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Has the Xbox 360 finally surpassed PS2/SNES?

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Whoa, don’t close out that browser tab just yet! I didn’t answer the question yet! In fact, the question carries a lot of weight, demanding more than just a few seconds of thought and blurting out “360 4 lyfeeee!”

But what should come to mind when you’re thinking about the greatest game machines to ever grace living rooms around the world? Certainly hardware (system specs, controller) plays a part, and a console is nothing without its games. A strong brand image also goes a long way — do people that have zero involvement in the medium still know about the product? Finally, the console has to have that one special quality that it can truly call its own — an intangible, as sportswriters would say in every other sentence.

The Xbox 360 certainly has some tough competition for any consideration as the best ever. Personally, I think that the SNES and PlayStation 2 are the two greatest consoles of all time. Of course, there have been other immensly important machines, but I’m either too young to have played them (2600) or they were replaced by sexier hardware (NES, PSX). So with that in mind, let’s see if the 360 deserves to be talked about in the same breath as some of the all-time greats.

The Hardware

There’s no point in beating around the bush here: the first 2-3 years of the Xbox 360′s life span saw a lot of fried hardware and a lot of angry customers. Even with the introduction of more efficient chipsets there was no guarantee that you weren’t going to be calling customer service in the near future.

Thankfully, mercifully, Microsoft had a pretty neat trick up their sleeves at E3 2010, introducing a revamped version of the machine. Aesthetically, I don’t really think it’s any better than the old design. Yet it’s an undeniable improvement where it matters: it’s much quieter and runs much cooler than its predecessor.

As for the machine’s capabilities, it’s obviously superior to the SNES and PS2. And while technically “inferior” to the PlayStation 3, many games look as good as, if not better than, their PS3 counterparts. And while Resistance on PS3 was impressive back in 2006, it was Gears of War that really drove home the idea that the next generation of consoles had truly arrived.

And we can’t talk about the greatness of a system without mentioning its controller. The SNES introduced the gaming world to shoulder buttons, making it well-prepared to handle fighting games such as Street Fighter II. The PS2’s DualShock 2 wasn’t a huge improvement over the original (just the addition of pressure-sensitive buttons), but then again it didn’t really need to be. As for the Xbox 360, it has arguably the best controller ever. The triggers give juuust the right amount of resistance, the left and right bumpers replace the original’s black and white bumpers while being more intelligently placed, and the position of the analog sticks means no awkward thumb-rubbing while playing shooters. Sure, the d-pad is an absolute mess, but even that’s seen a revamp in newer controller models.

Finally, thanks in large part to its PC-like internals it’s also significantly easier to develop for than the Cell-driven PS3. Which leads me to my next point:

The Games

At this point in their lifecycles, all of the current systems have built up a library of fine games (despite the extra digging, this also includes the Wii). However, the year-long head start that the Xbox 360 had on its competition allowed it to build up a decent backlog before the Wii and PS3 even saw store shelves. Great titles such as Call of Duty 2, Condemned: Criminal Origins, Project Gotham Racing 3, and even above-average games such as Gun and Perfect Dark Zero made a compelling case to pick up a 360 at launch.

Over the course of the next year leading up to the PS3’s launch, early adopters were treated to titles such as Burnout Revenge, Fight Night Round 3, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Saint’s Row, Dead Rising, and, of course, Gears of War.

As the next couple of years unfolded developers would continue using the Xbox 360 as their lead platform for multiplat releases as they struggled to get used to the PS3’s complex architecture. As a result many games were simply better on the 360. From Madden 07’s smoother framerate to Virtua Tennis 3 only having online multiplayer on 360, there were plenty of reasons to go green for multiplatform games, so to speak.

No system worth its salt has ever thrived without its fair share of exclusive games, of course. While Halo and Gears of War usually headline the holiday schedule for Microsoft, the Fable and Forza series do well for themselves, and the original Crackdown is a cult favorite (Crackdown 2 can sit down, though). Other high-profile exclusives include Alan Wake, Splinter Cell Conviction, Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey by Mistwalker, and the original Mass Effect.

Mix it all together with the ever-growing library of great multiplatform releases and the Xbox 360 has amassed a huge library that includes some of the greatest games to ever see release. It hasn’t yet reached the staggering volume seen on the PS2, nor does it boast as many exclusives, but I’ll be damned if it’s not impressive.

