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Teh Bias: An Xbox Fanboy is Revealed

I recently got a Playstation 3, and now that I own all three of the current generation systems, I'm finally able to bang out this post in good conscience, in which I document my love for the Xbox 360 and my not-love for the other systems. Huh... that sounds an awful lot like something a fanboy would say. At the risk of destroying all my credibility in one fell swoop, and perhaps against my better judgment, I'm going to lay this all out on a table like a potluck dinner: according to this Monthly Musing, my bias is towards the Xbox 360.

Multiplayer is fun. Why can't I play multiplayer?

With my 360, I have an average of 15 friends on at any given time. It's a number that brings me great joy, since I love playing games with my friends at least as much as by myself. That this number has only swelled since getting in on some FNFs here is like spreading honey-butter on the cornbread that is my friends list.

Sadly, on my Wii, I don't even know how to tell whether I have any friends, let alone if I have any online. I think I once tried to play Mario Kart with a random online, but the connection was so bad and it took so long to matchmake that I bet the other guy thought I rage-quit after that one round. On the PS3 I guess people play online, but out of the people I know, they tend to be on the 360 more often than not.

Parties on the 360 are a fabulous thing. Not the kind where people drink to much and lean on other people until they puke, but the kind where you hit X to invite or join. I like that, even playing different games, I can get the feeling of hanging out with people. Better still, it's a great way to organize across games in a way that other people can see and jump in to join. As I understand it, the PS3 doesn't quite have anything as well featured as this. For this they shall bear the mark of shame until such time as they have remedied the situation.

Which reminds me: my PS3 didn't come with a headset. My 360 did. To me, that is a statement from the makers of the Xbox that playing with your friends is a central part of the experience of using their system.

Why aren't they talking? Where's the sound?

I bought a meh-quality surround sound system from Sony a while back. It works fine with my 360 and TV. My virtual characters in Left 4 Dead and Gears are thanking their lucky stars that I can actually hear which side something is coming from. I even think it works with the Wii, but since Mario doesn't care while he's off feeding multicolored star candies to little balloons until they... burst, I wasn't paying attention. Which makes it all the more ironic that I can't seem to get it to work properly with my Sony PS3.

Strike one: In the sound settings control panel, choosing "automatic" just picked the 2-channel setting. Automatic? More like Lazy.

Strike two: I flip it to "manual settings" and am greeted by like thirty options, some of which I'm warned can damage my sound system if not supported. So I choose a couple of the Dolby ones, since I am pretty sure that's what my 360 is using. I pop in Demon's Souls, but uhh, where's the sound? That's weird, since the dashboard (sorry, "XMB" or something?) had sound working fine.

Check out that scroll bar. There are a million different options.

Strike three: OK, so I go back into the sound panel and enable a bunch more of the 5.1 options. Now Demon's Souls works; woot. I try out Little Big Planet. No sound! What! At this point I'm totally shooting in the dark.

Strike four (this isn't baseball, is it?): Sound panel again. I uncheck a couple of the Dolby options I'm not too sure about and try LBP again. Yissss, sound seems to be working. Demon's Souls too. But when the dragon is flying behind me, I can't hear it at all. I dunno, seems like the kind of thing that might come in handy. I'm not sure whether this is because of sound problems, a bug in the game, or Demon's Souls simply hating me, as it's wont to do, so I just dismiss it.

Strike five: You thought this had a happy ending, didn't you? Ha, sucka! I put in Resistance 2. Sound is working, working, working... hey, why isn't anyone talking? I can hear sound effects and music, but no dialogue. I believe this is the appropriate time for a "what is this I don't even." My solution at this bizzar juncture? Put Resistance 2 into stereo mode. Sad.

To conclude this briefly: in contrast, the other two systems just work. I'm pretty sure my 360 already came with default settings that worked fine. Come on, Sony, you were an audio company long before a game company. Let's get it together.

A turgid update bursting with magical treasures

All the consoles have system updates and title updates. It's cool; I can dig feature enhancements and bug fixes. On the 360, a title update never takes more than about 15 seconds, which is rad. On the Wii, the stupid thing takes like a year. I go make myself a sandwich while that goes on. And the Wii only has 802.11g built in, with--taking a page from Apple--no wired Ethernet port to hook up to my 802.11n bridge to go faster.

