January 6, 2001
10:55 PM   Subscribe

Any console gamers out there thinking about getting an X-box instead of a PS2? Which system has a brighter future?
posted by thirteen (43 comments total)
Correct answer... The PS2.
posted by thirteen at 11:05 PM on January 6, 2001

For anyone interested in raw specifications, Here you go.

posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:13 PM on January 6, 2001

Yes, but will it run character mode 'hack'?
posted by muppetboy at 11:55 PM on January 6, 2001

posted by hobbes at 12:17 AM on January 7, 2001

If you want to consider the history of the video game industry seriously, the only time a succesful system's succesor dominated the market was the Super Nintendo. First, Atari reigned and eventually bombed the market. Nintendo brought in the NES, and continued their success with the Super Nintendo. Sega's future has been topsy-turvy ever since the 32X add-on for the Genesis. Sony surprised the industry with their first PlayStation... But will they really be able to succeed this time around?

In the end, which ever system receives the best third-party support and gets the games that everybody wants to buy succeeds. In which case, it's all a matter of which big gaming titles are released onto which system... Some developers are saying the PlayStation 2 is more difficult to program on because it has dual-processors (which was the Sega Saturn's main flaw)... The X-box (althought from Microsoft) is receiving a lot of development from some big companies like Square Soft (Final Fantasy) and Konami (Metal Gear Solid). Computer game developers are also interested in it since it is incredibly easy to port over to. Microsoft is also putting more $$ into advertising then any other gaming company has for their X-box.

This industry has never been predictable. You may consider myself nuts, but I would keep an open mind, open ear, and open eye out for the X-box.
posted by crog at 12:25 AM on January 7, 2001

It seems to me that the general power available is (more or less) evening out, and the same important games are becoming available on any platform you choose. I think the PS2 has the advantage with it's backward compatability, and general goodwill towards the company.

The thing I am not so sure about, is how important networking these systems will be to their success. I don't see kids getting too excited about it, unless there is a forum that they can dial into to play against a large pool of talent. That is easily accomplished with a cpu, but less intuitive with a game system. Maybe I just need a paradigm shift.
posted by thirteen at 12:50 AM on January 7, 2001

While you wait for an X-box or PS2, I very highly recommend a Sega Dreamcast. It has served me well.
posted by swank6 at 1:04 AM on January 7, 2001

Start gratuitous Microsoft dig--- Do you think the reason the specs on the xbox are so great is that it will suffer from the same bloat ware problem as most MS products and need the hardware to match the performance of the competition?---End gratuitous Microsoft dig
posted by cburton at 2:25 AM on January 7, 2001

I want a PS2, but I thought it best to wait until the X-box and Gamecube are released. Sony is losing money on the hardware anyway, I figure they'll come down in price to become more attractive.
I was concerned about availability of good games for the PS2-but when you compare early PSX games to those produced now, you can see that once the learning curve is over great things can be done.
MS looks like its making some smart moves with the X-Box,
making it developer-friendly and buying/lining up some decent developers. However, I'd rather take a chance with hardware that been out for awhile than with something new and unproven.
posted by black8 at 3:35 AM on January 7, 2001

The FUD about the PS2 being difficult to develop for has been coming from inexperienced software houses. The crew doing Black & White have had no such difficulties and a few others have also spoken up about this not being a real issue.

There is a huge fan base of PS owners that are looking forward to the sequels in long standing series like Twisted Metal and Final Fantasy. Sony has enough inertia to not worry much. The machine specs are nickpicking when it comes to what games you are loking to play.

Another overlooked point is that the video game industry has grown a lot. It can support a lot more platforms. I doubt any platform is going to really dominate anymore.
posted by john at 4:02 AM on January 7, 2001

I'm placing all my bets on Nintendo's Gamecube.

