Following Kevin's article on how to scrimp and save your way through the next generation of gaming consoles by carefully analysing each and only buying one, this article is the exact opposite.
So, you're buying two. Maybe you're even buying three. You've got the cash, you want to spend it, and you love games. But which console should you be picking up first? Which second? Which, if you're getting a third, should be last? Hopefully, with this I'll help you to answer all these questions and shed some light on just what the difference is between each of the big three's Next-Gen offerings. If you're only buying one console, though, don't stop reading - this could help you decide which.
Area 1 - Games & Features
Well, buying a videogame console, I'd say this is by far the most important factor that you should be considering when you're looking to buy a console.
I highly doubt I'd need to inform anybody reading this article just what to expect from each of the consoles - The Xbox 360's library will be stuffed with Western-designed games, choc full of FPS games and Racing games, followed up with a few Western-style RPGs like Oblivion and Fable. Meanwhile, the PS3 will be backed by huge Japanese developers like Square Enix launching flagship titles such as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest on the console with other huge Japanese Series such as Metal Gear Solid and Devil May Cry beefing up the collection of titles. The focus for any Wii purchaser is more than likely to be Nintendo's first party titles, with the likes of Super Mario Galaxy, Excite Truck and of course The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess to look forward to. Initial third party support for the Wii is also much better than expected, with Ubisoft releasing seven titles in the launch period, and Sega pledging several series, including Sonic to the console.
For once, I think in the consoles there is a definite split in the types of content available on each console. While the likes of EA will continue to churn out every game they make for every bloody console, generally, there is a bit of a difference between each.
Nintendo is heading in a similar direction with the Wii that they were headed in with the DS, a wise decision looking at the critical and financial success of the DS. The console will offer a multitude of titles for all ages and for both sexes, with a focus on making gaming fun once more, with many games that can be picked up and played for a few minutes at a time. The layout of the Wii WiFi system is set to mimic that of the DS one, showing that Nintendo is interested in an online community that provides safety over functionality, choosing to ditch the advanced features of Xbox Live and other aspects such as universal friends lists in favour of a safer, cleaner system. The Wii's technical specifications still remain shrouded in mystery, and screenshots of games show mixed quality, so nobody knows just what the Wii is capable of. What is certain from Nintendo's statements regarding graphics is that Wii is in no way focused on graphics, and so will be the weakest of the three consoles in this sense.
The Virtual Console is the Wii's big hitter. If any particular aspect of the Wii will just do that little bit extra to drive sales up by a big amount, this is it. Like the Xbox Live Arcade, this allows users to download NES, SNES, N64 and Genesis games to the Wii's Flash Memory and play them on an emulator. This essentially gives the Wii a game library of thousands - and thousands of those thousands are some of the best games ever made. To me, this is a console seller. I would probably buy a console that did this all on it's own.
Of course, the Wii controller adds a whole new aspect to deciding whether to make it your main console or not. Are you prepared to play the majority of your games with the motion sensitive Wiimote? Right now, I love the concept, but I do wonder if it will be like other specialist controllers like Donkey Konga and Guitar Hero - best at parties and not at home. Other features of the Wii are unknown except for Backwards Compatible Gamecube support - though more information will assumedly become available when we have a release date.
Meanwhile Microsoft is aiming at the hardcore gamer, offering a superb online service that allows for competition on the highest level. With Xbox Live and all the different services it entails, Microsoft has sucked a lot of gamers into buying their console, including the one writing this article! The Xbox Live Marketplace allows users to download everything from game demos to trailers for games and movies, music videos and music tracks right up to new content for games you already own, while the Achievement system allows users to show off just how far or just how good they are at a game by looking at their number of GamerPoints - adding even more competition amongst users. The High-Definition support was worthwhile for me, owning a HDTV, and games do look stunning on it. The Xbox 360 is the "middle" console this generation - not far off the power of the PS3, but marginally less powerful.
The Xbox Live Arcade started off slowly, but is rapidly looking like Microsoft's answer to Nintendo's Virtual Console. Instead of old, emulated titles, though, the Live Arcade offers a selection of all new titles, such as Geometry Wars and Cloning Clyde as well as remade classics like Street Fighter 2 and Pac Man, edited and updated with online support.
Meanwhile, their release schedule speaks volumes about the types of games Microsoft has on offer - First Person Shooters, Adventure Games, Racing games, and occasionally, as mentioned earlier, a Western RPG like Fable. Microsoft is working to change this, though, with Mistwalker's Blue Dragon, created by Final Fantasy creator Sakaguchi on the horizon.
Sony continues to offer what they offered with their PS1 and PS2 - choice. From RPGs to FPS titles, to Adventures games and Sports games, Sony has a little bit of everything. Alright, some of is utter crap by some backstreet developer (the kind of game that's called "Tank Wars 3" and ends up in your local supermarket a month after release for 9.99), but on the whole Sony's console offers a massive selection to choose from, providing third party support is as strong for the PS3 as it was it's predecessor. If it isn't, we could see the choice disappear past EA's motto of "Release Everything." The PS3 is the most powerful of the three consoles, and while it won't begin to show until a year or more into it's release, PS3 titles will gradually begin to look marginally better than those on the Xbox 360.
Like the Wii, the motion sensitive controller that Sony have added to the PS3's... well, DualShock 3 (without the shock) is likely to change the way that you play games with the console. While it is a late addition to the rosta of the PS3's features and currently onlt one title set to be ready for the "launch period" is to use it, chances are it will become a staple feature of later PS2 titles, just as late PS1 titles used the rumble. It's also worth mentioning Sony's online service is set to mimic Xbox Live - but how well it will work, or how it will work at all remains to be seen. So far, Sony have only given a brief demonstration at E3 of how songs for their popular Singstar series would be downloaded to the console, but right now all looks promising for a service with just as much depth as Xbox Live. Achievements have become "Entitlements" on Sony's console, and the interface the PS3 uses is very similar to that used by the PSP.
When it comes down to games, it's really up to the individual and what you enjoy playing. Which of the above fits you best?
For me, I just dig the scope of the Xbox Live service and the Xbox Live Arcade. However, I'll also be online in Smash Bros despite disliking the Friends Code system, and I'll be downloading from the Virtual Console like the nostalgic git I am. Online interaction is a big part of gaming for me, and because of that it's important my next-gen console has good online support. I'm still sceptical of Sony's online plan - Xbox Live has me sold, and Nintendo's exclusive series like Starfox and |Metroid, coupled with the virtual console, have me sold. Sony still have to prove their worth to me this generation.
Area 2 - Cosmetics
In the Blue Corner, at 13.5 inches high and 3.25 inches wide, it's Sony's Playstation 3!
IIIn the Red Corner, weighing slightly lighter and slightly smaller at 12 inches high and 3 inches wide, it's Microsoft's Xbox 360!
Outside the Ring, because he's too damn small to even get in, just the size of three regular DVD cases stacked together, it's the Nintendo Wii!
...and that, ladies and gentlemen, just about sums it up. The PS3 hides it's size behind sleek black and grey curves and shiny surfaces, while the Xbox 360, despite being slightly smaller, also hides it's true size with it's concave shape. The Wii, however, is god damn small. Personally, I think all three consoles look great from a cosmetic point of view - the only issue is size. And that, I leave up to you, as unfortunately I can't predict how each console'd fit into your entertainment setup.
For me, size isn't really a problem at all.
Area 3 - Price
Despite the fact that this article is geared at people who want to buy more than one console, or perhaps who want to spend a bit more than those who the Cheapskates article, Price is still a deciding factor for anybody who isn't a multi-millionaire.
For example, are you buying an Xbox 360 or PS3? If so, do you have a HDTV? If not, do you intend to buy one to get the full experience? Each and every console will have extra purchases behind it in the future that only add to the cost. Classic Wii controller shells will set you back extra money, as will things like 360 faceplates, Xbox Live Subscriptions and flash memory cards for use with your PS3 or Wii.
The most expensive is the PS3. For the full PS3 experience with support for High Definition output, support for SD cards, and a 60gigabyte hard disk, you'll have to shell out a huge $599/£425.
The Xbox 360 has two packs available, but for the fully intended Xbox 360 experience, you will have to pay out xxyy for the Premium pack.
By far and large the cheapest console will be the Nintendo Wii. While there is no official price at this moment, the rumoured price is currently at a low $250. All indications currently suggest the console will indeed launch at around this price, an extremely positive point for anybody looking to purchase more than one console.
Definitely, the argument some make about being able to buy an Xbox 360 and a Wii for the price of a PS3 is an interesting and valid one. Just how big is your budget, and could you really afford to buy a PS3 and an Xbox 360? The choice and budget range once again is a personal one that's going to vary from person to person, but I have a feeling that many people will sacrifice the purchase of a Wii and/or 360 in order to get their hands on the powerhouse that is the PS3.
Area 4 - In Conclusion
Of course, gaming is a very changeable industry climate. For example, Sony's Playstation 2 has a huge amount of titles released for it thanks to its phenomenal success, and right now most analysts are expecting the Playstation 3 to receive the same support. However, should the console face a difficult launch thanks to the high price point next to its competitors, this support may well shrink considerably. Likewise, the general assumption at the moment is that the Wii will appeal to a similar audience and receive similar widespread success and critical acclaim as its handheld brother the DS. This is in no way certain to happen, and if it does could reduce the chances of the Wii seeing better third party support than the Gamecube, which suffered greatly as a result.
All in all, it's down to the individual person. As this article has stated, there are a number of facts to consider, and I hope this article has helped to highlight them and point out how each console excels in it's own specific areas. For once, there is no clear console that is the most powerful (In the previous generation, the Xbox), and no clear console that is only being sold to a niche audience (Gamecube). For once, all the consoles are fairly equal overall, with no console set to be a clear market leader.
This makes choosing which system to purchase all the more difficult, but at the same time, it means that all three of the products on the market are extremely high quality and all worth owning. Which is always a good thing.