Why I View the Xbox 360 as a Gaming Non-Event

May 8th, 2008

xbox 360 controller white

For some months now I have been continuously asked if I would like to write for someone’s Xbox 360 website. They’d seen my work on the blog and thought that it’d be great if I could contribute articles to their site. Unfortunately I disagreed with them for two reasons, most importantly I do not own and don’t plan on buying an Xbox 360 (the other being that I don’t like to write about press releases :(). While talking this over with my brother later on we generated some strong discussion justifying our lack of interest in the 360. Here are some of our main points.

NB: I don’t intend to disregard or downplay the Xbox 360 at all because in most regards it is a fantastic console and deserves the attention that it has garnered. I am writing this piece to show why, for me personally, in my situation why there is very little incentive in owning the console.

The Xbox Experience = PC Gaming on your TV

(Two points in One)

When the original Xbox as first announced many gamers were of the opinion that the predominate orientation of software design would be essentially derived from PC game design and in some ways it did. Since it’s conception I have had and still maintain this view about the console and its successor. The multimedia features, online play and software line all are largely lifted straight from the PC. This isn’t to say that these points are in anyway bad for the console, in reality this has allowed Microsoft to chase a particular type of consumer and has paid in dividedens.

Not all of the reasoning for this can be placed on Microsoft’s shoulders. Many popular PC publishers are now resorting to console ports to meet their bottom line and generally speaking this by large has effected console game development significantly.

For some reason, as people have become more accustomed to the Xbox consoles, the previous negative connotation seems to have disappeared over the years. This, in my opinion works in converse to these systems slowly taking the role of multimedia PC.

To justify my points if we focus on software for a second and take a look at the “must play” games for the Xbox 360 we see that that a good majority of these games have their own relationships with the PC:

Three of those games are ports (BioShock, Call of Duty 4, Orange Box) and the rest are all heavily inspired from PC styled games. Furthermore the first three games have been ported to the PC or are very likely to end on the PC in some form or another. Also if we browse over the Xbox 360 games catalogue it is clear that there is a lack of platformers, fighters and RPGs. In fact it is common knowledge that the 360 houses mostly FPS or action heavy titles. So there is definitely a slant towards these sorts of games which are also dominant on the PC, combine this with the steady stream of PC ports and it becomes clear that the Xbox 360 software line up is surprisingly similar to the PC’s.

My second point is in relation to the features available from the Xbox 360 user interface, Xbox Live and online play is a significant part of the system. So too is the conglomerate of multimedia features; being able to download movie and game trailers, chat with friends, play music, view photos and synch this together with digital devices. These features push the same idea of the multimedia PC.

gears of war

So what is wrong with a PC in your living room? Well nothing, it is a great idea. But as someone whom can be regarded as a power use of the PC (how can most Uni students not fall victim to this?) there is little benefit for owning an additional device to do the same thing just underneath my TV set. If I want to view my photos that I take (I am interested in photography) that I like to organise them in on place on my computer. When I browse the net I also like to write articles, chat with friends, research, listen to music so doing all of this in a different environment is difficult and when there are no real obvious advantages that can be seen, why would I dedicate my time into growing accustomed to a new platform? If I want to play games that are generally speaking made for the PC in which I can play on the PC, then why do I need to buy another device to do that for me? And if you answered that question with a control pad then allow me to remind you that the Xbox 360 controller can be used in tandem with PC games on a Windows OS. So when the dust to settled there is little premise for me to show an interest.

Xbox Live

Xbox Live is an awesome, fantastic service that far exceeds anything that Sony or Nintendo will be able to release in the next 6 years. I firmly believe that this will be the case. Unfortunately I simply don’t have the time nor interest to sit down and play most online games. I already have an expansive collection of games to plough through so even if I did have the time my online lifestyle would probably be quite limited. Going back to a previously mentioned point, if I were to play online on the Xbox 360 then why would I again limit my competitive edge with a controller over a key board and mouse? I’ve also said all of this avoiding the bad reputation of the Xbox 360 community.

A Console Experience

Returing back to the first point, there are only a handful of Xbox exclusive games that I’d personally be interested in that aren’t already available on the other consoles. Perfect Dark Zero, the OddWorld games are honestly all that I can think of. Conversely most of the console games that I am interested in and also grew up on can be found on either the Playstation 3 or Wii. There are just more titles on these consoles which are more akin to my taste. I hate to typecast but the Xbox 360 really is all about tactical military/post apocalyptic shooters which is fine but it is not particularly where my interests lie.

