The Xbox 360, it goes without saying, is my default system of choice in the current generation. It was the first 256-bit console to launch, it offers superlative online services, and, for at least the first few years of its release, it offered better versions of multi-platform releases (particularly in regards to anything from Electronic Arts, which mainly amounted to The Orange Box in my non-sports gaming collection) – all reasons which made the decision an obvious one, a literal no-brainer.
Which is not to say, of course, that I have ignored the PS3’s software – Uncharted is easily one of the best games to arrive this generation, as are the ingenious LittleBigPlanet and the masterpiece Heavy Rain – or ever failed to rave about the big black box’s absolutely stellar downloadable library, which includes the likes of Echochrome, Pain, and Everyday Shooter (if Halo Wars is the game that I literally have not been able to put down this generation, then ES would easily be my wife’s. We have an affliction, I know). I have always, since my youngest days as a gamer, deliberately collected every (major) console to have access to its roster of exclusives, even going so far as to beg, plead, and torture my parents to purchase the Sega CD for the (now-dubious) likes of Sewer Shark and Night Trap; it’s strictly in the confines of multi-system titles that I’ve favored, usually irrevocably so, one of my babies over the other(s), not unlike Jehovah with Cain and Able.
But something strange has been happening over the past year-and-a-half or so, starting slowly at first but now quickening at an almost exponential rate: I am buying the PS3 version of games, when and where applicable, over the 360. For Batman: Arkham Asylum (August 2009), it was the exclusive downloadable content; for Assassin’s Creed II (November ‘09) and Brotherhood (November ‘10), it was the ability to connect to the PSP game and previous console entry, respectively; for Dead Space 2 (January ‘11), it was the inclusion of a better-looking and -playing version of Extraction (September ‘09), a game I already own on the Wii; and for the upcoming Portal 2 (April ’11), it’s unquestionably the Steam support, something that Microsoft could never allow with its current configuration of Xbox Live. At this rate, I have little doubt that at this year’s E3 presser, Sony will provide me with another two or three games I’ll have to scratch off of the Xbox list and hastily scribble in under the PlayStation column.
Despite my parents having always told me, at every available opportunity, that I was a special boy growing up (the last time, in fact, was just last week), I have to imagine that there are scores of gamers out there that are just like me, that, though it would be near-impossible to make them flip their default settings, they can certainly be motivated to deviate from it, and deviate from it quite often. Though it’s still unlikely that the PS3 will be able to out-sell the 360’s install base by generation’s end next year, there is certainly the very real possibility that Sony will be able to steadily and diligently chip away at Microsoft’s lead, eroding its foundation and doing much to level the playing field at the start of the 512-bit cycle of consoles. Then again, maybe not – I am that sick gamer, after all, who just has to buy the collector’s edition of a title whenever it’s available, whether it may contain a statuette of in-game characters or a deluxe art book or just some fancy packaging. (I’m doubly afflicted, I know.)
There’s also the small problem of MS seeing both revenue and gamer chic slipping through their fingers, one digital drop at a time. Announcing that all Call of Duty DLC would be timed-exclusive to the 360 was a significant step in the right direction – of getting the exclusives pendulum that Sony openly mocked at the beginning of this generation and now has fully embraced to swing back in its direction. Although Sony will shortly have the entirely new venue of NGP-PS3/PS4 connectivity available to it, building upon Ubisoft’s AC example (and, of course, Nintendo’s – with the Game Boy and numerous home consoles – before that), it should be battening down the hatches in anticipation of Microsoft’s inevitable counterstrike.
Although this current generation may be (finally) starting to cool down, the larger battle is just warming up.