there is the ability for the PS3 to run the Linux OS. This means you can have a computer directly attached to your TV. For those of you who venture to the darkside, recent advances in the understanding of the PS3's graphic card would point to 3D roms from the N64 and later 3D systems being emulated soon. This could mean you will have access to all of your favorite classic games on the PS3.
And so, the conclusion here is that both systems have fantastic capabilities in the home to act as more then just gaming systems. Each system has advantages over the other in different area's but it is a tough choice. The PS3 definitely wins points with its Blue-Ray player but the Xbox has a strong performance with its ability to download HD movies, and connect to all your home computers to access pictures and movies. And so, make sure you read the next section about games before you buy the system. You did plan on playing games right?
Section 3: Games! Games! Games!
In this section I look at the main issues with games for the PS3 and the 360. I examine current state of games on both systems and how game exclusivity affects your choice.
This section should be fairly cut and dry. I pulled a ton of information of metacritic.com and did some analysis looking at the number of games on each console and how they did. However, before I show these numbers I really need to discuss about the importance of exclusive and non exclusive titles. (For those of who dont care skip here ). Exclusivity is relevant as games generally are system sellers( if you want to play a specific game, you have to buy the console that plays it). As a result, companies like Microsoft and Sony try to make sure that there are games made that will only play on their respective systems. They attract publishers/developers to sign the exclusivity of the title by offering them a greater cut of the profits made through the sales. This exclusivity option is a double edge sword for the consumer because a number of reasons.
On the bright side of exclusivity, the developers are able to focus their development on the one console and produce a higher quality product. Of course, exclusivity hurts the consumer(you) as they(you) have to purchase the system that plays the games they(...) want.
The main drawbacks of non-exclusive titles is that developers are often forced via the economics and difficulty of game development to first develop the product on the weakest of the target system and port it to the stronger. Last generation, the ps2 was much weaker then the original xbox and this result in the xbox's power often being under utilized. While we are still early in this generation, the 360 is currently the stronger of the systems. And even though the PS3 has been used to break records in the Guinness books for computation power, game development on the PS3 has continually underperformed in comparison to the 360. PS3 games have often shipped weeks and months later then their 360 counterparts and a result there has been an associated increased in cost and risk of PS3 game development. This may in turn have an effect on publishers who are looking to minimize their risk. In the future, we will either see less PS3 titles or a changed development process where most of the game development occurred on the Playstation and Xbox functionality was added later. This should result in non-exclusive titles being essentially the same on both consoles. In this case you win as you get the same gaming experience regardless of the platform.
The impact of this whole mess of exclusive vs non-exclusive titles on your choice to buy a system is that your only need to look at the exclusives games on both system to make up your mind. After all, these are the games you cant get on both systems! And if you could buy both systems, you obviously wouldn't be reading this article. With exclusivity in mind, lets look at the stats on the games on both the 360 and PS3.
Now for the numbers.
In the following graphs below I outline some statistics I pulled from a database I created from existing sources(www.metacritic.com, www.gamespy.com). I then did some sql queries to extract the following information. *note that these queries where done mid November with exception for the exceptional category that I did in early December.
Here is 360 Vs PS3 Total Current Titles. I am looking at the number of games currently available for both system. I also include a count of the number of exclusives for each system.
Quite clearly, the 360 has the advantage with almost 200 more titles. Not surprisingly, the number of exclusive on the Xbox outnumber those on the PS3.
Now I dug a little further and looked only at the quality games. Those with reviews above 75%. It is safe to assume that these games are enjoyable and if your a fan of the genre you most likely worth buying.
The 360 wins with around 40 more games with 75% above ratings. And looking at the exclusive, the three times more decent exclusives for you to play.
Finally. The show stopper. Here is a graph of the number of exceptional(90%+) games for both consoles. These games are the best gaming experiences that either of the systems have to offer. You will want to own these games.
The 360 has four times the amount of exceptional games. Ouch for the PS3 owners! The nail in the coffin is the exclusive count on both systems. Looking at the graph you think I had forgot to add some data. I didn't - the PS3 has zero exclusive titles in games rated above 90% +. The highest PS3 exclusive title is Rachet and Clank: Tools of Destruction at 89 followed by Drake's Fortune with 88. Lucky you have that blue-ray player to watch movies huh. ;0 Perhaps I am being a little hard on the PS3 here as there a lots of games in the 80-90% section but they are not ranked among the best out there.
The current situation places the 360 with a much stronger lineup. What about the future? To get a feel for what the next few years may look like I pulled all the future release dates till 2010 from gamespy.com and looked at total games and exclusivity.
So here we see that their will be no shortfall of games on either systems. You will however have more selection on the 360 and you will see almost as many exclusive on the 360 as there will be on PS3 total.
Closing this section, if you are buying a console to play games and want to play the best there is to offer on the next gen system then as of right now, the clear choice the 360. The argument comes down to quality and quantity. The 360 simply has more higher quality games and it has more games... period. The PS3 will have a strong line-up in 2008 with exclusives coming from very successful lineage on the PS2(Metal Gear Solid, ect), however we can only hope they do better the Rachet and Clank!
If your a gamer and want to play games, then the 360 is the way to go. It has the best gaming experiences and strongest lineups of the two systems and features a decent entertainment for watching movies and pictures. More then that the Pro holiday Bundle already gives you two exceptional games(90%+) being Halo 3 and Forza 2. If you want to play some games but need to watch blue-ray movies then go with the PS3. Either way, enjoy your new system.
I hope you enjoyed the article and look forward to hearing your comments.
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