There is a reason why I feel this way. As previously mentioned I feel that a good deal of Xbox games are inspired/derived from PC games. Now I personally struggle to play many PC games, I just am not as interested in the design of these sorts of games. I was born into console gaming and will probably stay that way. This is why I prefer more games coming from Nintendo, Sony, their partners and when it comes key third parties like Capcom, Konami and Square-Enix, most of their content is multiplatform so there is little concern of ever missing out.

Money

xbox 360 green silhouettesThis point is quite self explanatory, basically if I want an Xbox 360 then I have to pay money and money is unfortunately a finite quantity.

What Could Change my Mind

I’m pretty much stuck in my ways now. But there is one way that I could be convinced to buy an Xbox 360 and that is the Xbox Live Arcade. The assortment of XBLA games arguably feel more like “console games” then the core software line up. There are easily more XBLA titles that I want to buy than standard games. Here are just a few games that have me salivating at the mouth for:

These games really do capture my imagination and are more in line with my own personal interests.

Conclusion

I tried to be as honest and fair in my reasoning as possible. I am not biased against the Xbox 360, the Xbox 360 just isn’t for me and I hope that this article represents that. I thought that it was important for me to share my feelings so that you readers can understand why I don’t really talk about any of the Xbox consoles. Of course, if you have a convincing argument as to why I have the wrong idea then please let it be known in the comments below.

  • I completely agree with you on this. I’ve had a 360 for about a year now and I hardly ever play it. The hardware’s crap (I’ve had many problems with it), I have an SDTV so I don’t feel like I’m getting the whole experience, and I think paying for Xbox Live is a total ripoff. The PC I bought in October ’07 has been getting all my attention.

    I had never really thought about it, but maybe you’re right. Maybe I don’t like the Xbox because it just feels like an inferior version of the PC. I grew up on console games like you (I am a Racketboy member after all) and I still love my retro systems and I do really enjoy what they’ve been putting out on XBLA. I just don’t think I can justify such an expensive purchase with those little downloadable games. With that being said, I plan to sell my 360 in the near future. All in all it was a good read (although a few more grammar errors than I would have liked) so keep it up.

    PS I <3 my Wii and PC.

  • PC gaming rulez any day given that you can upgrade your graphics card and processor as per the needs. Assasin’s Creed is also out out on PC and its much better graphics wise 🙂 ..As far as consoles go I have a PS2 only and I enjoy God of war the most ..

  • The thing that puzzles me is gamers that have a great PC and then go and buy a 360. I can see it as being a great choice if you don’t have a decent PC and want to get into some of the great multiplatform console titles.

  • The only thing that really interests me is XBLA.
    Which is kinda sad if you think about it.
    All that power for games that don’t really need it.

  • Hey Abras, thanks for dropping by. Its good to see that someone with the console agrees with my thoughts.

    Grammatical mistakes! Oh how embarrassing, I don’t view myself as much of a writer so I do my best to iron out any spelling/grammatical errors. So thanks for the heads up, I will check it out.

    Hey Ken-G, thanks for dropping by too. I’m playing the original God of War ATM and it’s so satisfying. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts guys. ^_^

  • Alyssa

    Wow, you’ve put into words exactly what I’ve been trying to explain to people ever since the next-gen consoles were released!

    I get so sick of the PS3 vs. 360 argument because I don’t think that either console “sucks”. Each is an amazing system in its own right, but they also each have different things to offer different people. It’s a matter of preference, and I’m simply the type of gamer who’d be more inclined to enjoy the PS3.

    The only online games I ever play are on my PC, I have no interest in acquiring achievements and having my name splattered all over the leaderboards (nor do I have enough time to invest in stuff like that anyway), and the PS3 offers a variety of games that I’m personally interested in.

    Great blog! 🙂

  • Herr Zrbo

    I enjoy my 360 over my PC for a few reasons. I get to play on my comfy couch with my HDTV and 5.1 stereo system. Me and my girlfriend can play together on my TV, I can’t necessarily do that with one computer, or, even with 2 computers I’ll probably need two copies of the software.
    One thing about a console is that the game is guaranteed to play, there’s no check of system specs. I enjoy Xbox Live, it’s simple and easy to use, and I don’t mind paying $50 a year for it, cheaper than what my friends pay for WOW or other MMORPGs.
    In terms of gameplay, I’ve gotten used to using a gamepad, it doesn’t bother me that I’m not using a mouse for uber-precise aiming. The only gametype that I still use my PC for is RTS games, which pretty much needs a mouse/keyboard.
    I used to be a huge PC gamer but a few years ago I started using consoles. Both are fine IMO.

