The seventh generation of video gaming has given us a revolution. It gave us a console that only does everything. And it allowed Microsoft to overtake Sony in sales with their Xbox 360 console. Ever since Xbox 360 launched in 2005, the seventh generation has been rolling along, in the process becoming one of the longest console generations in history. Wii U is right around the corner, manufacturing of Xbox 360 is slowing down, and Sony has most certainly been working on the PlayStation 4. But before we go into the eighth generation, let’s answer the big question: Who won the seventh generation?
Usually, this is determined by sales, as it should. The “console wars” aren’t just fanboy arguments, as I pointed out in my DS vs. PSP editorial. However, for the purpose of this editorial, we will look at multiple aspects of the Wii, PS3, and 360. We will judge them based on reliability, graphical capabilities, and more. A winner out of the three will be determined in each category, and awarded points. Whichever system has accumulated the most points at the end of the editorial will win. Due to the nature of the consoles, there will be more categories than we had in the DS vs. PSP editorial.
For the purpose of this evaluation, only the original designs of the consoles will be taken into account, with redesigns being discussed a little bit later. Nintendo Wii never really changed much throughout its lifespan, though the original design is easily recognizable by virtually everybody. Nintendo went with a minimalist approach, with a small, lightweight console.
Wii is so small that at the E3 when it was revealed (as “Revolution”, mind you), Iwata was able to keep it hidden in his jacket. The front of the Wii looks cool, with a disc tray that emits a bright blue light when games are inserted into the system. The reset and power buttons are right next to each other, but the power button is marked by a bright light, that is either red “off”, yellow “standby?” or green “on”. On the top of the Wii is a panel that can be opened which reveals four ports for GameCube controllers.
Due to the unique capabilities of the Wii, there is other hardware that comes bundled with the system. There is a stand that the Wii can sit in to hold it up. However, this stand can cause issues down the line since it blocks the vent on the original Wii systems. The Wii also comes with a sensor bar. This bar can be placed on top of your TV, or into a convenient little stand that elevates it. It all works very well, which is what helped Wii become the pop culture phenomenon that it did.
Then we have the Xbox 360. The original Xbox 360 systems were bulky, white, cheap-feeling, and ugly. There were actually two different original Xbox 360 systems. One was the standard console, with its circles on the front, its multiple inputs on the back, and its annoying flip panel blocking the controller ports. The other was the “Elite”, which was black. The difference between these systems was hundreds of dollars worth, with the Elite coming with a harddrive and the cheaper Xbox 360 requiring the purchase of another harddrive or memory card input.
And finally, Sony’s PS3. PlayStation 3 is controversial for many reasons, mainly the $599 price tag that the system launched with. PS3′s original design was like a tank. It was big, sleek, and shiny, with the PlayStation logo above the disc tray. The disc tray and power button were operated with simple touches as opposed to pushing actual buttons, which was cool at the time. The original PS3 has to be powered on and off completely by using a switch in the back of the system, like the PS2 back in the day.
In all honesty, the original hardware designs of all three systems aren’t impressive. I rule out the Xbox 360 immediately due to the overall poor hardware design, so it’s a race between Wii and PS3. Wii was light and portable, but PS3 looks more impressive. I think I will have to give this one to both Wii and PS3.
Best Hardware design: TIE – Wii and PS3
All three of the systems got a redesign, for better or worse. I’ll start with the Xbox 360, which actually got a redesign for the better. Due to the major Red Ring of Death problems that the Xbox 360 encountered in the early years, Microsoft was forced to redesign the system to make it less of a hazard. The result was the Xbox 360 S, a “slim” unit of Xbox 360 that redesigned the ventilation system, made the system a sleek black, and made the disc tray open by touch instead of a button, resulting in an improved disc tray with less moving parts.
Xbox 360 S basically fixed all the 360′s major problems. It added Wi-Fi capabilities, which the original 360 wasn’t able to do without a peripheral (Wii and PS3 both had Wi-Fi out of the box). It got rid of the Red Ring of Death, and improved the basic performances of the system. Granted, it can still be as loud as a helicopter, but I no longer worry about my Xbox 360 keeling over at any minute.
On the other end of the spectrum, Wii was redesigned for worse. Nintendo brought new colors, which was nice, but they also robbed the system of some of its best features as well. On new Wii systems, the GameCube controller ports have been removed. This decision is frustrating, as one of the Wii’s biggest perks is being able to play old GameCube games. Meanwhile, the redesign did solve the issues with the stand blocking the ventilation, which has lead to some people having burnt up graphics cards, but the removal of GameCube support is irritating.
