Console Wars: The Saga Continues

Sizing up the video-game platforms

Console Wars: The Saga Continues
Illustration by Jason Stout

It's that time of year again. Time to put a price tag on your loved ones. Perhaps it's the spirit of the season, a drop in the price of the technologies used, or, most likely, a measured marketing ploy, but all three players in the ongoing video-game platform wars have lowered their prices in the past several months. True love is now in the $300 price range. As much as you don't want to believe it, a top-of-the-line gaming system is the new pony or bicycle.

Still the least expensive and putative victor of the platform wars, the Nintendo Wii has bucked its inferior processing power with exhausting cuteness and undeniably inviting playability. It helps that franchise titles (e.g., Mario, Super Smash Bros.) continue to impress. Not impressing, though, is almost every other game on the system. The glut of releases are largely half-baked and have little replayability. Even the touted fitness games are slowly garnering criticism for overblown expectations, but Wii Fit still burns more calories than any sit-and-shoot game. Young kids and casual gamers, who could care less about photorealistic blood spatter and frame rates, will likely love the Wii, but beware the teens who might want to obliterate zombies or race realistic-looking cars. The Wii doesn't do violence or realism.

Bottom line: $200 (system) + $60 (second Wii Remote/Nunchuk combo) = $260

The hardcore gamer in the family will settle for nothing less than the king of the shooters, Xbox 360. The fact that the Halo first-person shooter franchise is developed solely for this platform single-handedly makes it the default system for rabid online gaming. The Xbox's online content is unparalleled on any of the other systems, which makes the absence of wireless capabilities (standard on the Wii and PlayStation3) all the more noticeable. Additionally, online play will run you about $50 for a year's subscription to Xbox Live Gold, which also grants you access to streaming content from Netflix to your TV (with a Netflix membership), among other perks. The new, stripped-down Xbox 360 Arcade system, which lacks a built-in hard drive, might seem like a deal at $200, but if the current downloading trends continue, you will need that hard drive sooner than you think.

Bottom line: $250 (60 gigabyte system) + $50 (second controller) + $50 (one year of Xbox Live Gold) = $350

The big loser of the platform wars, the PlayStation3, has been waging a comeback thanks to its $100 price drop. With a Blu-ray player, free online gaming via the PlayStation Network, and recently acquired access to Netflix, it has a lot going for it. What it lacks is the smooth online controls of the Xbox – both the PlayStation Store and Netflix interfaces are in dire need of face-lifts. Hindsight also favors the PlayStation, knowing what we know about the infamous and almost inescapable technical problems of the Xbox. The PS3's position is a tricky one, with the Wii stealing the casual gamers that were the PS2's ticket to victory in the last round of system warring. Casual gamers are likely finding their Wii options limited and might be upgrading for racing games, Grand Theft Auto, Madden, and other perennial favorites. We'll see if Sony can capitalize on this newly acquired momentum.

Bottom line: $300 (120 gigabyte system) + $55 (second controller) = $355

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Wii
On the Download
On the Download
Dispatches from Wii's Virtual Console

James Renovitch, July 10, 2009

Top 5 Gaming Trends
Top 5 Gaming Trends
A quick science lesson before the best of 2008

James Renovitch, Jan. 2, 2009

More by James Renovitch
Austin Video Game Developer Certain Affinity Announces Original Title, <i>Last Expedition</i>
Austin Video Game Developer Certain Affinity Announces Original Title, Last Expedition
Independent game studio also plans expansion to offices in Toronto

Jan. 30, 2019

SXSW Gaming to Host <i>Halo</i> Championship Series Invitational
SXSW Gaming to Host Halo Championship Series Invitational
Various tournaments cater to pros, fans, and attendees

Jan. 22, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Wii, PlayStation3, Xbox 360, Xbox Arcade, Xbox Live, Wii Fit

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle