This last generation, the PlayStation 3 vs. Xbox 360 console war is as heated as any other console rivalry in past memory.
With the last gen console cycle being the longest in history and gamers having more ways to connect and interact with each other through technology and social media, fans are fighting with words and videos on the battlefields of YouTube, gaming forums and even Facebook and Twitter.
And today, the rivalry has spilled over into the current generation. For gamers trying to decide whether to buy a PS4 or Xbox One, you have to wonder how much does this rivalry play a part in their decision.
But when did this all start? Why is there such a strong rivalry between Microsoft and Sony fans? And why is PlayStation vs. Xbox the gaming industry’s greatest rivalry ever?
The rise of PlayStation Nation
Sony’s PlayStation One was introduced in the US in 1995 and made a massive impact on the console market. The only other big name consoles around at the time were the Sega Saturn and the Nintendo 64. The PlayStation brought with it franchises that we know and love to this day such as Spyro, Metal Gear Solid and Twisted Metal.
The PlayStation One pioneered a lot of new game genres that are now very popular across all platforms today. For example, we had games like Syphon Filter and Metal Gear Solid on the PlayStation One that helped to make the stealth genre what it is today.
Stealth games of this caliber had not been seen before and introduced a whole new genre to consumers who are now looking forward to modern stealth games like Metal Gear Solid 5 and Splinter Cell Blacklist.
The PlayStation console’s success lead to the development of the PlayStation 2 which was released in 2000. The PS2 was a massive success selling over 150 million units to this date. It was relatively unchallenged as a console, at least on release. That was until Microsoft released their debut console The Xbox.
A challenger to the throne
The Xbox tried to do everything that the PS2 couldn’t. The hardware was better, the games were graphically better and the Microsoft brand was arguably more well known.
Microsoft was a trusted software company and they already more or less owned the PC market. So it was no surprise that the Xbox made a big dent in the console market, especially considering it was a debut console. While it didn’t sell anywhere near as many units as the PS2, the Xbox gave Microsoft a successful entry point into the console market.
The Xbox’s main selling point were incredible games like Halo 1, Halo 2, Fable, MechAssault, Ninja Gaiden, the much beloved Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Forza and Project Gotham Racing.
These were direct counterparts to incredible PlayStation 2 games like Grand Turismo, Killzone, Final Fantasy, Devil May Cry, and at the time, the phenomenal new IP God of War 1 & 2. Still, Halo, a FPS (First Person Shooter) from Bungie became something so special that it caught a lot of gamers off-guard.
Halo was unbelievably successful and beat any FPS game that the PlayStation 2 had easily. In fact, Halo 2 sold 8 million copies making it the most popular game on the console.
However, the Xbox was severely lacking on adventure games. Compared to Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank and other PS2 games like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, the Xbox had no similar platforming and adventure games that could compare in quality. But the Xbox was aimed towards an audience that was broadband only and interested in online multiplayer games.
This was evident by the way the Xbox was centered around Xbox Live and Microsoft planned to capitalize on it in the future.
Choose your weapon for the Console Wars
A rift had already began to grow between fans of either console. Although many diehard PlayStation fans were switching to the Xbox console the majority of fans were still loyal to PlayStation. This is how the console fan rivalry began. Popular forums around 2001 were full of threads debating the difference between consoles.
The gap truly extended when online console gaming was introduced. PlayStation fans could play together and Xbox fans could play together and online multiplayer for consoles during that era began to flourish like never before. At the time, the Sega Dreamcast tried its best to keep up with online multiplayer with offerings like Phantasy Star Online and Quake 3 Arena, but the PS2 and Xbox became the staple for online gaming with the Dreamcast bowing out of the race.
Although widely debatable, it was quite clear that the Xbox had the superior online service with Xbox Live, which at the time required a broadband connection. Xbox Live revolutionized online gaming for consoles and with the release of Halo 2, Xbox Live’s dominance was solidified.
The Xbox also popularized another feature which is now common for every console to date. Every Xbox came with a hard drive and gamers no longer had to buy extra memory cards for storage as every Xbox utilized a HDD.
Although the Xbox console debut provided features that are now common in video game consoles, it’s quite fair to say that Sony won the first leg of the console war. However, things would not be so one-sided in the next generation of consoles.
The Console War saga continues…
After the successes of the PS2 and Xbox, Microsoft struck quickly in the new generation with an early release over the next PlayStation. Launching in late 2005, substantially earlier than the PlayStation 3, both Xbox and PlayStation fans from the previous generation were ready for the next generation to arrive and gamers went for the Xbox 360 due to its early release.
