The Great Platform Debate... - subsaint Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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The Great Platform Debate...

I always love the blogs or forum threads that debate the superior platform. They tend to start off unbiased and you think you’re going to read an impartial piece, but by the midway point the praise (or criticisms) of one platform start coming out and you quickly realize you were suckered in again. It really is just more of the same.

 

 

Well, hopefully you don’t get that impression from this blog; I promise you I’m not going to take that approach, so if you’re thinking, “here we go again” – we’re not. I can “promise” this, because…well for one…it’s really impossible to say which is better and why (because it’s purely objective) and two, because I don’t believe we should be debating the subject anyway. We should be embracing it.

 

Just to lay out the whole “platform debate” though…let me clarify a few points, which will be rather obvious to most gamers, but just to make sure everyone is one the same page.

 

The debate revolves around which platform is the “best” to game on…

 

 

It’s widely accepted that the term "platforms" consist of PCs and consoles.

 

While I am a PC Gamer by nature (my preferred platform) I am more than willing to acknowledge that PCs are not the most popular (not even close – sales statistics prove this) platform; they are admittedly difficult for developers to produce games for (because of the varying standards and specifications); and their prominence is (arguably) on the decline.

 

I don’t think we will ever see the PC be retired as a gaming platform, but I do think there are a number of developers who wished that it would. The truth is, games on the consoles are developed on PCs, and as long as there is software packages available that can produce video games, then the PC will be a potential platform. It might be an independent effort, but it won’t ever disappear. Most gamers, myself included, who consider themselves PC Gamers have also given in to the popularity of the console and have one of those as well.

 

 

Regardless, you can’t really debate whether the PC is best or not, because the statistics show that more people play consoles.

 

So, on to the consoles, of which there are three main entrants – the Wii, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

 

Well, right away most will recognize the Wii as the odd console out. The Wii isn’t just a kiddie console, but clearly the target audience is different. The Wii is actually able to market to a totally different demographic than the other 2, which reflects in the number of sales Nintendo can boast. Additionally, the games on the Wii are normally of a different flavor than some of those offered on the other 2. That being said, the debate really comes down to the Playstation 3 vs. Xbox 360.

 

 

But like I promised, this is a matchup that shouldn’t be waged…and here’s why…

 

We need them all. They each serve a purpose and provide a function to the gaming community, a community which is clearly large enough to embrace, support and fund all of them.

 

Hang in there with me for just a second longer and I’ll explain…but let me first discuss a few advantages and disadvantages for having multiple platforms to choose from. We’ll get the bad news out of the way first.

 

Disadvantages for having multiple gaming platforms:


1.  Exclusives – everyone should recognize this as a disadvantage. Most gamers have either the Xbox 360 or the Playstation3. If you’re like me and have an Xbox 360, you enjoy games like Halo or Gears of War. If you have a Playstation 3, you enjoy games like Uncharted or God of War. It can be frustrating for gamers, especially in this economy where owning both consoles is cost prohibitive, to watch some really good games be released that you’ll never get the pleasure of playing (unless of course you count going to Best Buy or Gamestop and playing them on the floor models).

 

 

2. Product Development – this is similar to exclusives, but different in that the final product will eventually be released to each platform. The problem (or disadvantage) this lends to is, content release is often negotiated on one particular platform by the highest bidder, or worse, the same amount of attention or funding isn’t provided to each platform. An example is the Modern Warfare 2 downloadable content, which was released on the Xbox 360 well before the Playstation 3. Another example is console versions of titles being ported to the PC instead of taking advantage of the capabilities the PC offers with a custom built version. Let’s not forget that Halo was originally slated to be a PC game long before Microsoft secured it to be their Xbox crown jewel.

 

 

3. Split Gaming Community – another obvious disadvantage is that multiple platforms results in a split gaming community – your friends, colleagues, co-workers, associates and/or even virtual friends will invariably be on the opposite console that you own. I don’t know why that always seems to happen, but it seems to. You meet a fellow gamer…start talking games…go to exchange your Gamer Tag only to find out they have a PSN Online ID. While I think one day “cross-platforming” will be a reality…it’s not here yet.

 

 

These disadvantages lead to a behavior that I describe as segregation, though that sounds much more severe than what it is. It’s the component in my mind that often fuels the whole debate in the first place, because it pits ownership of one console over the other.

 

Advantages for having multiple gaming platforms:

 

1. Pricing – having multiple platforms is extremely important in the pricing model, not just for the platforms but also on the individual games. If there was one universal platform, then the manufactures could charge whatever they want and you either pay it or you don’t…which means you either own a system or you don’t. If you don’t believe this, think about every time price fluctuations occur on one console and how it is countered by the other. So, if you hate the Xbox 360 (or Playstation 3) and you meet someone who has one of these systems, you should thank them for driving the price of your console down. I know that is slightly exaggerated, but if there is ever only “one” option for anything…then you don’t have much control over pricing.

 

 

2. Availability – when I purchased my Xbox 360, it was the day of release; there were limited quantities; and I was in line hours and hours in advance. It took me nearly a year after release to get a Wii when it came out. Imagine if you will - one console. Not only would obtaining one be a challenge, especially anytime a new model came out, the same shortages would carry over if everyone was vying for the same games when new releases came out. Sure, if Gamestop only had one console to cater to, they could dedicate more shelf space to one particular title, but that doesn’t mean the day of release everyone is going to be able to get a copy. That whole law of supply and demand.

 

 

3. Forced Modernization – that’s kind of a fancy term to say that if there were only one console, we are at the mercy of the developers to update, upgrade and/or modernize the system. As it is now, the rivalry between the consoles leads to the companies offering new bigger and better features or copying the success of their contender. Probably the biggest example of this is the motion controller introduced by the Wii and now copied by both the Playstation and Xbox 360. This technology was dismissed (almost “laughed at”) by Microsoft and Sony until they witnessed how successful it was. It was a huge hit. And now, we have the Move and Natal on the horizon. The rivalry between the consoles promotes the evolution and growth of the console to be the biggest baddest machine on the street. If there were only one, then this single developer decides everything.

 

 

These advantages lead to a behavior of competition. Competition is what influences pricing, availability and modernization. Having a number of consoles competing for our dollars benefits us all, no matter which console you choose. It’s as simple as that.

 

In my opinion, there shouldn’t be a debate about which console is better and why. Not because neither is perfect or because one is better than the other but because we need them all since they each serve a purpose, provide a function or supply the gaming community with diverse options that in the end result in all of us receiving a benefit of some kind.

 

 

But hey…what do I know? I’m just a gamer.

 

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