Despite the arguable failure of the Nintendo64, the machine undeniably brought us some amazing games (Zelda64 is, i think, perfection), the only thing that really hindered the N64 was its cartridge format and development costs. Now that they're moving on to their next console, their focus and direction seems to be dead spot on. Designing a system that would be 'easy' to develop on, and with an overall focus as a games machine and not a super-beefo-funny-shaped-box (ie: xbox and psx2). They seem very keen on winning back the big name developers and I think they will succeed. And Nintendo's genius in games creation has never withered... so again their inhouse creations alone would make the machine worthwhile.

Not convinced? Then let me present to you, aki's third law in Console Theory...

For a console to succeed and dominate its market, it must never, ever, be coloured black.

Oooh, says you. Yes indeedy. Sega's 8bit to 16bit days were all black (master system, megadrive/genesis, 32x) and all came a second to Nintendo's dominating grey/non-black consoles. Sega's Game Gear. Atari's Lynx and Jaguar. NEC's Turbographics.

And what happened when Nintendo foolishly went with a black design for the Nintendo64? It was beaten out by the very grey Sony Playstation. (And yet, the N64 started to do better commercially around the same time it came out in nonblack colours). Meanwhile, Dreamcast became the first non-black Sega console (surprise suprise, its grey!) and is deemed by many to be the best console they've ever put out.

Playstation2. X-box.
Both black.
Both doomed.
posted by aki at 6:36 AM on January 7, 2001

That's ridiculous. The Sega Genesis dominated quite well, thank you, until the SNES appeared.

And frankly, Sega's technology has *always* been superior to their competition. The Dreamcast is technically capable of putting out better graphics than a PS2 ever could. In the 8-bit days, the Master System could display more colors on the screen and a sharper image than the NES.

Sadly, their clear technical superiority has only won them the market once. With the Genesis. That was (and is) a terrific game system.

What are the first and second laws, by the way?
posted by Kikkoman at 7:24 AM on January 7, 2001

Technologically speaking, the Lynx outstripped anything on the market at the time, but it still failed. Beta's technologically superior to VHS, and miniDiscs superier to CDs in many ways. Unfortunately what's actually better has little or no bearing on consumer acceptance.

I'm not really concerned with a console system winning or losing, I absolutely love the fact that there are so many coming out and that they're staggering releases on a yearly basis or so.

By picking consoles up when the competition's NextGen box is released you can save yourself hundreds of dollars, and you don't have to worry about dropping money when there's only 20 Release games out there. By picking them up a year later you've got a wide variety of games to choose from.

I think that also explains why the N64 picked up when multiple colours came out - there was a drop in price at the same time to compete with the Dreamcast's release.

(Though I do really like the Never Black theory, that's quite good :-)

That being said, my prediction is that the XBox is going to dominate the next "generation" of consoles because there's already a zillion development houses coding for the Win32 kernel. Porting applications from PC to XBox and from XBox to PC will be far easier than from PSX to Dreamcast to N64 to PC and any other directions in that chain.

Kick-ass games make for a kick-ass system. I want a Dreamcast for Crazy Taxi, I want a PS2 for NHL2001 and Shenmue, and I bought my N64 for Mario64 (still easily one of the top 10 N64 games out there).
posted by cCranium at 8:31 AM on January 7, 2001

Not being terribly console-game-literate - but having a fifteen year old nephew whose Christmas and birthday lists have made me familiar with all the afore-mentioned products over the years - I'm curious about the role that connectivity via networking has in these coming implementations. I've read that Sony's PS2 networks, but only at significant additional cost and not-too-intuitive setting up of hardware, whereas one of Microsoft's main claims for the X-Box platform is that it will connect "out of the (X)-box". Hype from MSoft? And how important is connectivity in these systems?
posted by m.polo at 9:03 AM on January 7, 2001


i think you'll have better luck finding "shenmue" for dreamcast. ;)

but keeping with the topic here, it's not an either-or kind of situation...buy the console(s) with the games YOU wanna play...it matters not how many polys a console can push -- it's all in the gameplay...a truly great game stands on its own, console specs be damned!
posted by judomadonna at 9:14 AM on January 7, 2001

Often it's the case that a console will succeed on one killer game which introduces a memorable character, e.g. Mario or Sonic.