And then there’s PS3. The bulky tank was turned into a smaller system, though it still lacked what I feel is a cool-looking design hook. I think PS3 has failed to appeal to some due to the fact that the system just looks kind of boring. The redesigned PS3 is indeed better than the original, adding more memory and being cheaper, but the PS3 axing backwards-compatibility is a letdown. A new PS3 is set to release very soon as well that looks better, but it is way too pricey at this stage in the game.
While the original 360 had the worst hardware, the redesigned 360 “S” fixed almost all of the problems that the original 360 had. If this is not the purpose of a redesign, then I don’t know what it is. PS3 and Wii were content playing it safe, with Wii actually getting rid of important hardware features that were once a selling point for the console. This category is no contest.
Best Redesigns: Xbox 360
Red Ring of Death. Yellow Light of Death. Burnt up graphics cards. Each of the three systems of the seventh generation ran into major problems throughout their lifespans. I personally went through more consoles this generation than ever before, which, as a consumer, is disappointing and makes me disloyal to the console manufacturers.
Let’s start with the PS3. Under 10% of PS3 owners have experienced the Yellow Light of Death, but that is still a sizable chunk of the population. The original tank PS3 seems to have this problem most often. However, redesigned PS3s have fixed these issues. I personally don’t know anybody that has had a PS3 die on them, and my PS3 is still chugging along and performing quite well.
I have personally been affected by Wii’s graphics card burning out. I had no idea the problem even existed until I tried to play Skyward Sword, a game that I received as a Christmas present. I realized that the graphics were flickering and there was static all over the place. Confused, I did a bit of research and discovered that a lot of other people experienced this problem. It comes about due to Wii’s standby mode and keeping it in the stand, which blocks the ventilation shaft. However, the Wii’s hardware unreliability can be completely avoided if Wii Connect 24 is turned off, which will keep the graphics card from burning out, even while the system is in the stand.
And then there’s Red Rings of Death. Ouch. Nearly 50%, if not over 50% at this point, of Xbox 360 owners have experienced RRoD. Buying an original Xbox 360 is almost a guarantee that the console will die sooner rather than later. I went through four or five Xbox 360s personally, and that is just pathetic. There’s no excuse for this kind of unreliability with a product that costs hundreds of dollars. Not to mention the disc tray issues as well, where the disc tray would get stuck, requiring people to stick a paperclip inside the system to open it up, or smack the system on its top. Ugh.
While all three systems had their share of problems, I feel reluctant “awarding” any of them points in this category. However, I have to, and I will just have to go by personal experience. My PS3 has never given me any problems, and because of that, I will have to give it the award for reliability.
Most Reliable: PS3
Nothing defines a system more than its controller. Throughout the years, we’ve seen wonderful control designs and innovations, like Sony’s original DualShock controller or the SNES controller. We’ve also seen weird ones, like the odd (though perfectly functional) design of the Nintendo 64 controller and the monstrosity that was the original Xbox controller.
The seventh generation of gaming was all about the controller. Wii was built around the functionality of its Wii remote and nunchuk combination, and in the process basically inventing motion controls and bringing in a whole new demographic of gamers. The system was plenty innovative, but the controller didn’t appeal to everybody. Motion controls just aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, and the fact that many developers failed to utilize the motion controls to their full potential means that many people just didn’t know what to make of the new motion control technology.
PS3 featured what was essentially an upgraded version of the same controller design its been using since it added analog sticks to the PSOne. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. PS3 controllers are smaller than PS3 controllers, and kind of feel fragile at times, but they work. The arching nature of the triggers make FPS games worse on PS3, but the Sixaxis motion controls are a nice touch.
Xbox 360 failed in the reliability department, but I’ll be damned if its controller isn’t one of the best controllers of all time. The Xbox 360 controller was like a combination of SNES and PS2 controller designs, resulting in what is essentially the perfect controller. The button placement, the shoulder buttons, and the “Xbox Guide” button were all great ideas, and the latter inspired the PS3 and Wii controller designs.
Granted, the 360 controller is certainly not perfect. The left analog stick can be broken rather easily due to many games requiring the “sprint” function by pushing in the left analog stick, which is the controller’s weak point. However, maybe that’s more due to poor game design than controller reliability.
Best Controller: Xbox 360
This seems like an open and shut case to some. Hell, Wii was codenamed “Revolution”, as its intentions were to create a gaming revolution with its brand new motion control technology. However, both 360 and Ps3 brought to the table plenty of innovations as well beyond control input.
Most notably, 360 introduced achievements. Achievements gave players “Gamerscore” that could be accumulated by accomplishing tasks in games. This system became incredibly popular. Couple that with the better controller, and it seems everyone was purchasing third-party multi-platform games on 360. PS3 later added an achievement ripoff system called “trophies”.
PS3 and 360 took online multiplayer to new heights. Their online networks also pushed digital distribution, though the Wii was no slouch there, either. Wii introduced digital distribution games as well with WiiWare and even released older games from their lineage of Nintendo systems with Virtual Console on Wii.
However, I still have to give the Wii the cake here. Wii’s motion controllers inspired knockoff designs from PS3 and 360 in the form of PS Move and Kinect. It also inspired various others to implement the technology in all sorts of systems, like phones, iPods, and whatever else. Nintendo has always been at the forefront of gaming innovation, and the Wii was no exception.
Most Innovation: Wii
Usually there wouldn’t be a category for this, but this generation of systems saw so many peripherals introduced that it was dizzying. Many third party games used peripherals, like the Guitar Hero and Rock Band games which used plastic instruments. And there there are games like Skylanders that used a “portal” that players can place real life toys on to transport the toy characters to their game.
Needless to say, living rooms were crowded this generation. The “big three” also had their hand at introducing new peripherals. Nintendo did this semi-constantly, introducing the Balance Board to use with Wii Fit that added another level of motion control to the Wii. They also showed off MotionPlus, which made the Wii remote capable of even more precise motion control, which used to amazing extents in games like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Wii Sports Resort.
Sony and Microsoft created their own new peripherals to try to combat the motion control craze. Sony announced PlayStation Move and the “Navigation” controller that hoped to outdo Wii at its own game. Out of the box, PS Move is capable of everything that the Wii remote + MotionPlus is capable of, but Sony has had problems getting consumers to adopt the device. They’ve gone for a more “hardcore” approach, trying to appeal to as many hardcore gamers as possible with it, but they have mostly failed at this juncture.
Microsoft, meanwhile, has hit a gold mine with Kinect. Kinect has succeeded due mainly to how strange the device is. It’s a camera that is connected to the Xbox 360 which turns the player into the controller. It’s also used for a multitude of navigation on Xbox 360 and it can also use voice command input for some games. Kinect has been used a bit better, featured in games such as Dance Central, and the voice commands have shined in third party efforts like Mass Effect 3.
Kinect and Move have been okay, but I think Nintendo wins here as well. Not only have their peripherals been innovative, but they’ve been met with critical acclaim as well. As silly as the Balance Board is on paper, its popularity can’t be denied as many third party companies have been developing exercise games for it. Nintendo is bringing all peripheral support over to Wii U as well, with Balance Board to be used in the upcoming game Wii Fit U.
Best Peripherals: Wii
Nintendo has used an interesting strategy in the seventh generation. Instead of striving for graphical prowess, as they did with Nintendo 64 and GameCube, they purposely held the Wii back. The Wii has graphical capabilities somewhere between sixth generation systems and seventh generation systems, making it a 6.5 gen console from a pure graphics standpoint. This move was strategic brilliance.
It allowed Nintendo to release Wii at the very attractive price point of $249.99, while the competitors went as high as $599.99 for their systems. However, those hoping for graphical innovation and seeing graphics pushed to the limit were disappointed with Wii’s graphical offerings. Meanwhile, Microsoft and Sony revealed just what exactly was possible in the seventh generation.
Xbox 360 came out of the gate in 2005 and within the year showed off just how powerful the system was. Games like Gears of War and Dead Rising revealed that there was a lot these systems could do, and the lifespans of the systems have been prolonged thanks to how powerful the machines happen to be.
PlayStation 3, however, is the undisputed graphics leader. While developers found the system hard to develop for in its infancy, it has since been hailed as the best system to design for from a developer and publisher standpoint. Naysayers like Valve have since embraced the PS3, giving it the “better” version of its games like Portal 2.
PS3 is more powerful than Xbox 360 and Wii, and we are still seeing it being pushed to its limits to this day. Upcoming games like The Last of Us and Beyond: Two Souls show that there is still a lot more power to harness from the PS3, and maybe Sony doesn’t need to rush into the eighth generation and reveal PS4 just yet. After all, the PS3 is steamrolling the competition with its graphics.
Best Graphics: PS3
Multimedia has been a big deal in gaming systems. People aren’t just buying game systems to play games anymore, but instead they are using their devices as a one-stop device to fulfill all their entertainment needs. The seventh generation focused on this a lot, maybe too much in some cases, but as the seventh generation wraps up, it has undeniably been the most innovative for multimedia.
