Its been two years since Microsoft launched the successor to its Xbox. The 360 was a technical marvel when launched and the most advanced piece of gaming equipment that money could buy. But that was nearly two years ago and in the gaming industry two years is an eternity. The gaming scenario today is completely different with entry of Sony's long awaited Playstation 3 and Nintendo's hot selling Wii. Of course one cannot ignore the influence of the constantly evolving PC. So does the Xbox still have what it takes to take on the new kids on the block? In this part I shall deal with only the PS3.

Just like in the last generation, the main rival for the new Xbox shall always be the PlayStation. The new PS3 was touted as being the re inventor of the wheel. Boasting a new state-of-the-art Cell processor, BluRay disc technology and a host of connectivity options, the PS3 was much more than just a gaming device, it was touted as the heart of media and entertainment in a household. On the face of it, the PS3 has the Xbox not only beaten but smashed.

The PS3 has more storage space (80gb vs 20 gb for the Xbox). It has a Cell processor with 7 cores (versus 3 for the Xbox). It has more USB connectivity than an Xbox. It can connect 7 controllers simultaneously whereas the Xbox can only link 4. It supports memory cards whereas the Xbox does not. The PS3 has the latest in optical storage by using Sony's next gen BluRay while the Xbox still sticks to the old dual layer DVD format even though HD-DVD is an optional extra. The PS3 has HDMI whereas the Xbox does not. The PS3 has Wifi built in while an Xbox owner has to buy the adapter separately. Also online gaming is free for the PS3 but a subscription based feature for the Xbox. So by just comparing the figures no one will doubt that the PS3 is a better deal even though it costs a lot more than the Xbox. But is it?

One should not forget that a console is about gaming. And hence, it is all about the games. Its only been a year since the PS3 has been around. As a result the games available for it feel half-baked. The launch title for the PS3, Resistance: Fall of Man, looks bland and boring compared to the Xbox's killer app, Gears of War. Gears of War is an astonishing testament to how good a game can look and feel and it has set the benchmark for years to come. It was all achieved because developers had one year to learn development for the Xbox. The same will happen for the PS3 this year with titles like Metal Gear Solid just around the corner. But will the PS3 games outshine their Xbox 360 counterparts in the long run. Microsoft's XNA studio provides developers a lot better environment to make games in. Also, given the fact that Xbox games can be far more easily ported to the PC than PS3 games make the former a better choice to make games for. Also, the PS3's fixed 256MB system memory and 256 MB graphics memory is nowhere near as flexible as the Xbox's 512MB unified memory architecture. On the graphics front as well the Xbox is more developer friendly with its 48 pipeline unified shader architecture. The Cell processor. The reason why the PS3 is called a mini super computer. Just 4 Cell processors would have more computing power than HP's SuperDome supercomputer which is the worlds 500th fastest computer. But the Cell is not easy to program for and its 7 SPEs are not suited for gaming applications. The Xbox with its 3 general purpose cores is far more suited towards gaming and is easier to write code for. So keeping these factors in mind, I do believe that PS3 games will continue to improve but so will games for the 360. In the long run I know we will see some outstanding games but I doubt if one console will be able to outdo the other. So, if in the long run there is no difference then what is the point of investing so much into developing a cutting edge processor that gives Sony no real edge?

Storage. Well its no doubt that the 54 gigs one BluRay disc can accommodate would literally swallow six 9 GB dual layer DVDs. But do we really need that much space for games. Over the past few years games have grown in size and complexity. As a result more space is required for storing the levels, the audio and the textures. But contrary to what you might believe, developers are learning to do more with less. Microsoft's XNA studio has tools which can help a developer more efficiently use a medium by removing reduntant data. Too see more on how large games have become over the years, Click Here. So, I think the Xbox can make do with the 9 GB of space on current dual layer DVD. Plus, by using cheaper DVD technology a game disc for a Xbox is cheaper than the BluRay game disc for a PS3. As for the question of watching HD movies is concerned PS3 do have an upper hand with their built in BluRay capabilities. But the HD format war has just started with HD and BluRay still trading punches. Its much too early right now to bank on one technology. Hence I believe that Microsoft have played it smart by staying away from this fight right now. It only provides HD-DVD as an add-on which is good business sense. Right now it hurts Sony to build every PS3 as the BluRay drive is expensive to produce. And with BluRay movies still to pick up pace, the drive is only used for BluRay game discs which could easily have been DVD in the first place. On the practicality front, I think Sony has lost this battle.

Online gaming is where today's gaming battleground is. Microsoft proved it long ago when it launched its Xbox Live service with the original Xbox. The 360 just raises the game to a whole new level and it is regarded as THE reason to buy an Xbox. By keeping the online gaming aspect of the Xbox under its control Microsoft has created a service that is coherent, consistent and as user friendly as it can be. Now with the Games for Windows Live initiative, Microsoft intends to unite PC and Xbox gamers for the first time ever. The only catch is it costs a mere $50 per year to subscribe which is pittance for a hardcore gamer. The PS3 has a lot of catching up to do. Online gaming is free on the PlayStation network but the responsibility of providing online gaming is left up to the developers. As a result this could provide a gaming environment not as coherent or consistent as Xbox Live. Again, in the long run, I believe, the Xbox wins this one as well.

In the end, I do believe that despite being loaded to the gills with super technology and looking as sexy as hell, the PS3 is not the console to have for this generation. It doesn't have the games (at least not yet) and even a few years on its games will not be the quantum leaps ahead of its Xbox counterparts as was purported by Sony. So why buy something so expensive when it has no real advantages over its rival. One might argue that the BluRay, larger hard disk, in built wifi, HDMI, and support for all sorts of cards and sticks. The next gen optical disc war has only just started and in the end a player which supports only one format will not be the way to go. As for HDMI and larger hard disk the Xbox has that covered with the elite version which is still cheaper than the 60 GB PS3. And as for support for memory sticks and cards, its just a gimmick and detracts from the real purpose of gaming. Wifi support you say? Well, the Xbox does offer a Wifi card as additional extra which would still work out cheaper (coupled with the cost of the console) than a PS3. I am not a Xbox fanboy. I always wanted a PS3 years before it was even launched. But when you think about it practically, an Xbox makes a whole lot more sense.


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