As the year draws to a close, gaming news sites are beginning to fill up with the latest from the console war frontline. ‘Which console won 2008?’, ‘Can Xbox 360 hold 2009?’, ‘Ten reasons why Sony/Nintendo/Microsoft is screwed.’ It’s an enduring obsession, one that existed in the playgrounds 25 years ago, and thrives on the internet today: which gaming platform is better? Nintendo or Sega, Playstation or Microsoft – the debate has continued through each successive generation.
Recently, though, the competition between PS3 and 360 acolytes appears to have reached fever pitch; sales figures are pored over and commented on at absurd length; technical specs are endlessly compared; hardware failures and firmware gaffs are trumpeted from the rooftops as evidence that Microsoft or Sony (delete as appropriate) has finally lost the plot.
In fact, the zeal among certain sections of the gaming community appears to be reaching some sort of paranoid zenith; when Edge magazine gave PS3 shooter Resistance 2 a rather lukewarm six out of ten a couple of weeks ago, the publication’s website lit up with complaints from angry Sony fanatics, some suggesting that Edge had a vendetta against their favourite platform: “lets [sic] face it, R2 an exclusive on 360 would have gotten a higher score from Edge”, wrote one gamer, apparently so angry he could barely type a coherent sentence.
The way I see it, there are two problems with the ‘Edge=PS3 hater’ argument. First, six out of ten is hardly a critical drubbing (regular readers of the magazine will know that Edge are notoriously stingy with their marks). Second, if the magazine was so anti-Sony, why did they give another PS3 exclusive, Little Big Planet, ten out of ten in the previous issue?
Whether you agree with Edge’s verdict on Resistance 2 or not, the extreme reaction to its publication is a timely reminder of just how passionately some gamers feel about their chosen platform and the exclusive titles released for it. After all, exclusive titles are a big part of what attracts gaming fans to one console or another: the 360 has the Halo and Gears of War franchises, while the PS3 has Little Big Planet and Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, for example.
And this, I think, is why the apparent war between some (particularly vocal) 360 and PS3 owners has become so bitter; both camps want to believe that they’ve picked the right side. Every high scoring exclusive is another minor victory, every sales spike further proof that their console is best. An article has just appeared on N4G.com as I write this, titled ‘2009 Last Chance For Sony? Microsoft Domination Continues’, which has prompted a barrage of comments from both sides, all seething with religious fervour.
Of course, there are two other groups of people who are suspiciously quiet amid all the internet fury: Wii owners are the first. For some reason, Nintendo seem to have been left out of the flame wars entirely, even by their rivals – both Sony and Microsoft have effectively said that the Wii isn’t a market competitor, stating that it’s ‘too casual’ or ‘too last gen’ (which I’m sure is just fine with Nintendo, as they rake in absurd amounts of cash).
Which leaves us with the second silent group – the lucky few that can afford both the 360 and the PS3. And while they’re probably unbearably smug people, they’ve got the right idea – even the most diehard Sony/Microsoft fanboy would have to admit that there are some classic games available for both consoles. The slavish support of one platform over another only deprives the shortsighted devotee of a whole wealth of insanely brilliant titles. Even the ‘casual’ Wii, infamous for its slew of depressing party games, has a library of true gems – Smash Bros Brawl and Super Mario Galaxy to name two – that deserve to be in the collection of any hardcore gamer.
Ultimately, the console war is little more than a football match – a never ending drama where the fans hurl abuse at one another from the terraces, apparently hating one another while secretly enjoying the self-perpetuating drama. Personally, I’ve always supported the underdog, which is why I still have faith that the Dreamcast will eventually make a comeback. It could still happen! Go Sega.
Ryan writes his gaming column every week at Den Of Geek. Last week’s is here.