Wii was at a disadvantage here right off the bat. Thanks to the lack of a DVD player in the system, the Wii served the only function of gaming. Which is fine, but those looking for more out of their devices will be disappointed. Wii eventually became capable of streaming Netflix and Hulu Plus, but these capabilities weren’t around for a few years until after the Wii launched. Wii focused on allowing people to upload their pictures to the system and interaction with online polling and the like, but for the most part, Wii was a purely gaming device for most everybody.
Xbox 360 allowed for DVDs to be played and supported the competition to PS3′s Blu-Ray. Microsoft focused on HD-DVD support for 360, as people could purchase a small peripheral to attach to their 360 to allow it to play HD-DVDs. 360 is also capable of storing music, streaming video content, and it has a host of downloadable TV content, and not all of which require a subscription. What irks me about the 360, however, is that you can’t access much of this content without a Gold subscription. So say you have a Netflix account. You can’t watch Netflix on your 360 without also having an Xbox Live Gold Subscription, which is stupid and makes no sense.
Meanwhile, PS3 is capable of everything the Wii and 360 is, plus more. For a long time, the PS3 was the cheapest Blu-Ray player on the market. During the format wars between HD DVD and Blu-Ray, it was up in the air as to who would be victorious, but PS3′s Blu-Ray format has prevailed. Blu-Ray discs have allowed for more storage capacity, better quality, and much more.
Best Multimedia: PS3
Online and Multiplayer
Each of the seventh generation consoles are capable of online multiplayer, though some are much more capable than others. Right off the bat, I can eliminate the Wii from this category due to the fact that almost no one really took advantage of Wii’s online capabilities. None of its games have an online mode that really mattered in the end.
360 has what is undeniably the best online service, but it is pricey. For $60, players are given the right to create parties and chat with their friends. Play games online. Access other online content. However, the price point is unforgivable. $60 for a year of service that is offered for free on every other system that has such capabilities? It’s ludicrous. I suppose a Gold subscription offers discounts occasionally, but PS3 is stomping 360 here with its PlayStation Plus program, a cheaper subscription that gives entire games out and for free, not at a discount.
Where are you going to find more people online? Probably Xbox 360. Xbox 360 has been the system for choice for those that buy third party games for a number of reasons. For one, 360 almost always has timed-exclusivity for DLC. For two, 360 has the better control, and the achievement system. Not to mention it was much cheaper than PS3 for quite a long time.
Online infrastructures are much more than just playing games online with these systems. Xbox Live Arcade, Wii Shop, and PlayStation Network provided thousands of games to download that range from original titles to Xbox Originals, Virtual Console games, and PSOne/PS2 Classics.
Online was a big deal this generation, but it was also abused. Developers tried making players purchase content that they already technically purchased through the scam that is “on disc DLC”. Online Passes have crippled online communities, and this generation has been such a mixed bag of online innovation and online abuse.
However, when I think about the system that I spent the most time online on, the answer is clearly Xbox 360. Microsoft is definitely ripping people off with Xbox Live Gold subscriptions, but their online services are faster, with quicker updates (PS3 can take up to an hour to update sometimes), and major dashboard updates…for better or worse.
As for multiplayer in general, 360 has also been the best for offline multiplayer. PS3′s trophy system is great, except co-op players and those playing multiplayer can’t earn trophies, and in some cases, can’t even record their progress. The reason for this is that PS3 lacks a profile system like the Gamertags of Xbox 360. This is a major flaw with the PS3 that still hasn’t been fixed, so I have to hand this one to Xbox 360.
Best Online and Multiplayer: Xbox 360
The most important part of any game system? The games, of course. And each of these three systems have put out fantastic, blockbuster titles that will become classics down the road when we look back at this generation. There have been many games that have introduced innovation, amazing gameplay mechanics, and unforgettable experiences.
Using the review aggregate website GameRankings, we will take a look at the top 10 games for each of the three systems.
10. Gears of War
09. Batman: Arkham City
08. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
07. Red Dead Redemption
06. Portal 2
04. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
03. Mass Effect
02. Grand Theft Auto IV
01. The Orange Box
10. Rock Band 2
09. Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition
08. Xenoblade Chronicles
07. Metroid Prime Trilogy
06. Super Smash Bros. Brawl
05. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
04. World of Goo
03. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
02. Super Mario Galaxy 2
01. Super Mario Galaxy
10. Street Fighter IV
09. Call of duty4 : Modern Warfare
07. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
06. Portal 2
05. Red Dead Redemption
03. Batman: Arkham City
02. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
01. Grand Theft Auto IV
Xbox 360 and PS3 share a lot in common for their top 10 games. The systems have been dubbed “the HD twins” because they share so many third party games between one another. However, the 360 often receives the “better” version of the third party game, and in some cases, 360 has received the game years in advance of PS3, like with BioShock.