  • little.wagon

    There was a reason i didnt read past your first paragraph. you clearly stated that you didn’t own and didn’t plan on buying an xbox. that instantly gives me the idea of a bias in the writer.
    i suppose i could give you all these pc vrs xbox arguments now, but i would be a hypocrite considereing i never really read your article, and had the first instinct to bash it before i read it.
    ..do you see what im getting at?

  • little.wagon, I said that I did not plan on buying the console and then justified my response. That is, I looked at the situation and then made up my mind with no prior preconceptions.

    I don’t think that it is fair to call me biased, there is just a lack of interest not bias. Do you think that players that can only afford one console are bias against the others? No, there is just more on that console that interests them. What I am doing here is pointing out, for me, what that incentive is.

    Thanks for dropping by guys.

  • Steve

    Now, before any bashing occurs, I myself prefer the console over a computer. So do 80% of people in America, and the customers who walk into my store and know what they are purchasing (parents who want GTA for their 8 year old do not count).
    On two counts, yes, the PC is superior because of it’s interchangeable parts, but people hate that. Personally, if I want to have the top notch playability, I need to spend almost $700 to $1000 to even get something that could even handle world of warcraft, and I’m sorry, but as this article points out, money in my hands is just few and far in between.
    The other side that the PC can provide if developers really want to put the work into it (looking at you oh beautiful crysis), is that you can seriously make a game that graphically can blow systems out of the water. I found that awesome, but why do I need to purchase a damn video card that costs me $500 and my first born in order to even use the crytech engine on a medium resolution.
    Oh, the keyboard and mouse makes everything better too.
    Besides the fact that PC gaming itself is slowly becoming a dark bleak cadaver slowly trying to get some air… until starcraft 2 (which I am currently saving for a computer that will actually handle the game).
    There are also advantages to consoles. #1, I work in retail myself, and it’s just easier to help people out in consoles because I know it’s going to work. #2, if I asked a soccer mom if her son had the dual core or quad core processor she wouldn’t even know what she was handling.
    In the end, everyone has their preference. I prefer my console gaming over PC anytime. Do I care that most of my games derived from PC? No, to be honest it’s nothing but a giant pissing contest when you bring something like that up (no disrespect). At the same time, I prefer a good amount of games on the PC. RTS’s in particular.
    The fact is that this war will be going on for longer than anyone will even be alive for. So why can’t we all just get along?

  • RyanLN

    What a very well reasoned, succinctly put and heartfelt personal opinion. I very much enjoy getting to know where people are coming from with regard to their views, and do not seek to upend the apple cart by saying they are “wrong” or somehow their opinions are less valid than my own.

    That being said, I arrive at a totally different conclusion after going through the same analysis that you do. This is no surprise- it’s like being suprised that you end up with orange juice after you start out with oranges rather than apples- but it does speak to the wide variety of opinions and gamers out there. While I make no claims that a majority of gamers would agree with me, it is clear that there are a large contingent of gamers who have either never bothered with PC gaming, or who have tried PC gaming and found the experience less than appealing. I bought my first PC in 1992. and after several PCs and several years of being frustrated by the thousands of dollars spent upgrading with middling results, I decided in the late ’90s that consoles would pretty much do for me.

    And they do- like the person who posted above I like the ease of use, the low cost, the reliability (360 excluded) and the fact that when I pop in Call of Duty 4 I know it’s going to work. While you are no doubt blessed to have plenty of friends who are PC gamers, I have maybe two. On the other hand, I have at least five close friends and probably 20 hey-let’s-grab-a-beer friends who are on Xbox Live. That is my gaming community, and my way of connecting with my friends on weeknights after my wife and I have put the kids to bed and cleaned up the kitchen. The singular nature of what PC gaming was for me was fine when I was 24 and could stay out until 3 and get up at noon, but it’s a little less than satisfying as a grownup.

    Yes, as a black man I find the rampant racism on Live a little off-putting, and the ratio of idiot 13-year-olds to rational adults a little daunting, but that is what the mute button is for, and it makes shooting my friends repeatedly so streamlined and easy. I am a console agnostic gamer, which means that I own Nintendo’s latest and will get the PS3 shortly- but as far as I am concerned, for MYSELF, nothing can touch Live as an outlet and hub for my social network. It’s nice to know that there exists other realms for people on the PC that provide you with the same joy that I receive- but the bottom line is that when you pit my 22 inch 16:9 monitor and fairly comfortable desk chair against my 64 inch HDTV and well broken in couch, there is no competition. Hopefully the powers that be will continue to serve all of us and continue to make us all glad that we live in what I call the second golden age of gaming.

  • Thanks for your comments Steve and Ryan it’s heart warming to receive such well thought out and articulate responses (that applies to the rest of you too ^_^ ). Thank you.

    You’ve made me realize how my article makes it appear that I am well inversed in PC gaming. Truth be told, when I step out of my current frame and remove the idea of using my brother’s laptop for PC gaming I realize just how much I might be needing that Xbox 360. You are right Steve I am fortunate to have such a life line.

    Generally speaking though, as briefly highlighted in the article I am a very console orientated guy. If it wasn’t for my brother I would probably turn my back on PC gaming as; as much as it sounds I am actually not really interested in that many PC games and could live without them (old Lucasarts games excluded). I totally agree with the negatives in terms of hardware, installation, graphical tweaking etc. This would leave me with the prospect of buying an Xbox 360 right? So would I do it?

    Hmmmm…tough one. I think that I would probably be extremely resistant to do so. The majority of the killer apps on the system honestly don’t grab my attention in the same way that PS3 and Wii games do. I see the appeal in these sorts of games and I personally plan on chugging through some similar titles on the PC to see if I like them more. But overall when push comes to shove; I think that the price and lack of game that particularly interest me would make me look elsewhere. Still, of course it’s a great console.

  • GoonieGooGoo

    As an old time gamer and having owned every system released since PONG…..I find it interesting in your criticism that the only games that interest you are XBL Arcaade titles that are remakes of older titles while critiicizing the game library as centralized to “tactical military/post apocalyptic shooters”. This could not be farther from the truth……as I find the 360 library covering the widest varieties of genres vs. the 2 other consoles (I don’t count my Wii’s vast retail library as the amount of shovelware being forced onto the market is embarassing).

    While I am not aware of your age or what period your gaming interest began or what period of life you are in…..I will wholeheartedly admit that the XBOX LIVE ARCADE is one of the premiere reasons to own the system.

    As an older gamer…..I cannot help but love the assortment of quality games that XBL offers….so much that I have purchased over 40+ of the games…..from Bomberman, to Carcoassone, to UNO, to WORMS, to TRACK & FIELD, etc.

    Now..admittedly my spendable income on games is more than the average ( I own multiples of all the consoles and have a high-end PC Rig ) and purchase on average 2 games a week…so my tastes are different and allow me a wider scope than you are probably able to experience.

    I will say one of the MAJOR strengths of the 360…..and this may not apply to you as you are still a university student….is that the XBOX 360 and functionality of the LIVE Service and ease of use for multiplayer has truly begun a gaming renaissance amongst my now older married with children friends……as it just makes it easier to play with your buddies no matter where they are or if they have a baby on their lap.

    The truth is…as you get older…..your gaming time either decreases or changes in some way (i.e. later in the night) as other things override, friends move, etc….and a large # of gamers can’t afford to build/maintain a high-end rig to run the latest games.

    The simplicity and ease of use of the 360 and XBOX LIVE cannot be overstated……it just works and works well.
    Something the Wii Online modes are completely missing, and so far the PS3 (whichi has improved) has not achieved yet.

  • GoonieGooGoo, you raise a few good points. Thanks for that.

    I still stay grounded in my opinions though. I do think that the Xbox 360 library is very narrow in scope. How many quality Xbox 360 games do not involve shooting elements? Most of the games on the system all involve guns let alone the core titles. How many platformers, fighters, stratergy and RPG titles are on the system in contrast to shooting games? Just the fact that developers constantly put guns in the hands of their protagonists limits the scope before the core ideas are even developed.

    As mentioned though I’m not interested in Live. I can definetly see the advantages, don’t get me wrong. But like I said, for me I’d rather buy games that interested my tastes more than play online. Oh and theres that time factor as well.

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