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Post-E3: The (New and Improved) Console Comparison

Posted by g3tech on July 21, 2007

Now that the annual video games trade show E3 is over and done with, the state of the console market is a lot easier to predict. In short, the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii are all hitting their stride and demonstrating outstanding lineups. No matter which machine you favor, you’re going to be torn between decisions. But for once, it’s easy for us to be optimistic about the future of all three major platforms. It’s looking to be an epic year indeed — even for the PS3.

Trimming $100 off the $599 price of the PlayStation 3 was starting to look like Sony’s first smart move this generation, but we really should have known better. After a flurry of mixed messages and rumors towards the end of E3 2007, details emerged that the price cut was more of a discount on end-of-line stock, and will run out within a few months. One step forward, one step back.

Sense isn’t something that’s been in ample supply with the PlayStation 3’s marketing campaign thus far. That’s a shame, because E3 saw the machine’s upcoming game selection really start to impress. Sony dished up exactly what we were hoping to see — a catalog of impressive, original, and tantalizing titles that, for the first time, really make the machine look like a good deal. LittleBigPlanet, Killzone 2 (for real this time), and Infamous all showed well, and the PS3 is also set to receive cross-platform sure-fire hits, Madden 08 and Grand Theft Auto IV.

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s games division could be forgiven for looking a little smug. Unusually, the company chose to focus its E3 presentation almost entirely on games coming out in the next six months rather than showing off flashy pre-rendered demos of games that could be years away. Given the lineup the 360 has to look forward to over the next six months, their confidence looks to be justified.

Chief among the holiday big hitters for the Xbox is, you guessed it, Halo 3. Can there really be any doubt that this huge first-person shooter is all set to post record-breaking sales, both for the game itself and for Xbox 360 hardware? It’s lining up to be another good year for the machine, and for Microsoft’s bottom line.

Backing Halo 3 is a strong selection of exclusives like the fantastic-looking Mass Effect. Of course, it’s sharing a number of big releases with the PS3, like Grand Theft Auto IV and Assassin’s Creed — and the 360’s decidedly slimmer price tag will make the machine look like a better buy for those looking to enter the next-gen market. Lest we forget, when the 60 GB bargains are gone, it’ll once again be possible to pick up an Xbox 360 and a Wii for less than the price of a PS3.

Assuming you can actually find a Wii, that is. If you’ve tried looking for one lately, you’ll know Nintendo’s budget-priced and innovative machine is still flying off the shelves. Reaching out to those traditionally untouched by video game marketing is undoubtedly paying off for the company. How many Wiis would have sold if Nintendo had been able to manufacture them fast enough to keep up with demand, we wonder? As Wii Fit demonstrates, this initial success is just the start, and if Nintendo can really deliver on the vast mainstream appeal of that title, you’re still not going to find Wiis on shelves any time soon.

Somewhat ironically, hardcore Nintendo fans are starting to wonder about the direction of the system. Recent Wii releases have tended to favor minigames and family-friendly hijinks in preference to the deep and multi-layered experiences that characterize the company’s classic franchises. That’s all about to change this year, though, with the return of three key Nintendo series: Super Mario Galaxy, Super Smash Brothers Brawl, and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. All are looking superb, and all will be out before 2008 rolls around.

But which console should you buy? If you positively must be playing right now, the choice is really between the Wii and Xbox 360. Nintendo’s kit is perfect for parties and family-friendly fun; the Xbox has its share of these types of games, too, but its specialty is satisfying gamers craving the high-end and hardcore. But if you’re more of a forward-thinking type, now is undoubtedly a good time to snag a bargain PS3 and wait for those awesome exclusives to start rolling in. Whichever you choose, you won’t lose out.


Sony PlayStation 3

Released: Nov 2006

Price: $499

* Blu-Ray optical drive
* 60 GB hard drive
* Memory card reader
* Wireless network support
* Tilt-sensitive wireless controllers

Get it?
* Best high-def support
* Tantalizing exclusives

Forget it?
* Most expensive
* Current software library still limited

Top 2007 PS3 Exclusives:
* Heavenly Sword
* Ratchet and Clank Future
* Haze
* Lair

In a sentence: We’re withholding judgment on the price cut until its long term status is clear, but the PS3 is looking more and more desirable by the day.


Microsoft Xbox 360

Released: Nov 2005

Price: $299 (Core), $399 (Pro), $479 (Elite)

* Varies with package.
* Optional 20 GB, 120 GB hard drives
* Optional HD-DVD drive for high-def movies
* Optional wireless controllers
* Optional wi-fi networking

Get it?
* Superb online functions
* Broadest software selection
* Strong hardware capabilities

Forget it?
* Lacks genuinely original software titles

Top 2007 X360 Exclusives:
* Halo 3
* Project Gotham 4
* Mass Effect
* Eternal Sonata

In a sentence: The Xbox 360 is really showing its maturity this year, bringing a nigh-unbeatable lineup of promising games to holiday shoppers.


Nintendo Wii

Released: Nov 2006

Price: $249

* Motion sensitive controllers
* Wi-fi networking
* SD card reader for photos and saves
* Gamecube controller ports

Get it?
* Original software library
* Classic Nintendo franchises, past and present
* Unique control method irresistible to non-gamers
* Strong multiplayer and family library

Forget it?
* Inferior graphics and sound
* Misses out on most big cross-platform releases
* Full-featured online games still a pipedream

Top 2007 Wii Exclusives:
* Super Smash Bros. Brawl
* Metroid Prime 3
* Super Mario Galaxy
* Nights: Journey of Dreams

In a sentence: The only place to get that unique Nintendo experience, the Wii is poised to captivate even more households this year.


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