Friday, November 11, 2005

Playstation 3 vs. Xbox 360

We've had some debate on the topic of next-generation gaming consoles at the office and so far, we've been unable to reach a consensus on which is the way to go, Xbox 360 or PS3. I tinkered around with the new Xbox at a Best Buy the other night and while it's quite impressive, it does seem to be more evolutionary than revolutionary. I does not look like leapfrog technology, the way that the PS2 was to the original Playstation.

All of that said, the Xbox 360 is very cool. But will it be able to withstand the predatory juggernaut of Sony? I have long suspected that the PS3 won't hit stores in America until Christmas 2006--they've used these promise-and-delay tactics before to try to keep consumers from buying a superior rival system that beat them to market. But even with a one-year lag, Sony's installed base is so much bigger than Microsoft's that I had a hard time envisioning them losing this generation of the console war. Until now.

This story on Sony's application for U.S. Patent #6,816,972 looks like corporate suicide. Sony has gone and patented technology which would:
verify that when software was inserted into a "machine" (read: console), it was registered to that machine. If it couldn't, the technology would prompt the machine to shut down, preventing the software from being accessed.

Such measures would be fine and dandy, were they targeted at pirated software. But the patented tech--which bears the name of Sony Computer Entertainment president Ken Kutaragi--is specifically designed to prevent used software from being sold. "Since only titles for which legitimate software has actually been purchased and which have been initially registered in the machine table can be used, resale (so-called used software purchase) after purchase by an end-user becomes practically impossible," it reads. Such measures would also prevent lent or rented software from being played.

In other words, if Sony puts this technology into action, you could no longer play borrowed, used, or rented games on your Playstation.

When asked if they intended to use this technology, a Sony spokesperson would say only that, "We have made no official statement regarding coding for PS3 games." Not much of a denial.

And, as Sony's DRM rootkit fiasco has shown, they're not, as a company, opposed to being User Hostile.

Advantage: Xbox.

Who would have guessed that in a corporate battle, Microsoft would be the morally superior, consumer-friendly party?


Anonymous said...

mmmm...I don't think Microsoft is quite as moral as you might think. Microsoft has their own game afoot I'm afraid. You see, the 360 is coming without the next generation media player, like an HD-DVD or Blue-Ray DVD player. The reason this is significant is that 360 games will be limited in size by the amount of space you can fit on a regular double layer DVD. If a regular DVD can hold 5 gigs, an HD-DVD or Blue Ray disc can hold 30 or 50 gig. A regular DVD will not have enough room to store the type of games we will be seeing at the end of this generation of gaming. The obvious work around for 360 game developers is the the xbox Live online system already in place.

So, you'll buy the game for $60 dollars and then quickly play through the content on the disk. Then you'll see that several more missions or content has been added, but you have to pay $5 to download in on Live.

Eventually, developers will cease to place their games on actual media at all because disks can always be copied (or traded in and resold where the develper sees none of that action), and the games themselves will be sold and downloaded completely online.

Game developers are eager for this to take place because they lose millions every year to the used games industry. The lesson in all this: Sell your stock in EB games, Gamestop, Blockbuster, etc...

Anonymous said...

I think the lead time Xbox has on the PS3 could prove to be enough for Xbox win the war. Even though XBOX 360 may not be "revolutionary," it's improved enough to make every PS2 look out of date. Plus besides the PSP it's the only new video game technology on the market, which makes it the go to christmas gift this year.

Anonymous said...

I had been betting on Sony, I may now have to reconsider..

Michael said...

One other factor with the 360 is the 360 SDK encourages the developers to use "procedural synthesis", so that much of the detail is generated by the code instead of by some graphics guy.

Microsoft's claim is that this reduces the amount of labor that goes into producing the art for these high-resolution games, and reducing the amount of art that has to ship on disk. This could potentially save a great deal of development expense, as well as reducing the space requirements on the cdrom.

In addition, the use of procedural synthesis also means that the graphical quality of the games could automatically scale up if microsoft were to ship a better, faster 360 sometime around the PS3 launch.

Michael said...

That said, however, I've been distinctly underwhelmed by what I've seen of the 360 at my local gamestop.
The gameplay of the new games had better be incredible, because the graphics are just not compelling.

I'm gonna get one eventually, but it will be because of the new games.

If the 360 is actually representative of what the next-gen games will look like (because the 480p->720p jump just really isn't all that after all), then I think Nintendo may well be vindicated with their revolution strategy.

After spending a few months with the Nintendo DS and games like nintendogs and trauma center, I'm really interested in where Nintendo is going with the revolution and their new controller.

Anonymous said...

to noah,
if you are a xbox fan you should know that timimg is not everything, infact xbox was seen the same way its release was in spring and ps2 was right before cristmas. now its swicthed and people are saying the same thing. strange?