Brand Power

To have really made it, though, you need to permeate the public psyche. It’s not just enough for your target audience to know who you are; you need to be a household name. In the 90s my mom knew exactly who Michael Jordan was despite knowing less about basketball than the child laborers that manufacture his shoes.

Video games are no different. Back when TVs were steam-powered everyone knew what an Atari was. Then the NES came along and everyone wanted to play “Nintendo”. Soon enough “PlayStation” was the word. Now? I overhear an awful lot of gaming outsiders refer to video games simply as “Xbox,” though it’s still pretty evenly split between that and “PlayStation”.

So why the hell does this even matter? Pretty simple, really: when it comes time for birthday or holiday shopping parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles all ask store employees for what they heard their morning radio shows talk about as the thing kids are playing these days.

What will Fox News be blaming in 10 years for corrupting our nation’s youth? I’m not sure, but Xbox is here now and picking up steam.

The Intangible

As I mentioned in the opening paragraphs, every great console has that one quality that separates it from the rest, something that the competition couldn’t recreate if they wanted to. If the oversaturation of 16-bit 2D platformers was any indication, Mario was the SNES’s ace in the hole. The PS2 was capable of playing an entire library of classic PS1 titles, something the Gamecube and original Xbox simply couldn’t counter.

So what about the Xbox 360? Easy: Xbox Live. Although the service launched in 2002 with the release of Halo 2 on the original Xbox, it really hit its stride this gen. While people may rag on the annual $60 price of admission, it brings so much to the table that it’s an easily justifiable cost.

The first and most obvious aspect of the XBL experience is the seamless multiplayer. Unless the community for a game is dead, finding a match is almost always a quick and painless ordeal. The ability to join and invite other friends into games with just a few button presses is also a huge convenience. Cross-game and party chat are major features that still haven’t made their way over to PlayStation Network.

Other ways XBL has PSN beat? Console updates two, maybe three times a year, rather than every month. “Game updates” (patches, you’re not fooling us) that take mere seconds to download and install, rather than clumsy updates that can range between just a few to hundreds of megabytes. PSN has made some drastic improvements since its launch in 2006 – remember when you had to quit out of a game just to check a message? However, it’s constantly playing catch-up against XBL.

Finally, Xbox Live’s Marketplace is home to some of the finest games you’ll find anywhere. Quite simply, the Marketplace offers something for everyone. Retro-loving fogies such as myself can bask in the goodness of all four Sonic the Hedgehog games that released on the Sega Genesis, Doom, Duke Nukem 3D, and even the Metroidvania-inspired Shadow Complex. The art-house crowd can point at games such as Limbo and The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom. And who can forget the addictive goodness of titles such as Trials HD and Geometry Wars?

Without question, Xbox Live is the premier online gaming service in living rooms across the world, and might be the single greatest feature that a console has ever been able to boast over their competitors.

The Verdict

So where do we stand? We’re in a bit of a weird position this generation, after all: where at this point in previous console cycles everyone was looking to the horizon for new machines, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are digging in for the long haul. If Microsoft were to announce a new console tomorrow and cut production of the 360 at the end of the year, then it would go down in gaming history as one of the best consoles ever, but wouldn’t quite make it to the top. Despite the drastically improved hardware, the RROD still haunts the memories of many a 360 gamer.

At the end of what looks to be a 10-year cycle, though? Well, even then it might be a bit iffy. There’s no denying the power of Xbox Live, and ease of development makes for strong library of games that range from indie sweethearts to blockbuster franchises. However, the PlayStation 3 is quickly gaining ground from a sales standpoint, while also blowing the doors off of the 360 as far as 2011 exclusives are concerned.

For me personally, it’s going to be difficult for any system to dethrone the SNES and PS2. Fortunately, Microsoft seem to be doing everything in their power to prove me and anyone else that doubts them wrong, and this can only lead to beautiful things down the road for everyone.

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Posted in Editorials, Featured |

Comments (23)

  • John Wayne
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    No amount of Halos or other stale FPSs can compete with the ps2′s library buddy. The sheer software differentiation on the ps2 is incomparable to any other console.

    This is utterly demented. No home console is dethroning the ps2 anytime soon. The 360 will die and the new one will be out whereby MS will stop supporting the old boy.

