TROUBLE CITY

MCP: BIT PLAYERS ROUNDTABLE - THE STATE OF THE CONSOLES ADDRESS

Master Control ProgramIan ArbuckleComment

Ian Arbuckle (Gamertag: ArbuckleIan): We’ve had a while now to digest the offerings of our console manufacturing friends, a year extra in the case of the Xbox 360, and have, hopefully, started to get comfortable. The honeymoon is over, the 360 has gone back to its parents’ house three or four times for repairs, the sex is becoming infrequent. So, Bit Players, what are the respective States of the Consoles, as they stand, now?

I can’t comment much on the PlayStation 3, since my experience there is limited, but I do have words for both the 360 and Nintendo’s Wii. The software library for the 360 has, for my limited gaming budget, reached a critical mass. For a short time after the console was released, I was able to keep up with all the games I wanted; alas, no more. (The Wii currently occupies that space.)

I’m one of those who hasn’t actually had to ship in his 360 for repairs, which baffles me. I’ve owned one since launch, and have yet to experience anything worse than the occasional disc read error.

These are my generalities. Shall we get specific?

Alex Riviello (Gamertag: Creature Corner) Sure, if you’d like.

I’m hooked on the 360. New to it, still exploring what it has to offer, and you’re right, there’s a lot of damn stuff out there that’s worth getting… especially for someone catching up on all of the sleeper hits on the console (like, ahem, Prey.) It’s the best system out there, and you know how I know that? I got in an argument with my girlfriend over the damn thing, because I was neglecting her the first few days I owned it. Any system that can make me pass up sex is a friggin’ powerhouse.

My Wii’s been a little dusty ever since I got burned on Sonic. Wii Sports had my friends playing for months and months, but I guess the fun wore out after a while. Paper Mario will bring it back once I finish all the games I started on my 360, and I’m sure Mario Party will bring my friends back over my house this summer to drink and cause a ruckus. The future looks great for the system though, with all of the big N’s games looking fantastic… it’s just a shame they’re not coming out sooner.

The PS3 is still a joke. A cousin of mine owns it and only has Resistance, which is smart because it’s the only game worth getting if you pick up that overpriced machine. Admit it, PS3 owners- you all use it for the Blu-Ray more than a gaming system, right? There still is not one good reason to own it over a 360 (Resistance ain’t even all that), especially since it seems like more and more exclusives are ending up on our favorite box. That might all change when Sony’s whole Home thing hits, but we shall see…

Kurt Miller (Gamertag: Barnaby Fist) If I didn’t already own a 360, then the PS3 wouldn’t be so much a joke. It’s essentially the same thing except it doesn’t play Gears of War or Halo. You can split hairs over online services and first-party titles, but these two consoles are, for all intents and purposes, the same damn machine. For all of Sony’s hubris and launch issues, they’ve still got a solid piece of hardware (whereas the 360 can just be a piece sometimes) with a roster of huge upcoming titles that reads virtually identical to the 360. I happen to prefer the exclusives on the Xbox for now, so I’ll give a shrug in Microsoft’s favor.

Then there’s the Wii. I’m still waiting for a good reason to buy one. And until my interest in their full retail titles outstrips my interest in their Virtual Console, I’m happy being an observer. If I want simple, fun Nintendoey entertainment, I’ll pick up my DS Lite. It encompasses that no-fuss gaming philosophy better than the Wii, and doesn’t command as much of a cash tribute.

Looking over all three, I’d say the PS2 is still the best console out there. The new kids have made a good effort (genuinely impressing from time to time), and they get an “attaboy” for all their flailing around, but the fact that a quaint, brittle old machine from the turn of the century still gets the goods with titles like Okami, Guitar Hero 2, and God of War 2 means that these new consoles (while they have their moments) are still not entirely essential to relieving a ripe case of gamers itch. As of now, all three consoles get a barely passing grade with a stern lecture about realizing their potential.

Robert Cummings (Gamertag: Jacob Singer 45) I have to agree that none of the "next-gen" consoles can hold a candle to the legacy of of the PS2 (as of this writing), but as far as current consoles go I have to say that I'm most excited by the 360's lineup. I don't see any "killer app" on the PS3's horizon at all, and the Wii simply does nothing for me. I think the 360 is building a solid library that I just don't see the PS3 rivaling anytime soon.

As far as portables go, I like my PSP, but I honestly can't say I love it. The recently announced camera hardware add-on sounds great, and there have been some good titles these past few months (and the announcement for God of War: Chains of Olympus certainly has me salivating), but I never find myself thinking "Boy, I can't wait to get home and fire up my PSP!". I've never even touched a DS (blasphemy, I know!), so no opinion there.

