Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Why the XBox 360 Will Never Have a Spot in My Home

   There is no denying that I am a PlayStation fanboy. I love my PlayStation and my PlayStation loves me. However, being a video gamer, I would be lying if I were to say there was not room for another console in my house. That is why I also have a Wii. There is also this other console out right now that every once in a while, my thoughts cannot avoid. I like it to refer to it as Microsoft's admission to Windows being an inferior platform for gaming even though it could deliver so much more than some of these consoles. Most of you know it as the XBox 360.
   For many people, the XBox 360 was a clear and obvious choice. It releases before the PlayStation 3. It was cheaper than the PlayStation 3. By the time the PlayStation 3 released, the XBox 360 had a larger library of games.
   There were also less obvious reasons for the XBox 360 when this generation of consoles were just getting their feet wet. It did not support a high-definition format right out of the box. There was an HD-DVD add-on; however, many felt as if Sony took a real dive by making the Blu-Ray disc the choice format for their console. Many uninformed people used scare tactic to attempt to keep people from buying Blu-Ray. One common myth was that Blu-Ray players would not play DVDs. Who would want to update their movie collection and render their current collection useless? Of course, this was a myth from the start. The first popular Blu-Ray player, the PlayStation 3, played DVDs from the start. These days, I do believe it is impossible to find a Blu-Ray player that will not play DVDs.
   Anyway, so it is fair to say that the XBox 360 had more steam than the PlayStation 3 from the beginning. However, when it came time for me (or my wife, as it was) to put down a ridiculous amount of money for a current-generation console, there was no question it had to be the PlayStation 3.
   It was not for a lack of players that I chose a PlayStation 3. I still would have to say that more people I know own an XBox 360 than a PlayStation 3. I knew this generation of console would have heavy online integration. Of course I would like to be able to game with my friends over the internet. Unfortunately, the friends were not enough to convince me to go with an XBox 360. The subscription fees did not help to persuade me either.
   It was not due to missing titles in the XBox 360 library. In the beginning, the XBox 360 had several exclusives. As time wore on, companies such as Capcom opened up their libraries to the XBox. Hey, XBox even scored some early release dates and exclusive downloadable content for several games. However, I always knew that anything that was a third-party exclusive to the XBox would eventually make its way over to the PlayStation. Indeed, there are only a few instances in which this did not happen. The first-party titles are almost all available for PC. I have never gone to play these anyway.
   It was not the lack of backwards compatibility. I never owned an XBox game, so I was certainly not turned away by that. As a matter of fact, the way Microsoft handled backwards compatibility was much better than the way Sony did it in my book. I would much rather be told flat-out that I could not expect backwards compatibility rather than get it then have it taken away. My PlayStation does play PSX and PS2 games though, so it is a plus for PlayStation in my book. However, everybody that does not have a 60 gigabyte PS3 was lied to by Sony, which does not sit right with me.
   What was it then (beyond my PlayStation fanboydom)?

   That is correct. Most of why I do not like the XBox 360 and did not like the XBox before it is this awful excuse for a controller. One thing is crystal clear when examining this monstrosity of a controller. Microsoft wanted a controller that looked familiar, but was different enough to stand out in a crowd. Unfortunately, some of the measures they took were simply too rash to allow for a comfortable playing experience.
   The rearrangement of buttons is my biggest complaint about the controller. I believe the directional pad belongs on the far left side of the controller. The analog sticks should be where the thumb would naturally rest when handling the controller with two hands. Putting these two sticks on different longitudes makes the whole experience feel very unnatural. I am trying to play a game, not do tongue-twisters with my thumbs. I really just wish Microsoft would have put the directional pad and analog stick where they belong. Next thing you know, they will put the shoulder buttons all the way to the back and the directional buttons up on the shoulders. No Microsoft, you may not steal idea. If you do, it is a horrible design as well.
   What could make this arrangement fallacy even worse? The spatial dimensions of the controller. Why is it that I feel as if I am turning my hand on the control and stretching my thumb over there to reach that directional pad and right analog stick? Again, I am playing video games. I am not attempting to train my thumbs for the Olympics.
   Only adding to my frustrations with the controller is the feel of the buttons; particularly that hard-to-reach directional pad. The directional pad is setup as a single piece that controls the four directions. It is raise above the rest of the controller for some unknown reason. It is also stiff and has somewhat-sharp edges. To further complicate the feeling, the analog sticks and directional pad curve downward in the centers. All of this spells two things: sloppy control and blisters on your thumb.
   I often forget about this controller dilemma. This is due to the fact that I usually will not play the XBox, even if I am in the room and people are playing. However, this last weekend I got the opportunity to play an old friend at Super Street Fighter IV. It was on. I picked up that controller and was immediately disgusted with the button layout. Analog sticks do not make good substitutes for arcade sticks. Therefore, when I play fighting games, my thumb goes straight for the directional pad. However, playing this way on the XBox 360 is a downright disadvantage. To the point that I was desperately trying to get the analog stick doing something good for me. Try as I might, I was constantly stretching my thumb back over to that uncomfortable excuse for a directional pad.
   Luckily, the matches only lasted for about twenty minutes. Good thing too, because I was certainly over it. Anyway, I had to leave, so I did. Drove home, went to brush my teeth, noticed a little something extra on my thumb when grabbing my toothbrush. Oh great, a blister on my thumb from literally no more than twenty minutes of playing. This is horrible.
   Therefore, Microsoft, I would like to say to you one thing. If you are making anything besides an operating system for computers, please stop. I like my companies to stay focused and you are stretching outside of your and my comfort zones. Concentrate on what you do well; making Windows better. If you do not do this, all I can do is stick my sore thumb at you!

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