Throughout this console generation, I have primarily been an Xbox 360 gamer. Whenever possible, I'd plump for the Xbox version of a game and rarely played PS3 exclusives unless work demanded it. This is in stark contrast to the previous generation, where I was a staunch PlayStation 2 supporter and barely even held an Xbox controller. In a few months, my allegiance is going to shift yet again. However, I've come to realise this has nothing to with the future and everything to do with the present...
When it comes to brand loyalty, console owners can be a pretty passionate bunch. Despite the fact these conglomerates exist solely to turn a profit, many gamers treat them like blood-relatives or deities who need to be defended and honored at all costs. By the same token, when a gamer feels they've been burned, they neither forget nor forgive. This is the chief reason why, as a consumer, I'm swaying towards the PlayStation 4.
Of all the console releases in recent years, few have treated consumers in as much of a slipshod fashion as the Xbox 360. Sure, there's a lot to love about the console, but when you really stop and think about it, the litany of offenses is damnably high. In no particular order, here are some of the reasons I'll be plonking my money down in Sony's corner this generation; none of which have anything to do with the Xbox One.
They don't make 'em like they used to
First off, let’s get the criminally obvious (and downright criminal) out of the way — The Red Ring Of Death. During its first years on the market, the Xbox 360 had an absurdly high failure rate which was rumoured to be in the region of 54.2 percent. This is completely unacceptable and should not be forgotten — especially when you consider many Atari 2600s from the 1970s are still plugging along. In the rush to beat the PlayStation 3 to launch, Microsoft basically pushed a faulty product on unsuspecting consumers. Sheepishly extending the warranty does not absolve them in my books.
In addition to its notorious failure rate, the original Xbox 360 console was poorly constructed in other areas too — it lacked inbuilt WiFi, had significant noise issues and came with an enormous brick of a PSU. Compared to the engineering ingenuity of the PS3, it felt like a machine from another era. The latest iteration of the Xbox 360 has corrected some of these flaws, but I still wouldn't trust it to survive far beyond its warranty. In other words, the prospect of dusting off your 360 for a retro gaming fix in decades to come seems perilously slim.
Cast your mind back to the launch of the Xbox 360 in 2005 or so. It was a time of intense excitement and optimism for gamers… unless you happened to be an original Xbox owner. Barely four years into the Xbox's existence, Microsoft opted to jump the gun with its next-gen offering, casting aside around 25 million loyal Xbox owners in the process. As a consequence, the entire industry turned its back on the Xbox practically overnight: a bitter pill to swallow if you’d just bought one a few weeks prior.
There was still money to be made from the console, but Microsoft's generational gamble essentially consigned it to the scrapheap before its time had come. (By contrast, games and hardware are still being produced for the PlayStation 2 to this day.) To add insult to injury, Microsoft also shirked on its backwards compatibility commitments, publicly stating that while this was something customers wanted, they didn't actually use it that much. So why bother, eh?
Multiplayer = Multi Dollars
Most gamers would agree that Xbox Live Gold provides a superior online gaming experience to the Playstaion Network — but if you measure both services in dollars, is it really 80 times better? While the PlayStation 3 lets you play online games with others for free, the Xbox 360 requires a yearly subscription of $80. When you add this up over the lifespan of the console, you've spent a whopping $560 to date.
I got the Blus real bad
As I noted in a previous article, Sony took a big risk when it launched the PS3 with an inbuilt Blu-ray player. At the time, it was a completely unproven format and the impending war with HD DVD made a lot of consumers nervous. I can therefore forgive Microsoft for sticking to a DVD drive when it launched the Xbox 360. But that was in 2005.
During the past few years, there's really no excuse for Microsoft's refusal to support the format with a peripheral drive of some kind. Hell, it could have even gone inbuilt during one of its numerous console revamps — but that would have involved sending some money Sony's way. So instead, Xbox 360 gamers got left with a DVD player for the duration of the console's lifespan. Tch.
Americans, eh? Seriously though, this is a significant issue when you consider many of the Xbox 360's best features and services are restricted to the US. From its exhaustive video streaming options to the Xbox Live Rewards program, we simply aren't getting the complete package. We also get charged more money for a watered down product. (This is an issue that's only going to get worse with the Xbox One.)
I could go on, but I think the point has been amply demonstrated. While Sony was also guilty of some irksome behavior, it remains the lesser of two evils at this juncture. Time will tell whether the PlayStation 4 scolds my fingers back towards Microsoft in a few years.
Lifehacker's weekly Streaming column looks at how technology is keeping us entertained.