Jon Cassady (Gamertag: Jlcquest; CB Handle: Pink Lady)

From day one, I’ve thought the Wii had something unique to offer, and it has. I’ve never such an interactive experience on a gaming console. That isn’t to say that the Wii is problem-free. Third-party games have been way below expectations. Third-party companies have just not gotten the Wii-controls down or just don’t care. And one AAA title per quarter? Fuck you. On the other hand, Nintendo is winning with clearly an inferior console in terms of mechanics and power, so they are doing something right.

As for the 360, I’ve spit out more than my share of words criticizing Microsoft’s game machine with a range of insults from mild (unreliable) to the unduly harsh (George W. Bush).

I have to admit though, when the machine is working, it’s a perfect compliment to the Wii. As Ian mentioned above, the library grows by the second and as Microsoft chips away at Sony’s exclusive titles, especially ones I care about (suck a dick Devil May Cry), the more satisfied I become with my 360 purchase.

I was one of those who scoffed at the Wii60 notions last June, but honestly, its been the best of both worlds for me. Oh and everyone knows that the 360 is the tops when it comes to online.

My experience with PS3 is limited to in-store displays and friends who actually bought the thing. Now that the glitches have been worked out, I’d say that PS3 is the “best” system. If Sony can come up with in decent online content and navigation or and some exclusive titles, then it would be the ultimate. Unfortunately, Sony has shot itself in the foot so many times all that remains is a bloody stump.

PS3 has been a PR nightmare from “people should get a second job” to dead goats. If I saw a Dateline ad with PS3 sitting in a kitchen saying “oh wait, I just was coming over to play some games. You’ve got me all wrong. Can I get a drink before I go,” I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised.

But that’s the tragedy of PS3. Sony has the best system and it can’t catch a break.

Brian Condry (Gamertag: Medium Dave) By hook and/or by crook, I have all 3 systems. And a DS. And the 360 is pretty much the only one currently happy in my house. I haven't turned on the Wii in about a month and half, after I bought, got thoroughly pissed off at, then sold SSX Blur. I still like it, and like the potential, but there has been nothing out that has really interested me, like $50 interested me. Mini games should have mini prices and ports should, I don't know, they pay us for goddamn PSP ports to the Wii.

The PS3...I've had this for less than a month. It's a big, black beast (I think I saw that on a website one time) that plays my PS2 games. And Resistance, which is so much better than Prey, there should be laws against it. Alex, you're dead to me, now. Kurt's pretty much right: it's a 360 for those who don't have one and don't won't the awesomer games. Or consumer sluts like myself. In about a year, I figure we'll be able to differentiate the two, but for now...well, I can cure cancer on my PS3. That's gotta stand for something.

And then the 360. Over a year and 2 system repairs later and it's my most played system and looks to be carrying my most anticipated games. Yeah, Microsoft does shit that pisses me off almost every week ("Hey, Epic. Want to release your maps for free? Fuck yourself!") but at least there is downloadable content and demos and MASS EFFECT! and the Halo 3 Beta...and, well, I like it. For the most part.

Ian: We’re all pretty positive about the 360, and somewhat less so about the PS3, so let me pose this question to you vagabonds: Are our preferences skewed due in large part to the 360’s year-long head start? Can parallels be drawn between where the PS3 is now and where the 360 was after the same amount of time in its life? The fundamentally different thing I sense is Microsoft’s emphasis on community (even if some of it is just lip-service,) and that could certainly be coming to an end with the advent of Home, which aims to foster a more direct community than Live ever has.

Also, to throw in a little handheld love, I’m very pleased with the state of both of the major players. My PSP gets a lot of play time; I still love Lumines, Exit, Marvel Trading Card Game, and, bizarrely, Online Chess Kingdoms. I also prefer Puzzle Quest on Sony’s handheld; but both the PSP and the DS are on the receiving end of boatloads of good software, which is definitely a good state for them to be in. Hardware revisions, software revisions, promises unfulfilled — all that crap kinda fades away when the libraries start to grow so expansive.

Alex: I actually just picked up a PSP after not giving a shit about the system since it was made- figured it’d be a good way to watch movies on the subway. Have to say I’m happy with the games on it though… Puzzle Quest truly is an addictive, deceptive bitch (one which I’m sure most of you will get hooked on when it hits Xbox Live Arcade), the GTAs are of course great (and beat inferior ripoffs like Saints Row to death with a baseball bat), and Infected gets major points for me, especially for the pretty damn great soundtrack. I’ve also got a copy of LocoRoco still sealed and waiting to be played, and am delving into the whole homebrew community. Ebooks and emulators on my PSP? Yes please.

I’m pretty pleased with the thing, although the DS still completely destroys it in terms of games. Even recently where it’s slowed down a bit with their releases there have been a bunch of good games worth playing, especially if you’re an adventure fan like me (Phoenix Wright and Hotel Room Dusk? Oh hells yeah.) As far as the future, the DS still beats the PSP, which only seems to have ports of older games coming out. Sure, I’d like to check out the new versions of Final Fantasies 1 and 2 and Castlevania, but I’d much rather play an original game. I’m continually surprised with the little innovations people manage to wring out of the little duel screened monster, and can’t wait to see what else they do with it.