For the XBox, it appears that the character may be named Malice, a little girl with pigtails and a huge hammer. More on that game here. The screen shots look magnificent with unbelievable lighting effects.

There's also going to be an XBox version of OddWorld and the screen shots from it look spectacular, too. But "Abe" won't be an XBox icon because he's been on the PC for too long (and he ain't cute and cuddly).
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:49 AM on January 7, 2001

Yeah, that Malice character sure looks cute and cuddly. Not.
posted by kindall at 10:54 AM on January 7, 2001

I want a Playstation. The first one. Not even the released one for $99. I want a used PS 1 for $60 on eBay.
posted by thirdball at 11:16 AM on January 7, 2001

Well, I think it's intended to a mix of "cute and cuddly" and not so, as a bit of a satire of the cutesiness of some of the other comparable characters. The big hammer does indeed seem to be a bit incongruous, one must admit. Besides, the point is that the character be memorable, not necessarily cute and cuddly. And you must admit she's memorable. (Still, she's a lot cuter than "Abe".)

Of course, good graphics does not a good game make. But say what you will about Microsoft, the one thing everyone has to admit is that they are excellent marketers. They know that they're going to need a couple of killer games at intro which not only show off the full capabilities of the platform (including eye candy) but are also fun to play. I'm sure Microsoft is working hard with a few select developers to make sure there's a reasonable number of quite good games available at launch. Microsoft will be doing playtesting on them. (Someone posted a link here where MS is looking for playtesters for the XBox.)

I think they're going to handle this the way they handled their entry into the serious PC game market a few years back; their philosophy then was "Do it right" was more important than "Do it fast". The result was games like "Age of Empires" and "Close Combat", which were both critical and commercial successes. I think they'll do the same here; they know they really only have one chance to succeed at this and they don't intend to blow it.

Understand that I don't have any kind of axe to grind: I have never owned a console and don't intend to, and I lost interest in computer games about three years ago and really haven't played one seriously since then. I don't really care which platform becomes the leading one. I'm just judging by the fact that the technical highway is littered with the wrecks of companies who underestimated Microsoft. I'm quite certain Sony is not doing so. They've got 9 months to establish themselves as a market leader; if they haven't done it by then, XBox is going to eat them alive.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:29 AM on January 7, 2001

Six months ago I thought about waiting for the PS2. I got a Dreamcast instead, and damn am I glad I did. If you're in the market, I suggest getting a Dreamcast and then waiting for the Gamecube or the X-Box.
posted by lbergstr at 12:05 PM on January 7, 2001

to me, it doesn't matter. like with browsers and handhelds etc. i won't consider an xbox because i hate microsoft because of the shite job thev'e done with their os monopoly.

it's interesting to note that sega is positioning themselves as online console content providers - which may be the key to the future. just like microsoft ignorantly attacted netscape when their real enemies were AOL and yahoo - the content people - who are still kicking their ass in the online app and content areas - perhaps one day the console won't matter.
posted by alfredogarcia at 12:42 PM on January 7, 2001


friendly/familiar coding...
great developers...
great hardware...
$500 million for marketing...

PS2 has some good games and is definitely a good system, but once XBox comes out and game developers start coding games for all consoles, the XBox will probably be the first to get the newest games since porting to it will most likely be the easiest. PS2 will be a great system no doubt, but the XBox will definitely lead the pack.
posted by physics at 12:45 PM on January 7, 2001

The N64 was way ahead of the competition when it came out, so personally i want to see what their Gamecube can do before making any decision.
posted by Zool at 2:36 PM on January 7, 2001

XBox, as far as I've heard, will have a relatively open manufacturing standard. With anything Sony, you need to get approval from Sony not only to get a development kit, but to print CDs. In fact, Sony themselves has to do the burning; they add code at the beginning of CDs that unlocks the commercial console. Development consoles have this info built into the chipset; that's why developers can just upload games into the dev kit and test 'em.

From what I've heard about XBox, you won't have to do that crap. I'm pretty sure there are going to be some garage XBox games built by people who cobble together their own dev kits from parts off the shelf. Whether the stripped down Windows OS will be readily available, I'm not sure.

Sony has shot itself in the foot with the pathetic PS2 launch, a sign of overconfidence and arrogance on their part. I'm not too stoked with the way they've been treating lower-tier third-party developers either.

As for PS2 being tough to program, there is a bit of truth to that, but it mostly has to do with the ass-backwards system architecuture. The PS2 is, to quote the senior engine developers at my company, "an overglorified PS-X with more RAM and a fat graphics pipeline." The vector unit coding is a pain, and the thing has a tendency to do weird DMA chain shit.

I'm a bit sad that Sega isn't doing well, as their games have always struck me as more innovative and, over all, more fun. Space Channel 5 was excellent, and the bits of Jet Grind Radio I played were great. I hope that the company's software only stance for the future works, as their developers have some kind of beautiful, bizarre inspiration for their games.

Nintendo...feh. Gamecube will be anothe self-inflicted wound because of their asinine proprietary media. People shied away from developing for N64 because of Nintendo's manufacturing practice, ie you had to pay up front for manufacturing cartridges at fifteen bucks a pop with a minimum order of 50, 000 carts (I think). Someone in that company needs to stage a good, old-fashioned shogun-era coup and rub out Hiroshi Yamauchi. His autocratic stance has probably stifled that system's flourishing.

As much as Microsoft's arrogance annoys the living hell out of me, when they put their minds to it, they can do some cool shit. I dig their peripherals, and Age of Empires was great, though it wasn't developed in-house. I think XBox is going to ride roughshod over the Gamecube, Sega's finally going to get out of the hardware business, and Sony will either have to come up with an insane 256-bit system or go back to making Walkmen.
posted by RakDaddy at 3:45 PM on January 7, 2001

judomadonna: damn. What's the martial arts rpg-style game for the ps2 I'm thinking of?

Ah well. Just means dreamcast comes first. :-) Thanks.
posted by cCranium at 3:53 PM on January 7, 2001

Square's "The Bouncer"? Or "Onimusha"?
posted by RakDaddy at 5:18 PM on January 7, 2001

you must admit she's ["Malice"] memorable

Well, not really. All the anime-inspired chicks look pretty much identical to me, she's just another, except she has a big hammer...
posted by kindall at 5:32 PM on January 7, 2001

But imagine the ad campaign: a girl with a big hammer turning a hedgehog and a little man with a mustache into pancakes!

Just imagine... (gad)
posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:07 PM on January 7, 2001

Heh, in case it wasn't obvious, my colour theory for consoles was supposed to be tongue in cheek, i guess it was too early in the morning and i forgot to place any emoticons around it. Though i guess with a theory on something as religious as gaming consoles, i should had been more careful :)

And frankly, Sega's technology has *always* been superior to their competition. The Dreamcast is technically capable of putting out better graphics than a PS2 ever could. In the 8-bit days, the Master System could display more colors on the screen and a sharper image than the NES.

(un)Fortunately, technical superiority has never had much to do with the success of consoles, which is one of the charms i find with the industry, its all about the games.

I don't know what the first and second laws are, I'm making them up as I go :)

About the Xbox. Porting from Xbox to PC and vice versa would be easy as cCranium pointed out, but MS is bound to buy exclusives so that any upcoming great games would come out on the XBox first... but then, what could stop people from writing a XBox emulator? Technically that should be a piece of cake, though they might try to encrypt the media somehow.

My main gripe would be that its basically a PC in a box. The addition of the harddisk for instance really puts me off, as Microsoft and other developers would most likely use it for patches and having a good excuse to rush games out the door before they're thoroughly tested, ala PC games. Console games, not having this ability before, used to always have rock hard testing and quality control, because making sure nothing would break was necessary for the publisher. It isn't the case for PC games, and I would hate to see that trend crossover.