A lot of PlayStation fans didn’t have the patience to wait for the PlayStation 3 and ended up jumping ship to the Xbox 360. This definitely had a huge impact on what would be the current generation console wars. Sony no longer had the 1 year advantage that they had in the previous generation and Microsoft was using this to seize an opportunity over their competition.
There was one major downside to this for Microsoft though. With only 4 years between the release of the Xbox and the release of the Xbox 360, Xbox owners were a little jaded.
Microsoft said that they would continue support for the Xbox but this wasn’t necessarily true. For this reason, a lot of Xbox fans decided not to buy an Xbox 360 and some even waited for the PlayStation 3 to release and purchased it because Sony was known to be dedicated to providing support to older consoles even when their next generation consoles released.
The number of fans that Microsoft lost still was not comparable to the number they gained and the early release of the 360 was a resounding success.
The Xbox 360 defined itself with exclusives in its early years with games like Dead or Alive 4, Fable 2 which became an Xbox 360 success and popular franchise, the long awaited Halo 3 which shattered all kinds of sales records, the Forza franchise which is an incredible racing series, and Gears of War which at the time, cemented the Xbox’s title as a true next generation console with capable graphics.
The great games that came with the release of the Xbox 360 solidified its place as a high end console and justified the investment that millions of gamers made.
With Xbox 360 steadily providing gamers amazing next generation gaming experiences that they had been patiently waiting for, Microsoft decided to focus on their Xbox Live service and really hammer the point home that they were the premier gaming console of choice for generation 7.
Xbox Live Arcade took on a whole new level of providing gamers with additional content, the Xbox 360 became synonymous with online multiplayer, and Microsoft provided users with a lot of exclusive and timed DLC content for games.
The Xbox 360 was not without its problems though. The Red Ring of Death was probably the most talked about issue in gaming history as so many Xbox 360 consoles became defective, that it is hard to find anyone who ever owned an early version of the Xbox 360 and never encountered this problem.
PS3 fans used this nuclear bomb as part of their console war arsenal and to this day, they will argue that the reason Xbox 360 sales numbers are so high is due to the fact that consumers had to buy multiple Xbox 360 consoles because of defective hardware. Even with this issue being as wide spread as it was, the Xbox 360 was a huge success. But, the reign of the Xbox 360 would not last forever.
The uphill battle
Sony released the PlayStation 3 in November of 2006. Just over a year after the release of the 360 and with the 360’s massive success, it would be hard for Sony to make an impact on the console market, especially against a rival with almost limitless reserves of money at their disposal but Sony managed it.
Sony proudly promoted the PlayStation 3, bringing out a variety of new features such as the Sixaxis, Bluetooth connectivity, and graphics that were arguably superior to those of the 360 with exclusive games like Metal Gear Solid 4, God of War 3, and Uncharted all of which helped to prove the PS3’s visual superiority over the Xbox 360.
Most importantly though, Sony offered a free online service to gamers that was established to rival Xbox Live in every way. Unlike Xbox Live, PlayStation 3 users didn’t have to pay to play their games online. This ended up swaying a lot of people who were on the fence between consoles.
They didn’t want the continued investment of paying for multiplayer every month and later in the PS3’s console life, PlayStation Plus offered a superior service for the money gamers paid more so than Xbox Live.
However, the PlayStation 3’s launch was not without its problems. One big issue with the console was price. $599 for the 60GB model at launch was extremely expensive and a lot of gamers couldn’t afford this. The Xbox 360 was substantially cheaper at this point and even with Xbox Live’s monthly online fee it still seemed like quite an attractive option to gamers not wanting to make the $600 investment.
What people failed to realize at the time though was that the reason the PS3 was so expensive was because of one of its key selling points which was the Blu-ray drive. This was something that no other gaming console had.
At that time, Blu-ray players were already incredibly expensive and PS3 fans argued vehemently in comment sections and forums that it being built into the PlayStation 3 was a great deal for the price Sony was asking. The PlayStation franchise actually did wonders for the Blu-ray platform.
The release of the PS3 meant massive popularity for Blu-rays and more people became interested in both the console and Blu-ray as a platform. The Xbox 360 did not have Blu-ray compatibility, but Microsoft rivaled it with their own HD DVD attachment.
Blu-ray became much more successful and this has been one of the key arguments in favor of the PlayStation 3 ever since its launch. It’s true that Sony took a huge gamble when they released the PS3 with Blu-ray, but it paid off with massive success and Blu-ray is now a common form of HD entertainment in most homes.