    • True Gamer
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      Library is all opinion buddy and so far I have had a much better time gaming on my Xbox 360 than I did on my PS2. What can I say I love shooters and Xbox 360 has had much better shooters than PS2 ever had Halos and all.

  • John
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    All the current gen consoles sold wouldn’t outnumber the PS2.

    • Reigen
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      dood, wtf do sales mean when you`re playing some of the best games this gen

  • mike
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    how can you compare the 360 with the ps2? on what basis?

    the ps2 is a 11 years old console, and is still selling, if when the 360 has 11 years is still selling then you would have a point of comparison, right now all you can compare it with is the PS3, and in that article you will have to write things like, 40% failure rate, paid online service, dvd games, and mountain of pirate games, despite having launched 1 year in advanced they are close to be surpassed by the ps3, NO BLURAY.

    What a ridiculous article mate.

    • The Dean
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      Mike, how can you knock the Xbox 360 for all of those faults when the PlayStation 2 had massive DRE issues that caused millions of returns and people to pay for repairs? You do realize that the PlayStation 2 was hacked to all hell as well, right? And that it played DVD games and despite having an online service, you ORIGINALLY has to PAY for the ONLINE ADAPTER to play online — remember that?

      Cmon son.

      • mike
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        i am talking about the ps3, not the ps2. the fact is nintendo wii is the new ps2, you can forget that 360 is anywhere near the cultural penetration of the WII, it is even bigger than the ps2, although the ps2 is to this date the console with the best third party support, meaning great games not just number of games, lets face it a lot of third party wii games suck. back to the 360, they have being riding the halo wave for so long, it has become ridiculous, i dont care how many copies and hardware they sell, we are talking quality and variety here. try to make a list of the number of exclusives the ps2 had, even after the release of the xbox, the ps2 was the craddle of the great franchises people love today. so i’m sorry this article is pure and real fanboyism.

        • The Dean
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          Can you name one exclusive or multiplatform title that has brought more gamers together at one time than Halo, Gears of War or Call of Duty MW2/BO like they have on the 360? Sony has never been able to produce the online figures that XBL has been able to produce even when it had an install base of 160 million to draw from.

          The ability to create a network of gamers dedicated to play games online on a console at almost the same, or better, rate than the PC is absolutely unheard of and an absurd notion, but Xbox Live has managed to change the entire way we play video games as a whole.

          In order to be considered a great console, a defining console, is the ability to define an entire generation and to offer an experience no other console in the history of the industry has offered. PlayStation 2 did it through its monopoly of exclusives and a library that expanded over 10,000 games deep. The Super Nintendo did this by breaking boundaries and bringing gaming into the homes of 60+ million people and helping the industry become an acceptable social activity to an extent. And now XBL has changed and made things acceptable all over again.

          There is a bigger picture to everything.

          • wtfwtfwtf
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            PS2 did not focus much on online at all… The only advantage XBox ever had on PS2 was online because online was a big focus for Microsoft while the PS2 didn’t think about online until late after its launch… PS2 brought FAR more gamers together physically. Live merely main streamed online. Live, in the end, disgraces the online that it was inspired by(PC gaming). I don’t give a crap about what main streamed or is more famous. The fact is that PSN has surpassed Live. PSN is free and yet it has more serious and original games on its more organized store and it also has far more dedicated servers for games making it possible to have far more players and be lag free so long as the servers are up and your connection is good.

          • The Dean
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            Yeah, you lost credibility with “PSN has surpassed Live.”

  • Shawn
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    I think you offended a few psfanboys whinning about thier past lives with the ps2. Funny how they arent crying about unfair comparisons with other generation bests like the SNES. I lol’d at Mike’s make belive numbers, it wasnt 40% failure, just no. Ps3 is currently (to this day) having more than an accetable amount of console failures. Not to mention, widespread onine hacks, cheats, and d/c make online.

    Both have pro’s and con’s, I just find it laughable when fanboys whine and make up thier own “statistical facts”.

    • mike
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      40% as reported by GAME stores in the UK in the year 2009, i bought 2 xbox360′s mate before getting a ps3, both died on me, all my friends that have 360′s, over a dozen, they all are in their second, or thrid repair. IT is only now that hackers are starting to break the ps3, and yet how many people are downloading 40gb for a videogame? meanwhile as far back as 2006 the UK was full of pirate copies. the fact is ps3 is not only better for the consumer, it is better for the videogame industry. you are very naive to think the failure was and probably still is at 40% or more, the PS3 failure rate percentage is still in ZERO mate, very few cases, and sony wont treat you like crap like the microsoft support does.