Looking at that Malice character... the hammer thing reminds me of Mario in Donkey Kong :)
posted by aki at 7:03 PM on January 7, 2001

aki...console games are usually more solid than pc games because there's only one hardware/software configuration to test against. pc game coders have to contend with a basically infinite set of possibilities. all x-boxes will (should) be identical, though, so you should get normal console reliability.
posted by lbergstr at 7:22 PM on January 7, 2001

Also it's not completely obvious how you'd distribute patches. The only medium available is another CD.

By using off-shelf PC hardware for most of the XBox, they've made it a lot cheaper. For instance, it's probably using stock SDRAM. A 6G HD (likely a slow one) is very cheap. The P3/733 is also cheap. The only custom part in the whole thing is the display chip, and it's a variant on the NVidia NV-20 which will soon also be released for the PC. And most of the software in the XBox was adapted from one or another version of Windows.

All of this means that they're going to get a lot of value for a relatively small amount of money because of economy of scale. And total engineering cost is substantially lower because most of the engineering was financed by PC development. (NVidia was already going to bring out the NV-20, so adapting it for this was a minor extra engineering expense. Microsoft had already developed DirectX. etc.)

On the PS/2, by contrast, it uses RDRAM which hasn't (and won't) hit volume so the price on that is high. The main silicon is a custom chip designed by Sony and used only for this application; its price will be higher (and indeed, their difficulty with production of that chip has been part of why they haven't been able to build enough of them). All of the software and much of the hardware was custom designed for that particular unit and isn't in general use. Sony is losing a lot of money on each unit they sell; in order to make it back they'll have to sell a lot of games per console.

Microsoft will probably sell the XBox at a loss, too, but I bet it won't be as much of a loss, which means they'll need fewer games sold per unit to make it back.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:57 PM on January 7, 2001

Console Gaming:

I recently wrote an article concerning the prospects of The X-Box. Conclusion: it's is in for a very tough ride. Here's why:

They have no "killer app" as of yet. No exclusive from id or Valve here in America. No exclusive EA titles. A Metal Gear and a Silent Hill that will both come out after the PS2 versions. No Sonic. No Mario. No Gran Turismo. No Zelda. No Pokemon. No Shenmue.

Their in-house dev teams, while better with the acquisition of Bungie and Oddworld, is still the worst of the 4 console developers.

Microsoft have no in-house team in Japan, the most critical territory.

When X-Box is released in America, the PS2 will have between 3 and 5 mil installed. The DC will be in a similar territory. That's a very tough lead to make up.

When asked whether the price of the XBox would be comparable to the PS2, Ed Fries said "Does the PS2 come with a broadband adapter and a massive hard drive?" This would seem, at least to me, to indicate a pricepoint of
$300+. The DC will be $149 when the XBox launches. The PS2 will be 199-249 (most likely around 249).

The XBox doesn't hit Japan and Europe till 2002, which will be around or after the time of Gamecube. Gamecube is rumoured to be in the 200 dollar range. Malice with a 300$+ system or Mario with 200 dollar system? Not a hard choice.

Microsoft have already had to lower some of their promises. The promised 25 launch games will now be "15 to 20" according to Gamespot. The 300mil poly/s is now 125mil poly/s. The DVD drive now requires a separate remote to play DVD movies.

The big Japanese devs have not signed on or not at full force (i.e. exclusive titles). Namco have yet to announce anything (although they did say that beginning in FY2002, they would be going to a multi-platform production). Square are not an official developer (although FF 11 (aka FFOnline) will probably wind up on XBox).

Most developers do not have Devkits. It's unrealistic to expect games like Tony Hawk 2x or Metal Gear Solid X to come out this fall when Pease and Kojima do not have dev kits in January.


I may end up being wrong. But it does not look good for Microsoft, at least in this generation. The Dreamcast and the PS2 are both great systems, and both will be even stronger in 9 months.


posted by Kevs at 8:07 PM on January 7, 2001

Ccranium: "What's the martial arts rpg-style game for the ps2 I'm thinking of?"