On the PS3 after hooking up to my bridge, it's not too bad, but I was still a bit shocked when I put in Little Big Planet for the first time and had to download--no joke--twelve updates. I assume one or more of those were some kind of content packs, I don't need the despotic PS3 to force me to foreground download them right then and there. Burnout Paradise had 1.5 Gb update packs, but on the 360 at least, they were given as regular downloadable content, so I could kick them off happily in the background while playing the game itself.


Right alongside updates, what's with all the EULAs (license agreements) that keep popping up? What is Sony covering up by making me read these things all the time? That question's rhetorical, of course; nobody reads those, and they know it. I don't really recall ever seeing them on the Wii or 360, so this strikes me as odd.

Trials. And not of the "HD" variety, sorry.

Trial games are one of the things I love most about the 360 is Xbox Live Arcade. I've spent more time playing certain games I got from there than many full store-bought titles. One of the things that's helped ease me in to XBLA games is the fact that every single one has a trial version. I absolutely love that I can try out any game and buy it if I like it. I wish I could do that with friggen'... anything! CDs, movies, BBQ sandwiches, laser eye surgery...

I said NOT these Trials. Though I did play a trial of it before falling madly in love with it and buying it.

To contrast, I think only certain titles on the Wii and PS3 have trial versions. I wish they'd remedy that. Even simply a cheap 10 minute timer or whatever would suffice in most cases.

Accounts and PSN IDs

I don't get the difference between an account and a PSN ID. On the 360, I think these things are one and the same, but on the PS3 you have to create and sign in to a local user account which is then tied in some way to your online identity.

I guess I just don't get why that extra layer is needed. Sounds like simply a lack of forethought to me.

Let's talk controllers

Why do I need to plug my PS3 controller in to tie it to the PS3? Both the Wii and the 360 got this right. Why didn't you, PS3?

And why is it that every time my controllers turn off, they get renumbered in the order I turn them back in? Example: I'm playing LBP with my wife. We take a break and leave it on. We come back later and she turns on her controller first. Now she's player 1 and I'm player 2. On the 360, the controller you started out using is the controller that sticks with you. Intuitive and simple.

I can't remember what it does on the Wii, but it doesn't really matter, because hitting any button on the Wiimote turns the stupid thing on, so I have to take out the batteries when I carry it anywhere, lest it drain itself trying vainly to activate and play something.

Finally, the 360 controller feels the most comfortable in my hand of any controller I've ever used, with the possible exception of the Gamecube controller.

The neglected child: backcompat

I don't really like Sony's stance on features as primarily evidenced by their removal of backwards compatibility support for PS2 titles. I'm sure there's some weird user study somewhere that shows that the number of users who care deeply about it times the mathematical coefficient of screw-you-over is less than the number of dollars they'd save by yanking it. You know what? When you put that coefficient in there, that small, vocal minority notices... and then proceeds to flail uselessly for attention.

I think this point in particular shows one of the big differences between Microsoft and Sony. Sony created a hardware-based solution to backcompat (include all the PS2 hardware in the PS3 case), whereas Microsoft created a software-based solution (hire some frickin' geniuses to write an Xbox emulator for the 360). Sony has always been a hardware company, Microsoft, a software company, and it shows in their choices here.

Perhaps not too far off the mark?

No, not all original Xbox games work in the emulator, but you know what? More than zero of them work. I can play Panzer Dragoon Orta whenever I want, and that's a-ok with me.

Since this complaint was loosely about backpedaling, I'll also quickly mention the removal of Linux, even though I don't really care about it. I can't say I know for sure the reasons they cut support for it, but I can guess (hint: cats do it, and involves hairballs). What's next on the cutting block?

My genius remote

I own a Logitech Harmony Remotes, which is not unlike wielding a kind of godlike power condensed into a small plastic casing. It controls my TV, AVR, and 360 with divine force, but both the Wii and the PS3 (being foul, fey beings) are immune to its influence.

The Wii I can understand, since it has no media capabilities to speak of; but since the PS3 is all about teh Blu Rays, I would have hoped it would have an infrared port. You know, to work with one of the million Sony remotes that most people have lying around from years of buying Sony A/V products.

So it is not to be. Instead, you have to buy this contraption to make it work. This thing shouldn't have a place in this world.

Got my head in the webcloudosphereotronomalley

In another case of Microsoft playing to their strong suit, the web-based capabilities of the 360 are significantly more interesting than the PS3's or the Wii's.

Let's start with friends. On the 360, I can read and reply to text messages, see which of my friends are online and what they're currently doing, send friend requests, and other friend management-y things. Stalking your friends from the web site is especially useful if you're trying to decide if you want to get online. Sometimes I'll quickly check to see if people are playing stuff, then hop on to join them.