  • ve
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    No, no, no, no no.

    Not on a sales basis, not on a games basis, and CERTAINLY not on a hardware basis.

    All around resounding no. Wii has a much better chance at that sort of achievement, even PS3 does.

  • D.Vader
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    The Xbox is not an international brand. As it has mostly failed in Asia.

    • The Dean
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      It most certainly is an international brand. It has sold incredibly well in Europe and when you look at how well it has done in Asia when you take into account that it is a foreign company, it’s done ridiculously well — especially considering there were several weeks it outsold even the PS3 in its home turf.

  • Jack Shrout
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    Awesome article Wons, but I do disagree about the game library. While it is vast, nothing really sticks out to me as being amazing.

    Regardless, it was an entertaining read and anyone who’s hating on it probably can’t read, lol.

    • WonsAuto
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      Can’t read, won’t read — same difference.

      Thanks, though. ;)

  • Mike
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    I think the whole RROD is blown ridiculously out of proportion. I’ve had my xbox for a few years one and so too have my most of my mates. Ive got a friends list of about 70 and only one of them got RROD and it wasn’t the permanent type either, as he kept his xbox near the radiotor and it was completely clogged up with dust. After a bit of room change and and an internal vacuum it works fine. BUT Xbox doesn’t break after a leap year :) >finally Microsoft went out and released the next gen console and what did sony do ? Wait to see the faults and get around them to make themselves look good when its microsofts wrongdoings they righted.

  • John
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    Altough I like my 360 a lot, it’s not the best console ever.

    That would be the PS1 followed by the N64. The PS2 has some great games but let’s not forget that it’s all thanking to Sega’s failure and the PS2 monopolization of the market. This generation we have a proper console war.

    The 360 is clearly this generation’s overall best console but it’s really a matter of taste. No service compares to Xbox Live but sony has some great exclusives and the Wii both Mario Galaxy games.

  • Ben Carter
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    oh dear… 2011 more than any before it is a game changer. IF the Xbox 360 has had any advantage up until now – the massive PS3 exclusive list including games that no real gamer will want to miss (Last Guardian, Journey, inFamous 2, Uncharted 3 to name but a few) – nothing will be be the same going forward from there and in years to come people will talk only of how the PS3 swept all before it…

    • mike
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      call me a fanboy but this guy is telling the facts. all I ask the author of this article is to make that list, the exclusives for each system. and if he is on this earth for a minute try to check the killzone 3 reviews. Microsoft one full year ahead of Sony and the sales gap keeps narrowing down, the momentum that the ps3 has gained is something the 360 is not capable to stop, I don’t care if they release ANOTHER HALO GAME. 360 is in the freaking past right now with those dvd’s, and kinect despite the sales is a massive ridiculous fad.

  • Tom Ato
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    Xbox 360 = crap graphics (Even when compared to PS2, nevermind PS3.), crap library of exclusives (Gears Of War, Halo and……a Gran Turismo rip – off ((Forza))? Oh and Kinectimals, don’t forget Kinectimals, LAFF!), crap controller, crap online system (Even when compared to PS2, nevermind PS3.) and stupidly high failure rate (Even when compared with PS2.).

    Oh yeah and 150 million PS2 sales VS 51 million 360 sales says that 360 is nowhere near worth the money for a REAL gaming experience like the PS2 was.

  • chuck
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    Has this article only been written only to catch the headline on n4g for a few minutes? I mean, okay, you make some points out there, the controller is definitely great, the online community is near perfect (but expensive), but come on!

    Remember 2005? The PS2 was 5 years old and still had an incredible amount of great exclusives, its two younger and more powerful competitors were almost dead. Some people, like me, delayed for one or two years the purchase of a next-gen platform because there was still a lot to play on.

    There is absolutely no point comparing record breaking consoles like SNES or PS2 to the Xbox 360. The console is dead in Japan, and far less popular in Europe than in U.S. It no longer has the same amount of exclusives that were so great in the past, and clearly, Microsoft has decided to get rid off its first (or 1.5) party studios (Ok, there is still Turn 10, but Bizarre and Bungie left, and no one cares anymore about what Lionhead or Rare are doing).

    Neither the SNES nor the PS2 were in the same position 5 years after there release!

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