Current State of Console Gaming

by Mike Shea on 9 October 2003

The Xbox, Playstation 2, and Game Cube are excellent single player consoles for a great price and with many high quality hit games. All three consoles fail to deliver anything above what consoles had a few years ago except for DVD playback. Online gaming has failed. Online gaming will continue to fail until new consoles are released with built-in free online play and voice support. Graphics and sound will not be improved until systems include widescreen high definition playback and 5.1 channel Dolby Digital sound.

Of all three consoles, the most popular system is the Playstation 2. Sony has delivered over 50 million Playstation 2 consoles since its release. They have had dozens of hit games including Grand Theft Auto 3 and Grand Theft Auto Vice City, two exclusive hit games that have changed the industry. Games like SSX Tricky, Final Fantasy X, Virtua Fighter 4, and Tekken 4 have filled this system with excellent games both in graphics, sound, and gameplay. The controller is excellent, the built-in DVD player works out of the box, and the price is right.

While Everquest Online Adventures is a great step in the right direction for persistent massive online gaming, they fail because the networking hardware and the keyboard have to be purchased separately. Put these extra costs on top of the owners ISP and a monthly charge to play the game and you have a pricetag too high. Sony has gone backwards with games like Final Fantasy XI which comes installed on a 40 GB hard drive and costs $100 plus a monthly charge, a keyboard, ISP, and a network adapter. No one wants to pay $450 + $10 to $20 a month for a single game.

The Xbox has finally hit a critical mass of good games. The system is very advanced, the first to offer HDTV output even though most games don't support it. It has Dolby Digital 5.1 sound available in all games. The system is so advanced that Microsoft is taking a huge loss on every console sold. A cost they constantly try to make back with expensive accessories and their online taxing Microsoft Xbox Live system.

Games like Halo, Mech Assault, Morrowind, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, and Soul Calibur 2 are all excellent single player games. Anyone who has $180 for the system can pick up some excellent $20 games and have a great time, not to mention sticking it to Microsoft while they're at it. One big event is the release of the Grand Theft Auto Double Pack on Xbox. With this game in their library, there is no game on PS2 worth having that the Xbox does not.

The Xbox Live is the biggest scam in gaming ever produced. You already pay for an ISP. There are no servers hosting games like Mech Assault or Unreal Tournament. The network adapter is built into the Xbox. You pay $50 for a $5 headpone adapter and a possible $8 a month service fee for NOTHING. It is a tax Microsoft placed on us to pay for their over-engineered system they have to sell on the cheap to stay competitive.

Next generation consoles need to improve in two areas. They need to support high definition televisions and Dolby Digital in every game. They need to have built-in network adapters and voice capabilities with free online play or pay-per-game systems like Everquest. If they don't, there will be no major improvement in gaming for the next ten years.

Current consoles are cheap and offer an excellent selection of games for as low as $20. Once Grand Theft Auto comes out on Xbox, it is the better of the two systems. You cannot go wrong with either system, however, and at $200 each, many can afford to have both. If you can only afford one, my current recommendation is the Xbox without the Xbox Live adapter. If you don't care about online play and you don't have a fancy high definition television, the world is yours.

Send comments to mike@mikeshea.net or follow @mshea on Twitter. If you enjoyed this article, please bookmark and use this link to Amazon.com for your next online purchase.