Bring your triple-A game!
The PS3 titles that were released in and around the console’s launch have caused a lot of controversy. Some of the exclusives were praised by fans. Games like Uncharted, Motorstorm and Resistance: Fall of Man became instant fan favorites. However, some of the PS3’s early exclusives like Haze and Lair generally failed and were heavily criticized.
Haze was very disappointing to most gamers, especially considering the hype around the game. This was something that Xbox fans really focused on in console rivalry arguments.
However, Sony fans could easily reverse this argument. There are a lot more PlayStation 3 exclusives than 360 exclusives and this is a fact that is hard to argue against. The Xbox 360 only had a few quality exclusives, and only some of those were successful. Gears of War, Halo, Fable, and Forza were definitely successful but there weren’t many other quality exclusives outside these familiar franchises that were argument ammunition.
PS3 fans made the argument that quality over quantity matters and the PS3 had both quality games and the quantity to back it up. And to counter, Xbox 360 fans would argue that not only was Xbox Live a superior service over the PlayStation Network which ran into a bit of trouble during an attack, but that also the 360 received better quality 3rd party games as developers were having trouble adapting to the new Cell technology in the PS3.
One of the more popular and recent examples was the difference between Skyrim on the Xbox 360 and Skyrim on the PS3. No matter the arguments, gaming comment threads no longer were places where gamers would go to offer constructive criticism, intelligent conversation, and useful information. The threads now became overwhelmed with trolls, immature arguments, and fanboys/fangirls of console systems.
No matter the case, the PS3 went from a gaming console with a target on its back, to a well respected system that provided gamers with an extensive library of 1st party titles and a bountiful number of new IPs like Heavy Rain, LittleBigPlanet, and Infamous.
Still to this day though, there is no exclusive game on the PS3 that can match the popularity of the blockbuster franchise that is the Halo series. On Xbox 360 alone there has been a Halo 3, Halo Wars, Halo 4, Halo ODST, Halo Reach and Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary all in one generation. Not to mention Halo movies, web series, comics, and merchandise.
Xbox 360 fans knew they had the power of Halo to back them up in arguments and the world new that Halo was Microsoft’s go-to franchise as the Xbox brand was popularized by Halo. Still, even with Xbox loyalist having Halo bragging rights, there was something that they could not compete with and it was something that made Sony standout in the long, heated rivalry. Mobile gaming.
Sony stands alone on this
The one thing that Sony has always had over Microsoft is mobile gaming. The first of which was the PlayStation Portable which released before the PlayStation 3. Microsoft has not had any type of portable gaming device in any of its console generations while Sony has had two.
The PlayStation Vita is Sony’s current handheld gaming device and although it is not selling as well as Sony had hoped, it is still without a doubt a very impressive piece of hardware with potential capabilities like remote play that will give PS Vita owners the potential benefit to play PS4 games on the go. In the coming generation, this could potentially be a huge selling point.
Now, going into the next generation it seems pretty one sided at the moment. With a vast amount of PlayStation 4 information being pushed throughout the internet, gamers are now more than ever realizing the next-gen is soon upon us and are brimming with excitement.
The support for the PlayStation 4 has been resounding compared to the support for the Xbox One. This is mainly due to the lower price point, the fact that the Xbox One was first announced as requiring internet access and the fact that the Xbox One requires a Kinect.
Although Microsoft has changed their policies, a lot of gamers still remain jaded and skeptical of Xbox One. As for exclusive games, both sides have had great games announced. The PlayStation 4 will be getting another Killzone, another Infamous as well as some new IPs that we have yet to get details on. The Xbox One has a new Halo game in the works as well as another great looking Forza game and a handful of new IPs.
Online multiplayer is looking to evolve in ways that may not yet be appreciated and fully understood and Sony is hard at work trying to provide an online service that could surpass Xbox Live’s popularity. Meanwhile, Microsoft is busy touting the Xbox One as an all-around entertainment device to provide all your needs and feverishly at work building upon the legacy of Xbox Live.
Despite current fan opinions, both consoles have yet to be released and only time will tell what is to come of the future PlayStation vs. Xbox rivalry. One thing for certain though is that the new generation PlayStation 4 and Xbox One will bring forth a console war on an entirely new level.
Fanboys and Fangirls will continue to wage war for many years to come and once again we will have a rivalry that will provide gamers with plenty of entertainment, a new generation of trolls, and some incredibly fond memories.
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