Wii, meanwhile, has had some of the best games this generation. There’s no doubt about it. However, there just aren’t a whole lot of Wii games. Besides Nintendo, no one was really able to capitalize on the success of Wii, except maybe Ubisoft. When they discovered that their games wouldn’t sell on Wii despite the high install base, developers and publishers moved to PS3 and 360.
Wii has a lot of games through Virtual Console and WiiWare, but PS3 and 360 match and extend that number with their similar services. I think I am going to have to give the edge here to 360 for the aforementioned reasons, and because of how unremarkable many PS3 exclusives have been.
Best Games: Xbox 360
Backwards Compatibility refers to the ability of the system to play games from previous generations. All three systems can play games from previous generations through their online services. There are a couple dozen Xbox Originals available for download on Xbox Live Marketplace. Wii has a number of games from all sorts of systems, including Nintendo 64, SNES, NES, Genesis, and more. PS3 allows for the download of PSOne Classics and PS2 Classics.
Each console began life as being fully backwards compatible. The original PS3s and 360s were able to play previous gen PS2 and Xbox games respectively. Wii has always been capable of playing GameCube discs, but the redesigned Wii gets rid of the controller ports for GameCube games, which is a huge bummer.
Xbox 360 just doesn’t have that much to be BC with anyway. Wii damaged its reputation as BC when it got rid of the GC slots. So, I have to give the edge here to PS3. PS3 may have also axed its support for PS2 games, but it has provided a ridiculous amount of PSOne and PS2 Classics to download that are easily transferable across all its systems, whereas if your Wii with all the downloaded classics dies, then you’re out of luck.
Best Backwards Compatibility: PS3
As I stated earlier, the “real” console wars deal with sales. The system that sold the most units is considered the official winner of the console wars, as all these other categories are subjective in nature. In this section, we will take a look at each of the different systems and how much they sold. We also note their best-selling game(s), and why they sold so well.
None of the three systems have been a slouch in sales. All three have pushed the boundaries of video game sales, selling more systems than many other gaming platforms in history. This has been due to the high quality games released, the pop culture successes of games like Call of Duty, and I think Microsoft owes a bit of its success to the fact that many people had to go out and buy a brand new system due to RRoD. Ahem.
At any rate, Wii is the clear winner here. The Wii has sold 96.56 million units since it launched. Its innovative controls made it a must-have item, and Wiis were sold out across the country for the longest time. It was almost impossible to find a Wii for much of its early lifespan due to how insanely popular the system was.
The best-selling game on the Wii is Wii Sports, having sold 76.76 million units. Wii Sports was packed-in with the original Wii console, and was then replaced as a pack-in title by New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Mario Kart Wii. Nintendo has a new Wii bundle that only costs $129.99 and comes with both Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort, which is a fantastic deal. New Super Mario Bros. Wii is the second-best selling game for the system with 28.23 million units sold.
Impressively, Microsoft improved its console sales by 50 million units this generation. The original Xbox sold something like 25 million by the time the 360 came out, but the Xbox 360 has sold 70 million units as of this month, October 19th, 2012. This number is gargantuan and shows just how popular the Xbox 360 was this generation for gamers and non-gamers a like.
With the Kinect peripheral, Microsoft has sold 18 million units of Kinect Adventures as a pack-in title for that device and as a standalone release. The actual Xbox 360 systems have not had pack-in titles, except for holiday bundles. The best-selling non-pack in game for the system has been Call of Duty: Black Ops, which sold 12 million units.
Out of the gate, PS3 was kind of a flop. It took it a while to get grounded with its sales, which is something we’re seeing repeated with PS Vita. PS3 has managed to make up for a lot of lost ground, selling 63.9 million units to date. The best-selling game for the system is Gran Turismo 5, which sold 7.43 million units. PS3 also hasn’t had pack-in games, except for holiday and specialty bundles.
Well, the Wii is the undeniable winner, though all consoles were massive successes this generation.
Most Sales: Wii
PlayStation 3 – 5
Nintendo Wii – 4
Xbox 360 – 4
PlayStation 3 is the all-around best console this generation. The price has come down to a nice point below the $300 line, a new redesign is on the way, and the system has some of the greatest exclusives this generation. It was a close competition, but I feel that if I were to only one console this generation, it would have to be Sony’s PS3. After all, it only does everything.
Do you disagree with my evaluations? Feel free to comment below on what you decide is the greatest of the three seventh generation video game systems!