Doug Thompson

I haven’t written about the game console war for months. The holidays are approaching, however, so let’s check in.
The Nintendo Wii sold more units last week than it did the same time last year. Those supply problems — real or created — are better.
The Microsoft Xbox 360 is also selling better than it was this time last year. I presume that’s because Microsoft dropped the price. Fixing overheating problems probably didn’t hurt either. There are even reports on Joystiq, a credible if fun-loving gaming site, that the new “Jasper” chipset is out among the latest deliveries. That should make the box more reliable.
The Sony PlayStation 3, unfortunately, was already trailing the pack and is not selling as well as it did this time last year. In fact, sales are about 33 percent less than last year’s rate, according to VG Chartz. Chartz has its critics, but precise figures aren’t needed here to show that Sony’s machine’s hurting very badly.
Part of that must be because you can buy a high definition Blu-Ray movie player for less than a PS3 now. The built-in Blu-Ray player at a subsidized price was the best reason to buy a PS3 last year.
While the Wii remains the trendy item, I think the Xbox 360 is the best buy of the holiday season. I say that without owning one yet, but I’m looking very seriously at getting one next year.
I’d have to upgrade my computer at considerable expense to play some of the latest games out there – or buy an Xbox 360.
There’s no getting around the fact that the best game library is on the Microsoft box. True, many of them are not the family oriented, family friendly and fun fluff of the Wii. Still, the selection is getting hard to ignore.
Even if you don’t care for the intense shooter category — the main dish of “serious” games — there’s Forza 2 Motorsport, the offbeat, downloadable “Braid,” Sid Meier’s “Civilization Revolution,” the expansive fantasies “Oblivion” and “Fable II”.
And if you like violent shooters, dive right in: “Dead Space,” “Gears of War” I and II, “Halo 3” and on and on.
The “arcade” 360 version is very cheap, but you’ll have to add a hard drive later and Internet connections. You need the hard drive to save games and you’ll need the hard drive and Internet connection to download some worthwhile stuff, including games from the old Xbox lineup. Ask about the cost of the whole package before buying.
The Wii doesn’t get respect from people who like to call themselves “real gamers.” I can’t see where that’s bothered anybody. As an old PC grognard, I could huff that anybody who plays a game where he’s flying a fighter and can’t choose his own prop pitch and magneto settings isn’t a real gamer. People would ignore me, too.
The great games on the Xbox 360 are intense, time-consuming affairs. Commitment’s required. “Oblivion,” for instance, is a masterpiece. I recognize it as such and I have it on my PC. I’ve never finished a game, however. I really don’t want to spend somewhere upwards of 40 hours killing demons and exploring a truly vast landscape. I’ll spend that much time and more conquering the world at the head of make-believe armies. It’s a matter of taste.
There’s good fun to be had on the Wii. For instance, there’s “Okami,” which is the only game so beautiful that I enjoy just sitting by and watching somebody else play it. “World of Goo,” which can be downloaded over an Internet connection for $15, is a hoot. The library of old Nintendo and Sega games available for downloading online gets better all the time.
By the way, Nintendo doesn’t charge you extra for the capability to hook up to your home wireless Internet. That comes built in.
The Wii is not as powerful a piece of hardware as the Xbox 360. This means that big, huge, expansive and detailed games are going to the Xbox 360. The PS3 hasn’t reaped the advantage of its even greater superiority in hardware, however. The costs of developing a game that fully utilizes that power is too immense, apparently.

Categories: Features