It really is pretty useful.

On the PSN web site, after about 15 minutes of searching, I couldn't figure out how to add a friend. Since none of my friends are online, I couldn't test out the other capabilities. Maybe they're okay. The Wii web site doesn't seem to have a lot to offer in terms of this kind of functionality, big surprise.

Now for purchasing things. The web access to the Xbox Live Marketplace is full featured in pretty much any way you could imagine. Not only can you browse games online, but you can also download them and have them start downloading on your console immediately. I've definitely done this from work before, then called my wife and asked her to fire up my Xbox so it's done downloading by the time I get home.

In contrast, neither the PS3 nor the Wii seem to have this kind of integration, which I feel to be an uncommon sort of magic in this day and age. It's such a cool feeling to click a button on a computer, and thirty feet and five seconds away, an entirely different machine springs into action, but in actuality there were hundreds of miles of wires separating the two.

Stuff I really don't care about

There's a whole lot of stuff I didn't even mention above. Here's a quick rundown of them, and why I don't care:

Graphics - both the PS3 and the 360 have good graphics. Neither really stands out as better than the others in my eyes. The Wii is just irrelevant here, but has some fun games to make up for it.

Motion control - don't care, as I'm sure most of you don't either

3D - don't care, don't have the hardware, don't feel like shelling out for it

Hard drive cost - yes, the PS3's hard drive is cheaper to swap out. Nowadays, you get a decent 360 bundle, and that 250 GB will go a long way.

Paid multiplayer - it costs as much as a cup of coffee every month. You know, I think I can live with that.

Exclusives - all systems have their exclusives. Some are better than others. No one system has so many awesome exclusives that it drowns out the others.

Web browser - I once tried to use the Wii web browser. I nearly stabbed myself in the eye in frustration. I tried to use the PS3 web browser the other day, but got stymied by not being able to find the Enter key for a form field. I work with computers for a living; either you neglected the functionality (kind of a big oversight, I think) or you've hidden it too well.

RROD - I couldn't possibly depart without saying something about the infamous RROD. All I will really say is that whatever the cause and wherever the blame, Microsoft took a gigantic financial hit by admitting their mistake and trying to make up for it with a standard warranty years longer than most consumer electronic devices. If the new Xbox indeed has the problems fixed, I forgive them.

Finally, full disclosure

I cannot in good conscience leave without telling you one last thing, which may put some of this in perspective. Part of the reason I love the Xbox so much is that I work for Microsoft. Part of the reason. They pay me my wages, and I like that they do that, so it's kind of based in... greed?

To that end, I've come up with a set of policies that may seem to be driven by spite but in fact are mostly pecuniary.

I purchased a new Playstation 3 system, since it is either sold at a loss or at a very slim profit to Sony. I mostly only purchase used Playstation 3 games, so that Sony won't realize most of the benefit of the sale. Of course, a steep discount could dissuade me from that. I buy all multi-platform games on the 360, of course. I only buy used hardware, since it is often quite heavily marked up. I have no need for Blus Rays, so won't be buying or renting any of those in the near future. I am basically a consumer-cum-antagonist, or: Sony's worst customer.

TL;DR version, a.k.a. conclusion (nice how that works out, isn't it?)

All the three systems are reasonable and fun to play, but the 360 does a bunch of anicillary things right that the others don't, especially when it comes to online functionality. All the other reasons you think the other systems are better don't matter to me, because I'm also a capitalist pig. The end!
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About knutafone of us since 6:45 PM on 03.01.2010

I'm a dad in my thirties.
I work for MS on the Xbox, making features and fixing bugs.
I have a cat and two dogs.
I sometimes make Twitter bots: 1, 2, 3

Groundhog Day: Wave After Wave, This Is My Ocean
Obscurity: Nobody has ever heard of Lemmings

Currently playing
Stephen's Sausage Roll

Dark Souls
Geometry Wars 2
Burnout Paradise
Rayman (original, Origins, Legends)
Tetris Attack
Metroid Prime series
Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3
Descent 1-3
English Country Tune
The Witness

Other places you might find me:
Twitch.tv livestream (PC indie games and Dark Souls)
knutaf on YouTube
@_knutaf on Twitter
Occasionally, I am part of a podcast
I watch a fair bit of anime.
I sometimes listen to music.
Xbox LIVE:knutaf
PSN ID:knutaf
Steam ID:knutaf


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