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PSN vs XBL: Why I Hate This Argument
This rant (yes, that’s what it is) will mostly be about the arguments that have sprung up (again) that pit the PlayStation Network against Xbox Live. Of course, this debate has been ignited once again thanks to the issues surrounding PSN (so yes, there will be a little relating to that in here as well). So this piece may be all over the place and disjointed, but try to stay with me.
Before anything, understand that the biggest mistake from Sony concerning this hacking situation is their lack of straightforward and immediate communication. If they had kept their customers up to date (just yesterday, 4/27, did I receive my first email concerning the problems) and didn’t semi-hide the issues over personal information, they might have come out with a much better image than they’re currently sporting.
But that’s not what this article is really about. I get severely annoyed by the arguments (ahem, Godfree) over whether PSN or XBL is better. Are they comparable services? Yes. Are they on the same level? Not in my opinion. And I’m not talking level as being better or worse than the other (I will attempt to explain this later on).
My two biggest arguments for why you shouldn’t (I don’t want to use can’t) compare them is the very fact that Microsoft and Sony both started this generation at a loss. What was our biggest complaint against the PS3? It cost too much. Sony was losing more money for longer on their system. From that perspective, it would be the equivalent of financial suicide to charge for their online service from the beginning, or even shortly after the PS3 launch.
Continuing on that tangent, XBL has a nearly 10 year (launched 2002) income base from subscriptions. It has been estimated that the first 2 months of XBL saw 250,000 gamers sign up. At $50 for a year subscription at the time (we’ll just generalize that all of them signed up for a year), that’s $12,500,000 (yeah, 12 and a half million dollars, which is no joke) in just two months. Of course, it’s expanded immensely since then. And let’s not forget, to play online with XBL you have to pay for it.
On the other side, while Sony did offer some kind of online service on PS2 it was kind of nonexistent. So we’ll just say that Sony’s online experience really started on the PS3, which means just past 5 years under their belt (little more than half the time MS has with XBL). Add to that, Sony didn’t start charging for the service until this past year & it’s not a required charge. It’s simply optional, so they don’t even have a regular income stream to expect from the service like MS does. Essentially they don’t have much money coming out of the service to put back into it.
Moving on from that, they offer mostly the same features (to my understanding because really, I don’t use much besides the fact that I can play my games online). The only big difference (besides the download times) is in the interface. And no matter how people argue it, that all comes down to personal preference. I actually prefer the set-up of the PS3 dashboard to the Xbox 360 one. The way I view my friends and the lack of numerous ads/notices is much more to my liking. I always use the guide button on the Xbox because I can’t stand going through that useless channel for friends on the dashboard and I have no interest in all those extra channels (games, video, etc). On the PS3, all of that stuff isn’t in my face or really in the way. So right there, personal preference. I admit I find the Xbox a little easier to navigate. But guess what? I’ve had an Xbox much longer than a PS3 so of course it’s easier for me to use. It’s all about familiarity.
If you feel it necessary to preach that XBL is much better, let me argue with different logic. Microsoft has been dealing with networks, software and operating systems for years. They have history in interfaces & ease of use (being hacked and security as well). What does Sony mostly work in? Cameras, computers (just the hardware people) and TVs/home entertainment (when we say home, we mean things like Blue Ray players). The history and experience of these two companies, regardless of what gaming systems they offer & compete with, are vastly different.
Finally, my short touch on the hacking PSN issue. Bottom line on this is that the XBL users have an illusion of security simply because we pay (and have been since the beginning) for our service. People are blowing it out of proportion. Have we not had several prominent figures of the Xbox team have their accounts (aka their personal information) hacked? Yes, the scale is different. But the fact remains that hackers have and likely will continue to get into XBL and steal our own “sensitive” information (either one by one or in groups is irrelevant. A stolen identity is a stolen identity and it sucks).
While it’s not anything I can explain (because I don’t understand more than the basics myself), I don’t feel that XBL has any greater resistance to hackers than PSN. While their work in systems and networks affords them a better view of what it means to be hacked (I’m sure it’s happened many times before) & how to counteract that, they really just have the benefit of proper preparation (bet they’re adding in more security measures as a response to this PSN stuff). But if hackers wanted to hack it, they would.
That may have been Sony’s problem; yes, this should have never happened in the first place. But really, who would have really thought that Sony would be worth the trouble to hack? Microsoft seems like such a better target with all those subscribers, most of whom likely have all that nice credit card info sitting on their accounts. But as I’ve been reminded, Microsoft created Live with the intent for it to be what it is. Sony made PSN (or more than likely hired another company to create it for them) to have a means of offering more (via digital download) and maybe making some extra cash off of it (regardless of what they or we may say, it was never meant to be direct competition for XBL. If it was, it wouldn’t have been free for so long, if at all). Their intent and the level they currently exist at are so different, it’s silly for people to compare over which is better.
However, I think the greatest differences between XBL & PSN are the number of active users and ultimately the familiarity of those users with the interface. It doesn’t necessarily make one better than the other, regardless of whether you pay for it or not.
At this point (not knowing what Sony is going to do with PSN), I would suggest hoarding money between now and the launch of the PS4 (or whatever) to give the entire thing an upgrade then. They could upgrade it now and I’m sure that may help them improve their image a bit. But as a user, I don’t have too much issue with the current interface they use, so I’d rather they wait and give me something good later instead of a half-way done thing now. (If the upgrade brought PSN to the same level as XBL, to really compete with it, I might even be convinced to pay for it.)
So do me a favor and stop wasting time trying to compare them. It’s like comparing….you know what, let’s not go there.