Gamer’s Remorse: Why XBox 360 Isn’t Such a Bargain Buy

    So I finally succumbed and bought myself an Xbox 360. I had considereed investing in a next-gen system for awhile, and though exorbitant prices discouraged me from doing so, Microsoft’s recent price drop of the 360 Arcade version to a mass-market value of $200 convinced me to reconsider my investment plans. Seeing as my roommate agreed to split the cost of the system, buying the Arcade version would’ve meant shelling out $100 now and paying him the extra $100 over the rest of the quarter.

    Not a bad deal; but once I realized that the thing doesn’t even come with a hard drive (making the system utterly useless), I found myself in a bit of a dilemma. I was already determined to buy a console; either way, I’d have a next-gen system by the end of the day. So the question was, which system I was going to buy? I had two options: pay $300 for the 360 Pro version (the next best model) or pay $400 for the Playstation 3.

    I decided on the Xbox. Only a few days later, I’m suffering from buyer’s regret.

    Hardware issues aside, I thought I was making the best possible decision. In hindsight, I realize that I was only thinking short-term. The only retail games that I want are Mirror’s Edge and the new Prince of Persia, both of which can be purchased for either system within the next few months, and my judgment was clouded by the prospect of purchasing digital downloads Braid and Bionic Commando: Rearmed upon setting up my hardware.

    In today’s console war, the battle for contingency relies on proficient use of online space. Arguably, Microsoft’s Xbox Live currently dominates the digital arena. By making Live an integral part of the user interface, Microsoft has ensured that the average Xbox owner will always be connected to the service. In fact, the ease of switching between a game and the Live Marketplace via an in-game cross media bar has always been one of the service’s finer points. The addition of “achievements” was also nothing short of brilliant, tapping into every gamer’s subconscious desire to collect. But what else is there really? The experience on Xbox Live isn’t getting any better, just more efficient. In comparison to Sony’s Playstation Network, Microsoft hasn’t evolved past its initial state.

    PSN is growing. It started with the GUI update, and since then, it has hit the ground running. Though Sony’s announcement of a 10-year plan for the system was laughable when it debuted, they’ve since taken the necessary steps to ensure that the PS3 becomes the dominant platform in the foreseeable future.

    Unlike Microsoft, Sony is taking full advantage of digital distribution. By advocating compact gaming experiences, the company has invested in the creativity of small-time games, flashing titles like flOw and Everyday Shooter — both of which have won accolades for innovation — at the forefront of their marketing campaign. Also, by including microgame developers like Q-Games (creators of the PixelJunk series) as part of their internal development team, they’ve assured consistently unique content exclusive to the network.

    Judging by its release trend Sony is attempting to set the standard for online space. That both Warhawk and Siren: Blood Curse can be bought online for cheaper than retail is a testament to this notion.
    With Insomniac — creators of Resistance and Ratchet & Clank and exclusive developers for Sony — also adopting a similar digital delivery format, it becomes harder to deny Sony’s commitment. Having Ratchet & Clank: Quest for Booty, the most recent title, specifically tailored as a supplement to the successful Tools of Destruction, with a shorter playtime (about three to four hours) and a streamlined experience at $15, it becomes easier to see PSN as the most viable purchasing method.

    The mere availability of these products speaks volumes: by constantly marketing the PS3 with all the services of the Playstation Network, Sony is making its 10-year plan a reality. With the onset of titles such as Fat Princess, LittleBigPlanet and Home — all of which incorporate the Playstation’s online capabilities to various capacities — the PSN is becoming a valid distribution medium, something that can’t be said of Microsoft’s Live Marketplace.

    While I’m now convinced of Sony’s long-term success, I regret that this entire thought process took place after I purchased my very own Xbox 360. Life offers many lessons, and this one was a tough pill to swallow.

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