Kessen? It's pretty bitchin', btw.
posted by wiremommy at 9:59 PM on January 7, 2001

Anyone know anything about that new Game Boy?
posted by aaron at 10:02 PM on January 7, 2001

I'm probably gonna buy it :)
posted by swank6 at 10:33 PM on January 7, 2001

lbergstr, i realise that the lack of standard in PC configurations is the main cause of PC games patches, but I was referring to the fact that PC games publishers have always and continue to force developers to rush games out to meet release deadlines, with the idea that they can easily provide patches to games later, as is the norm. Does anyone remember First Encounters (aka Elite: Frontier 2)?

Gameboy Advance's integration with the Gamecube will also prove to be interesting. As it is somewhat unchallenged in its market, its success might leak over to the Gamecube when games start exploiting the possibilities of the linkup.
posted by aki at 10:40 PM on January 7, 2001

Doesn't much matter if the first-generation Xbox doesn't come out at the top of the heap. Neither did Windows 1.0. Xbox 4.0, now that'll be the one to beat.
posted by kindall at 10:42 PM on January 7, 2001

RakDaddy: Onimusha's it. Though from what I've seen of The Bouncer, I want it, too. Not to mention needing to upgrade my PC for Neverwinter Nights. Something tells me I'm going to spend a lot of money on hardware this year. :-)
posted by cCranium at 6:19 AM on January 8, 2001

Is anybody else starting to think of Nintendo as a child's system? Practically by design. The icons of the system are round and non-aggressive. I am not knocking the power as they have always pushed things forward, but I think their dedication to cute kid things it telling. Really, I think it could be a good thing for there to be some system stratification. A kids system, playing simpler games could have a longer shelf life. The prices could be lowered, and easily bored kids could play many more games on that system than they would be able to buy, or be gifted on the fastest, latest. The longevity of the Gameboy is amazing to me. How long has that thing been around?
posted by thirteen at 9:41 AM on January 8, 2001

I had a Gameboy when I was in Elementary school. I was perhaps 12 or 13 years old? I'm now 23, so at least a decade.

Nintendo definetely has "family console" written all over it, especially with the reasonably strict content control Nintendo Inc. enforces.

They still have the best control pads in my opinion.
posted by cCranium at 9:50 AM on January 8, 2001

Thank you for not making fun of my illiterate post.
posted by thirteen at 10:00 AM on January 8, 2001

Re the lifetime of the Gameboy: I'm pretty sure it first came out in 1990, so a little over 10 years is about right. The Gameboy is an amazing success story that proves that it's the games that make a console, not the technology. The Gameboy was simple enough to be cheaply produced, but just complex enough to support just about any type of game (except 3D-oriented ones) you could hope for. With incremental improvements, such as the Pocket Gameboy and the Gameboy Color and with the right mix of games (the Pokemon series are a huge part of the current success, but Mario, Zelda, and Donkey Kong games have played a big part, as well), Nintendo has managed to keep an aging platform going.

Another bit of technology that has helped the Gameboy is the solid state cartidge software format. Since each game cartridge is essentially an expansion board for the system, new capabilities don't require a system upgrade. Better scrolling or graphics techniques can be added to the game by adding a special chip to the cartridge. Memory limitations of 1990? Games can be much much larger today because the amount of memory you can cram into a cartridge is only limited by the price of memory, not the format itself (as is the case with the CD/DVD format, although those formats aren't really appropriate to portable systems anyway).

That inherent expandability played a big role in the success of the NES and SNES. (Especially the NES: a series of so-called MMC chips added features like vertical and diagonal scrolling, expanded memory capacity, larger playing screens and more.) I'm not sure how much the N64 used cartridges to expand its hardware, but the capability was there. The role of cartridge technology in the NES, SNES, and Gameboy successes was a big reason why Nintendo stuck with cartridges even as all its competitors were moving to CDs.
posted by daveadams at 10:14 AM on January 8, 2001

Just a minor nitpick: the Xbox uses DDR SDRAM (dual-channel PC2100), not standard SDRAM.
posted by drothgery at 1:21 PM on January 8, 2001

« Older   |   Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments