Everyone I know that owns all three of the current generation systems favors their 360, myself included. I can’t tell you why everyone I know shows this favoritism, but I can tell you why I do it. First of all, most of my friends are on Xbox Live. Most people that I know that game seriously either have a 360 and a Wii, or just a 360, very few have just a PS3 (sorry Noah). Second, the 360 has the best user interface. Everything about it, from connecting with friends to buying downloadable games is easier on Xbox.
I’ve brought up the second point before online and inadvertently ignited a fiery passion inside some readers. “Nothing is simpler than the PS3 interface! It’s just one bar!” Wrong! Find a non-gaming relative, spouse or significant other and sit them in front of both systems. Then give them a couple of tasks like downloading a game demo, watching a DVD or starting a game. I bet you 9 out 10 times they’ll figure it out faster on the 360. The PS3 is clumsy and stuffed with menus. The PSN store is organized in the most illogical way, and the constant forever-long updates and installs will kill your desire to turn the thing on. My wife hates using the PS3. Every time she wants to watch a movie, or the rare times when she wants to play a game, there’s almost always an update or install that impedes her progress.
I don’t hate the PS3 or Sony (I do own a PS3, a PS2, a PSP, and a Sony Bravia TV after all); I’m just disappointed in them. They want to be the all-in-one media center in my living room, but they have the interface that only a tech/gaming enthusiast could love.
I’m no UI designer, so I’m not sure how to fix a lot of their problems, though I will say that forcing people to look through alphabetized lists on the PSN store is a terrible way to help them find what’s new. Sony needs a UI expert, someone that can make an interface that’s easy on the eyes and easy to understand. Someone that can turn their store around and make it a nice place to shop. Sony needs…Valve.
If you follow games at all (and if you’ve read this far, I’ll assume you do), then you might know that if you buy Valve’s Portal 2 for PS3 when it comes out you’ll also get a copy of the game for PC or Mac as well via Steam, Valve’s iTunes-like game store. This is a brilliant move for both companies. It makes buying Portal 2 on the PS3 the best option, and it might get a few more console gamers interested in what Valve’s doing in the computer gaming world. If you’ve never checked out Steam before, you’re missing out. It’s an amazing store with tons of deals. I’ve never been much of a PC gamer, and I’m still not huge into it, but Steam has sold me on a number of games over the years just because of how easy it is to download and play them. The store is easy to navigate, it’s packed with information, always has good deals, and best of all, supports Steam Cloud—a system that puts your game saves in the cloud so you can pick up your last play session from any computer that can run the game you’re playing.
I think Sony should reach deep into their buckets of money and have Valve handle their user interface and online store. I know this would never happen, but wouldn’t it be great if it did? Imagine if the PSN store was replaced by Playstation Steam. I bet Valve makes millions every year just off the impulse buys from all their great deals. If Sony could emulate their classic PSone and PS2 games and put them on Playstation Steam, they’d make tons of money. Steam makes buying games easy; it effortlessly parts you from your money. I’m sure Valve could come up with a UI suitable for console gamers, and I’m also sure no one would complain about having a better system, not to mention the ability to save games in the cloud (a feature I hope will be standard in the next generation of consoles).
This crazy Valve-takeover is never, ever going to happen though. The 360 is a Western console, set up with menus and visuals that appeal and make sense to Western gamers. I bet there are Japanese gamers who own all three systems that can’t stand the 360’s interface. I’m sure that’s part of the reason why the 360 doesn’t sell well over there. Sony has tried to make a menu system and store that appeals to everyone and it doesn’t work, at least not for me. But I guess you gotta give them credit for trying. Don’t worry PS3; you’ve still got Blu-Rays and Uncharted!