Seven Years of Bad Luck: Playstation 3 and the 360 180

PS4 launch event

I know we still haven’t said anything about Sony’s PS4 press conference last week.  It was a lot to take in.  I watched it again today, and I thought back to seven years ago, who I was rooting for, which consoles seemed more promising, and which press conferences inspired the most optimism.  Then I realized how much things have changed.

I’m betting on Sony this time around.  That is interesting, because around this time, seven years ago, I was convinced that Microsoft had the better offering.  The 360 launched a full year before the PS3, so we had already witnessed its capabilities.  Xbox Live was amazing, Xbox Live Arcade was revolutionary, and Sony was showing no signs of waking up or smelling the coffee in regard to online gaming.  PSN looked unimpressive before launch, and that turned out to be an understatement.  Remember PlayStation Home?  It was touted as a revolution in online gaming, combining all the fun of decorating a room with the thrill of walking around a courtyard.  They spent four years getting that to market, even though most of us knew it was a bad idea in four minutes.  To this day, PSN is still behind the curve in terms of UI and functionality, which, by my calculations, puts Sony a full two gens behind “the program.”  All of this was evident before the PS3 launched, so what was there to be optimistic about?

 

There's no place like home.

Welcome home. Have a seat. Turn on your Playstation. Log into Home. Welcome home. Have a seat.

 

The hardware?  Despite the popularity of the PS2, every model of the system was about as reliable as a papier-mâché blow dryer.  Before the generation was over, I replaced three of the fat ones, two of the slim ones, one of the ultraslims, two wafer thins, and a snacker, which is unbelievable considering the prior history of hardware problems.  One gen earlier, the PS1 was plagued with disc read errors, and somehow, Sony did not fix that problem as they transitioned to the PS2.  How was that not a priority?  Before systems had hard drives, all games were on discs.  Reading discs is the only thing the system did for us, so a disc read error was kind of a big deal.  Thinking back, the term “disc read error” was misleading, because it really wasn’t encompassing enough.  The doctor doesn’t say that you have a missing head error when you get decapitated.  He just says you’re dead.  Going into the PS3 era, the previous iterations of the hardware did not instill confidence for the future.

Then there was the E3 fiasco.  I will never forget watching the live stream of Sony’s press conference.  It was the first meme-overload that I ever experienced.  We already had jokes about the Playstation grill and the boomerang controller.  When they announced that the console would retail for “five hundred and ninety-nine U.S. dollars,” and that gamers should want to work longer hours to afford it, I knew immediately that I was experiencing a special moment in gaming history.  By the time I had laughed through malfunctioning controllers, Afrika, giant enemy crabs, special weak points, massive damage, real-time weapon changing, ridge racer, …ridge racer, and riiiiiiiiidge raaaaaaacer, any hope I ever had for the console had been eviscerated.

Here’s the thing…. I was wrong, just not yet.  Remember my concerns about the PS3 hardware?  Well, those concerns were misdirected.  They should have been pointed at the Xbox 360.  At this point, it is no longer a secret.  The Xbox 360 turned out to be the most unreliable console ever produced.  I used to argue for it.  It seemed alright at first, until Microsoft revealed that the manufacturing process including injecting every single console with the FOXDIE virus.  Because of the red ring of death, every minute that we played our systems, we grew one minute closer to rage-smashing them with a rusty 5 iron.  The RedROD is now infamous, but that wasn’t even the only problem with the console.  How about the fact that moving it even one millimeter while the game was spinning resulted in the complete destruction of the disc?  The PS1 and PS2 failed to read discs sometimes, but at least they didn’t eat them.  I will take a disc read error over a disc feed error any day of the week.

 

Uh, uh, oh....

The 360 liked it. It put a ring on it.

 

The 360 even had the nerve to delete my save files; which, on a scale of offensiveness, ranks just past deleting my memories.  The egregiousness of this violation simply cannot be overstated.  Losing a save can be a jarring, earth-shattering experience.  Take it from me.  When I was a child, my father was a very creative disciplinarian.  Noticing that traditional punishment methods were less effective than they were during his generation, he opted for a more modern approach.  I will never forget the day he deleted my Final Fantasy VII save.  It was a watershed moment in my life.  It was the day I became a good boy.

