The Prime Specimen
Most people would agree that the runaway success of the Wii would mark Nintendo as the winner in this round of the console wars and that the PS3 with its late launch, high initial cost and the PSN incident is the loser, but frankly I think the biggest loser of this round is actually myself and my fellow Xbots.
Now don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say, the Xbox 360 had a great run this generation and in the late stages actually took over the top sale slot for the consoles, so the 360 didn’t lose, but we the gamers who did. The first and most memorable step in this loss is of course the oft mocked Red Ring of Death (RRoD) which plagued many Xboxes, and while Microsoft did step in and extend warranties for consoles suffering RRoD, it was an issue that was “fixed” and found to be not so fixed in later hardware iterations. There was also the abandonment of backwards compatibility for original Xbox games via patching in favor of adding original Xbox titles to Xbox live as games on demand which in turn was itself quickly abandoned.
Then came the rather lame attempts to broaden the audience for the box with the introduction of Avatars as representations for the players that they could customize. They even tried expanding the appeal with unlockable outfits through Avatar awards that also acted as extra achievements for games. This was also promptly abandoned in favor of nickel and diming gamers into oblivion if they wanted to have more interesting options. These, however are more or less tolerable (though not necessarily excusable), as Microsoft did extend the warranties out to three years for the RRoD, the failure rate of the original Xbox wasn’t extraordinary so many of them still functioned and Avatars can be easily ignored.
The one thing that truly makes Xbots the losers of this generation is dashboard ads. We are subjected to advertising when we flip through to get to the zune marketplace or toward game downloads. We see promotions for movies,downloadable content, and games, some of which aren’t even available on Xbox (I’m looking at you World of Warcraft). And despite these ads, which I imagine bring in some revenue for Microsoft, we still have to pay $60 a year for the privilege of playing games online, something that PC and PS3 users can do by simply having an internet connection and something Wii users don’t really have to worry about. This even applies to the “amazing” additions to the dashboard like Youtube and Internet Explorer which are so clunky that it’s hard to see them as worthwhile incentives to pay for Gold. Xbox users lose a whole retail game’s worth of money a year just for the “privilege” of fully experiencing the games we buy on a box that, in the end, is never truly paid for.
All in all the PS3 may have lost in terms of sales, but even with all the trouble it’s been through it’s still not the biggest loser, we Xbots are.