It's About the Games, Remember?

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We've got them at the office, but I don't have a Wii or a PlayStation 3 to call my own yet. I'd like to get a Wii before the year is out so I could play more Trauma Center, Zelda, and Virtual Console games on my own time. Having played through Resistance: Fall of Man already, I'm in no immediate hurry to get a PlayStation 3. Around the time of the launches, people kept asking which one they should get; now it's become fairly clear that the Wii is in the lead, in the short run, though this was easy to predict based purely on the supply estimates, the pricing, and on the Wii having a Zelda game at launch. But the best choice of console this year is the Xbox 360, or if you're on a tighter budget, the DS Lite. At this point I'd rather have my Xbox 360 not just more than any other game system available, but more than every other game system available, combined.

It'll be interesting to see what happens one or two years down the line. Certainly, the momentum that these consoles pick up or lose in the short run will influence where they wind up over the long run. But there are other factors. Right now, nothing in the PlayStation 3's lineup looks nearly as good as Gears of War on the Xbox 360. But that's not an entirely fair comparison, given that the Xbox 360 has had a year to come into its own. Compare the PS3 launch titles against the Xbox 360 launch titles from a year ago, and then the relative technical advantages of the PS3 begin to stand out. So the question becomes, will the PS3's graphical muscle let it accelerate past the Xbox 360 during the next year or two, as developers begin to tap into more of its power and get more time to deliver better games? Or will it be a case of too little, too late? The Xbox was graphically superior to the PlayStation 2 straight out of the gate, but never came close to selling as many consoles.

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if the Wii truly has "legs" to keep it going strong for several holiday seasons past this one. I can appreciate Nintendo's graphics-aren't-important approach, but in another year or two when Gears of War-quality graphics are the standard, will the Wii's technical limitations become a major inadequacy, or will most people still not care? For my part, having played some good Wii games and some bad ones, I remain skeptical of the system's long-term prospects. The control scheme is different from the standard, but I'm a long way away from wanting to call it better.

I know people who are so into video games and collecting video games that they automatically buy every new console as soon as it comes out. I've never been one of those people. I never bought a 3DO, I never bought an Atari Jaguar, and I only bought a NeoGeo once Samurai Shodown came out. I didn't buy a GameCube, PlayStation 2, or Xbox until months after those systems launched. On the other hand, I bought systems like the SNES, the PlayStation, and the Dreamcast on day one. It's always been about the games for me, and that's why I think the Xbox 360 is the real no-brainer right now. It proved itself earlier this year with Oblivion, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, Fight Night Round 3, and others, and it's only gotten better. Meanwhile, the dust is settling on the launches of the other guys, and as far as I'm concerned, they both have a lot left to prove.

Next year, I'd be willing to bet they're going to prove it. They have to. Some people are talking like this race is over; Sony's in last place, the other two guys are close. But it's only just beginning.

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