Kind of relevant?
When multiple new consoles are released in the same general window of time, people can't help but make comparisons. Hell, people compare consoles to other consoles even if there are YEARS between launches. With the recent buzz about the rumored PS4 features being leaked online, and the realization by so many gamers that Xbox LIVE is nothing worth paying for anymore, I wanted to compare the 360 and the PS3 one more time, and list a couple things that I hope the PS4 brings to the table, so Sony can win me over once again.
I'm not going to go into stuff like game libraries and which exclusives are better; I'm not about to tell people what their opinions should be. What I want to compare is what the consoles themselves offer that people may be taking for granted without even realizing it. After thinking about all these features for a while, I've decided that I've NEVER been torn between two gaming platforms this much ever since I started playing games 25 years ago.
I want to get this one out of the way, since it's been a pretty hot topic lately. While Xbox LIVE Gold offers what I've seen to be a much more stable experience, the PlayStation Network is just fine, and I've had no major problems in recent memory. The main difference between the two, as I'm sure we're all aware by now, is that the PSN is free, while LIVE is not. The choice is clear here: Xbox LIVE Gold is an absolute joke. Literally EVERYTHING that LIVE offers can be found for free on the PS3, PCs, and even the Wii and Wii U at this point. Microsoft is the only company left that charges for anything, going so far as to charge even for Facebook and Twitter for a while, and I think people are finally starting to realize this. Between all the free stuff on the PSN and the growing library of full, retail games PlayStation Plus members have available to them, there seems to be absolutely no reason to play online games on the 360 anymore. I love the Xbox, but there's no way I'm going to pay Microsoft to do what I can do for free on literally every other gaming platform on the market.
Gaming isn't a cheap hobby. At $60 per game in the U.S., most people want to be sure that they're going to like what they pay for, lest they waste their money and feel pissed off for a week. While Xbox LIVE seemingly offers more demos than the PSN does (literally every single Xbox LIVE Arcade game has a trial version), full-sized retail games are a completely different story. See, while demos for a lot of games do become available through LIVE, Gold subscribers get them first, while people with free accounts have to wait a week or two before they gain access to the same demos. I can understand wanting to treat paying customers with a bit of extra respect, since they're shelling out for early content, but the problem with this idea is that the demos released through LIVE are, in fact, NOT demos that are released early -- The same demos are released on the PSN the same day, and EVERYONE who has Internet access through the PS3 has immediate access to these demos. Xbox LIVE doesn't offer early access to demos -- It is actually RESTRICTING access to everyone Microsoft doesn't deem important enough to play them! This, in my opinion, is the most unacceptable "feature" of LIVE today, and as far as I'm concerned, it's borderline false advertising.
Most people might not immediately think of the operating system when deciding which console to play most of their games on. Even more rare is the gamer who sees the operating system as something deeper than just the aesthetics of the main menu, where games are selected and videos are watched. That latter point is what makes me continue to buy my multiplatform games on the 360 over the PS3 for one simple reason: The PS3's operating system is a piece of crap. As far as aesthetics go, I really do think the PS3's XMB is much nicer than the 360's Metro layout, although I think the Metro look is a hell of a lot better than the NXE. But the XMB is just so fast, so smooth and so customizable that I always have a pleasant experience with it. I also find it hilarious that there are virtually no ads on the PS3, while even paying Xbox LIVE customers are assaulted with them from every direction in Metro. But that's where the XMB superiority stops.
The easiest way to tell that the PS3's OS doesn't hold a candle to the 360's is by messing around with data management. You want to take all your 360 saves to a friend's house? Maybe bring your profile along, too, because your friend just moved, and he/she doesn't have Internet access just yet? Pop a USB drive into the system, copy all your stuff and have a great time. You want to do all this on the PS3? Well, first of all, PSN IDs can't be transferred to an external drive, meaning if you want to get your profile on a different system, you HAVE TO have Internet access. Why does this matter? Because most PS3 save data is profile-specific. While this is also the case on the 360 (in fact, ALL save data on the 360 is specific to one profile), you can take your Gamertag with you on an external drive, so the Internet is never needed. No recovering, no signing in, no downloading. Everything can be put into your pocket. And don't even get me started on saves that are actually locked to a single hard drive on the PS3, so if your console dies, you lose all your hard work -- I'm looking at YOU, Demon's Souls.
Another horrible aspect is hard drive use, which is, once again, directly effected by the consoles' respective OSs. If you want to move a 360 hard drive, you simply unplug it, and re-plug it into another console. Boom, the new console acts just like the old one. While PS3 hard drives aren't proprietary, like they are on the 360, a hard drive MUST be formatted before using it on another console. That means you are required to back everything up manually, and, thanks to those locked saves, not even the Backup Utility will be able to transfer some data to different consoles. In other words, you'd better hope your console never dies, and you sure as hell had never want to upgrade to a newer model. And no, paying for PS+ just to back saves up that can't be backed up locally isn't a solution.
Remember this giant piece of crap?
If you're a PS3 owner, you're no stranger to game installations. As much as I love Blu-ray discs (seriously, you can try to destroy them all you want, but good luck), their read speeds are incredibly slow compared to DVDs, so most PS3 games require an installation, just so you won't be seeing more loading screens than gameplay. That's fair, but 360 games running straight from the DVDs themselves still have shorter loading times. On top of that, EVERY SINGLE 360 game can optionally be installed in its entirety to either the internal hard drive or an external USB drive, meaning entire installations can actually be taken with you to other consoles. This also makes the DVD stay completely still while playing a game, increasing the longevity of your disc drive, since the system now requires nothing more than an initial disc check. DVDs may be much more delicate than Blu-ray discs, but they certainly are a lot faster, since there's a lot less for a machine to read.
So, there you go. It seems like both systems both have very valid positives and negatives to consider, but whichever one you want to play, you know you're getting a quality machine (unless you have an original model 360, which may betray you). Now, what was the point of this whole post? Well, two things.
First, comparing consoles at launch and comparing them after they've been available to the public for a few years will yield very different results. The two systems have gone through a ton of different changes over the years, and I think it's a good idea to really look into everything they offer now that they're so well established.
Second, it seems like the PS4 is going to take a page from Microsoft's playbook as far as OS functionality goes. Reportedly, you'll be able to log into more than one profile per console, and possibly even move your profiles around, like the 360 has allowed all of us to do from day one. This makes me really happy, because if this is indeed the case, I might actually consider ditching the 360, unless Microsoft hurries up and makes Xbox LIVE Gold free for us all, or at least the online play part of it. If Sony finally realizes what makes the 360 so great, and they incorporate those features into the PS4, the choice between the two companies' new machines will be a very easy one to make.
Unless, of course, neither system lets us play used games, or starts to shove the DRM that has plagued PC games for years down our throats. We'll cross that bridge when the time comes.