Ian, in regards to your question about the head start, well, it’s only fair to compare the deal between the systems right now. Sure, maybe sometime a few years from now the PS3 will seem worth it, and a good challenger to the 360, but right now it ain’t. Home seems interesting but most of my friends already have or are getting 360s and the community is fucking thriving. The system’s time really is now.

Kurt: The year-long head start is absolutely why the 360 is getting my preference. The games are there and the Live service is proven. As someone who would only benefit from the PS3’s exclusives, there’s still no reason to jump in. It’ll probably be another two years before a PS3 finds its way into my house.

As for the handhelds, the PSP finally has a good library, but I still prefer my DS Lite. Simple human laziness is to blame. The DS is ready to go at any time. I’ve got two games loaded (Metroid Prime Pinball and Pinball of the Dead right now), and all I have to do is turn it on. By the time my PSP games are ready to go, it’s usually time to flush. I’ve got a special case so the PSP doesn’t get scratched, it often needs to hang out near a place where it can recharge, and the load times for a lot of the games don’t jive with the whole pick-up-and-play nature of portable gaming. The DS Lite’s long battery life, clamshell design, and extra port for GBA games make it more convenient.

Robert: Certainly the 360's head-start is working in its favor, and, like Kurt, I don't see myself purchasing a PS3 anytime in the near (or not-so-near) future. Of course, one or two must-have exclusives could change my mind, but I'm not seeing anything that tingles my Spidey-sense. Then again, this late-winter/early-spring 360 game drought isn't helping the 360 much either. At least there have been some decent weekly additions to the Live! Arcade, pretty much on a weekly basis.

Jon: As for the handhelds, prior to its launch the DS was a symbol of Nintendo’s inability to change with the times, while the PSP was heralded as the future of handheld gaming. But then the systems were released. The PSP came out with couple of fun puzzlers, which was followed by a steady stream of shit. Meanwhile, the DS slowly build a titanium library of games and made itself not only the king on the handheld consoles but king of the gaming world.

I bought each one at launch, (what can I say I hate having disposable income) but after a few months my PSP was packed away and my DS was showing signs of wear and tear.

In the past 6 months, I’ve come back to the PSP. While its always been a quality multi-media machine, it’s now beginning to show signs of life as a gaming machine. With the latest God of War entry and the potential for of downloadable games PSP may eventually give DS a run for its money. But for the moment, Nintendo is still the standard.

But the real story of handhelds systems is that they out sell consoles. DS is the industry leader in sales and the PSP outsells the Wii (I think). For the Big 3 the question isn’t if there is a future in portable gaming, but just how big will it be?

Brian: I have a DS, but I still will always feel weird about paying more than 20 bucks for a game for it. I know, I know, some of those games are really long and are actual games in their own right, not just handheld shovelware bullshit. But still…I only really play in the bathroom or watching something boring on TV and it never really seems worth it. Sorry, I’m rambling.

Anyway. While the PSP is far prettier (although the Lites are pretty spiffy) and can do cool shit like play video and mp3s and porn and emulators, most of the games I’ve played suck. Putting games that REQUIRE two analogue sticks onto the PSP is, to put it nicely, fucking retarded. I almost broke the damn thing and it wasn’t even mine. But there some good games on it that aren’t smash worthy and there are some solid titles on the horizon. So, you know, just as soon as it doesn’t cost as much as it does and just as soon as the new rumored version comes out, yeah, I’ll get one.

But I’ve got to give it to the DS. I’m catching up on the ol’ GBA games I missed (I love you, Final Fantasy VI Advance! [and to get even further from the point, why have you forsaken Chrono Trigger, Square? It’s far, far, FAR better than Final Fantasy VII, you whores]) and digging the crazy shit like Elite Beat and Phoenix Wright. There are way more games I want on it than on the PSP and even more in the World of Tomorrow and that gets the little grey bastard a win from me. Plus, I can yell “Objection!” at it, and it will actually do something. Bonus.

And while I will still vehemently lambast the 360 for coming out TOO early and not being very awesome until GRAW and Oblivion came out, 3 to 4 months LATER, I’ll agree that its earliness is what makes it more attractive. The games are looking better and better and the library just keeps getting bigger and bigger than the PS3’s and Wii’s. Also, Halo 3. That’s all 360 commercials need to be. A guy in a suit, staring you in the eyeballs. After 20 seconds, he clears his throat, says, “Halo 3, 2007, Xbox 360,” then walks off. Consoles: sold by truckload. It’s the 800 trillion pound gorilla running straight at Sony and Nintendo.