Meanwhile, Sony created the most reliable system I have ever owned.  Honestly, I don’t think I can ever recall seeing a broken one.  I am still using the first one that I bought six years ago.  The games run better, faster, and more beautifully than their 360 counterparts.  It’s cooler, it’s quieter, and it doesn’t melt when you use it.  Streams are faster and clearer, and to top it all off, it has a Blu-ray player!  How is that HD-DVD collection treating you?  It even feels better.  Go pick up your Xbox 360.  It fills like a plastic bin, filled with toys.  Pick up your PS3.  It’s sturdier.  It’s heavier.  You feel that?  There’s a system in there.

What about all those awful games that Sony announced at meme-fest?  Well, they still came out, and they were still awful.  But eventually, they were joined by a lineup of exclusives that Microsoft couldn’t shake a Kinect at.  Just look at the 360’s exclusive offerings.  Half of the Halo games were disappointments, Fable somehow managed to get even worse, and Gears of War has been done to death.  It seemed like they had more exclusives, but am I forgetting any?  Meanwhile, some of the best games of the generation were PS3 exclusives: MGS4, God of War, Little Big Planet, Demon’s Souls, Valkyria Chronicles, Ni No Kuni, Heavy Rain, Killzone, Infamous, Uncharted, Journey!  Aside from online shooters, most of my fondest console memories of the gen are associated with the PS3.  The rest of the world figured it out.  Yet, somehow, stateside, Sony lost the sales battle to 360.

 

Most of my favorite gaming experiences from the past gen occurred on PS3.

Most of my favorite gaming experiences from the past gen occurred on PS3.

 

Sony already has the better system.  They are only falling short of the 360 in two areas.  First, their controller does not work for online shooters.  Compared to those on the 360 gamepad, the six-axis analog sticks provide about as much resistance as a pair of chopsticks sitting in a bowl of wonton soup.  It’s tough to zero in on a headshot when the thumb sticks’ default positions depend on gravity.  Thus, I buy all of my shooters on Xbox 360, just like the majority of Americans.  Also, PSN is still way behind Xbox Live in terms of UI and functionality.  In the past year, I have only logged on because Journey is on there, and they are giving out games for free.  Xbox Live is better… way better, and as a result, online shooters drive more people to own 360’s in the U.S.  Even in gun country, this can remedied.  If Sony hits the market first, changes the controller, and upgrades the online experience, the Kinect would almost have to diagnose diseases to warrant a purchase over the PS4.

The consensus seems to be that, aside from some cool trailers, Sony did not reveal a whole lot during their recent PS4 press conference.  Really?  Here’s what I heard…

  • The console is dropping this Fall.
  • Players will be able to begin playing games while they are still downloading.
  • PSN will be integrated with Facebook.
  • The controller resembles the Xbox 360’s gamepad.

In other words, they are hitting the market first, changing the controller, and upgrading the online experience.  Even though it turns out that the Kinect actually is diagnosing diseases, those three efforts should be enough for Sony to get the ball rolling again.  It is going to be tough to get back their U.S. market share given the current split, but purely based upon the quality of the offerings, it seems like they are headed in the right direction.  They currently have the better console, and their press conference showed me that they are paying attention to their weaknesses.  No crazy gimmicks, no Playstation Home, just marginal improvements upon an already solid product.  I don’t really have a dog in the fight either way.  I’ll be buying every console.  Still, I like an underdog, even if the underdog used to be an overdog.  Although they technically lost the fight, Sony made the best console last time around, and I’m betting they do it again.

Thomas Shamburger
Thomas is one of the original creators of "What's Jump?" As a lifelong gamer, writer, and comedian, his goal is to provide readers with humorous, entertaining, and thought-provoking perspectives on current gaming news and culture. His early career successes in the business world helped to pave the way for the site's launch in 2012. As the Editor in Chief of "What's Jump?" he combines his passions for gaming, writing, entrepreneurship, and comedy.
Thomas Shamburger
Thomas Shamburger

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