My PlayStation is scheduled to hit my welcome mat on Friday!
I'm excited to finally get my hands on the updated controller, check out the UI, browse around PSN, and just get a feel for how Sony does things — I have barely touched a Sony console since buying the Original First OG Antique Xbox way, way back around the turn of the century. Caught up in KOTOR, Morrowind, and Jade Empire, I shoved my then-beloved PS2 aside and I've been pretty Xbox-centric ever since.
While I actually worked for a vendor on the Microsoft campus in Redmond at the time of the OG Xbox's release — I remember driving to work on 520 the week it launched, a massive green XBOX spotlight blazing Commissioner-Gordon-style just off the highway, and stealing a few minutes of 4-player death match Halo during a couple of work breaks — my decade-plus in the Microsoft console ecosystem hasn't been about brand loyalty or fanboyism, but simply a preference for Xbox's exclusive titles over Sony's, and Microsoft's leading of the charge on the internet-connected/broadband side of console gaming over the last couple of generations.
The OG Xbox, paired with Xbox Live, rocked my polygonal world in '02. Straight out of the gate I became thumb-blisteringly enamored with Climax’s MotoGP: Ultimate Racing Technology, the motorcycle-racing game included with the first XBox Live Starter Kit. It was right in my wheelhouse as a motorcycle enthusiast (and already a big fan of Valentino "The Doctor" Rossi and the entire MotoGP circus) and a racing-game fanatic. Without cheating (rampant back in those days), I climbed into the top couple hundred out of hundreds of thousands of players on Xbox Live’s MotoGP rankings. I worked an odd schedule, so I often raced against (or shot up, in Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon) a group of guys from the UK that I'd latched onto.
Yes, it's true. Back in the early days, before it was bombarded with foul-mouthed 12 year olds, Xbox Live was actually a viable place to benchrace and shoot the sh*t with like-minded gamers worldwide. I'd previously dabbled in a bit of EverQuest on the PC (chatting with text-only, no headset), but the ease with which Xbox Live connected me to such a massive network of gamers was really mindblowing back in the early aughts.
I had suffered in line overnight at Southcenter Target to buy the PlayStation 2, waiting through the kind of northwest November cold that invades your bone marrow and ducking the local wannabe gangbangers trolling the mall parking lot in their rolling neon subwoofers. I adored that system, but I was so impressed with the OG Xbox that I basically wrapped the power cord around the ol' PS2 and never touched it again, save for a few frustrating hours of Final Fantasy XII well into the 360/PS3 generation that made me wish I'd left well-enough alone.
The Xbox's broadband pipeline, ample hard disc drive, crisp graphics, and multimedia capabilities felt like next-gen stuff compared to the PS2. Really, they were next-gen stuff; the 360 and PS3 were built from ground up to fully integrate with all the broadband internet-based interactivity that the OG Xbox introduced and that we now take for granted.
Buying an Xbox 360 was a no-brainer for me back around the time of its launch. The PS3 was still a ways off, I was already an Xbox Live convert, and between Forza, Halo, and licensing agreements with Bethesda and BioWare, nearly all the games I could want were on Microsoft's new second console. I figured that at some point new Gran Turismo and Final Fantasy games would lure me to eventually buy a PlayStation 3 as well, but I fell helmet-over-heels for Forza 3, then the next Final Fantasy ended up being available for the 360 (and not spectacular anyways), and the early days of the Playstation Network seemed to be filled with horror stories ... or at least a lot of word-of-mouth disappointment.
Turns out I'm a multimedia mercenary. From a dedicated Nintendo kid in the '80s, having made the leap over to PlayStation back in the '90s, at the turn of the millennium I jumped over to Microsoft. I've pledged my allegiance to whichever console I thought offered me the best gaming experience at that time.
And now, with the release of both Sony's and Microsoft's new systems and the new generation of consoles upon us, I ... well, I ...
I honestly have no idea where I'm going.
Let me clarify. That PlayStation I’m expecting on Friday is a pre-loved PS3 that I bought cheap on eBay, mostly due to the fact that I'd already picked up the aforementioned Fanatec racing wheel in September. The Fanatec wheel happens to be 360/PS3/PC compatible, and I thought it would be cool to snag a copy of the impending carporntastic PS3 swan song Gran Turismo 6 next month.
Along those lines, I've absolutely loved having the steering wheel these last couple of months, but it appears the Fanatec wheel won't be compatible with either the Xbox One or the PS4. Too bad, because that would've made my next-gen console choice a lot easier; the thought of re-investing in another wheel/pedal rig is a non-starter. I think I still prefer Microsoft's theoretical future exclusives over Sony's, but the only meaningful (to me) console-exclusive title that is part of the current launch lineup is Forza 5 and I'm content to get by with Forza 4 and GT6 for a while and get my use out of the Fanatec setup rather than firing a shot in the dark and going for the Xbox One straight out of the gate. I'm going to bide my time and see which of these new consoles turns my crank once a few months (or more) of hardware and game reviews are available. It's also worth noting that my schmancy steering wheel is always going to be PC-compatible, and that, in the words of our esteemed CEO Mr. Sean Sands in a recent GWJ Conference Call, "PC gaming is kinda badass right now." So, despite being a console gamer at heart, maybe I need to think about bagging the consoles altogether and ponying up for a gaming PC.
I just don't know.
I’m going to sit back and let the two bullies in the schoolyard have it out. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to doing a bit of Sony "research" on my brand-spankin’-used PS3 so I can see what the other side has been up to for the last 7 years. Rumor has it Journey and Uncharted 2 are worth a look, eh?