This is quite a confusing time for gamers. In about 3 weeks there will be 3 high profile consoles on the market for gamers to choose from, and most everybody is quite undecided as to which camp they should give their money to. Since I consider myself somewhat of an authority on the matter (valid or not), I thought I’d take a look at the upcoming console wars and give my 2 cents.

  • Sony Playstation 2SONY PLAYSTATION 2 — Compared to the hardware configurations of the Xbox and Gamecube, the PS2 offers the least for the money.  Although not as powerful as the other two big guns, the PS2 does have a constant stream of software to insure that it will stick around for a while.  It also offers DVD playback and has backwards compatibility with the PlayStation which everybody just thoroughly digs.  (I’m telling ya, the first company to make a console/dvd player/washing machine/toaster hybrid is going to rake in the dough.)  Of course, the fact that it’s hard to program for, and is still in the $300 price range are some serious drawbacks to the PS2.  The former issue is going to make developers move to the other, more programmer-friendly hardware and the latter issue will make gamers move to the cheaper and/or superior hardware. If Sony wants to keep their reign as king, they seriously need to back off of that $300 price tag a bit.
  • Nintendo GamecubeNINTENDO GAMECUBE — The Gamecube has some really strong points that will most likely insure its prosperity. The software is disc-based (it’s about damn time Nintendo), the $200 price tag is rather nice, and updated versions of all of Nintendo’s flagship titles are in the works.  Unfortunately, Nintendo still has the ghost of the N64 haunting it, as well as its kiddie image which most modern gamers (including most kiddies) don’t really care for anymore.  It will, however, be the exclusive home to Capcom’s Resident Evil series, so that will offset some of the kiddiness a bit.  Still though, other than 3 or 4 titles, the game list for the ‘Cube is rather uninspiring.  And let’s not forget about marketing…  The current marketing campaigns for the Gamecube seem rather thin, and much like Sega’s less-than-stellar Dreamcast television ads, the Gamecube ads show VERY little of the actual games or hardware and focuses mainly on irrelevant artsy-fartsy tripe.  (Wow! A dude is all curled up in a plexi-glass cube! I’ve gotta buy a goddamned Nintendo Gamecube NOW!)
  • Microsoft XboxMICROSOFT XBOX — Although not having a large lineup of exclusive, Xbox only titles, Microsoft’s console/pc hybrid does have a large number of titles slated for release.  Many of these titles are ports from the PS2 and contain extra features and superior graphics to their PS2 counterparts.  The Xbox also features DVD playback capability (although a $30 unlocking kit is required), and offers built-in networking capabilities and a hard drive.  While the hard drive will come in handy for downloading new levels/characters/etc. and for saving games without the need to purchase memory cards, there’s also the chance that it could introduce one of the PC’s plagues into the console arena: the release it now, patch it later attitude.  If you play PC games a lot (especially MMORPG’s), then you know what I’m talking about.  These days it seems as if developers are more concerned with meeting release dates instead of making certain that their games actually work. Of course that type of crap may not ever enter the Xbox picture, as most developers are all too eager to praise the Xbox for how easy it is to program for.  And let’s not forget about the Xbox’s ad campaigns.  In a country where the average consumer needs marketing firms and pop culture in general to tell them what they should and shouldn’t like, the Xbox is going to surpass the other consoles as Microsoft has an endless supply of marketing cash and isn’t afraid to use it.  The recent teaming up with Taco Bell to give away nearly 7,000 Xbox systems is a clear indicator that Microsoft isn’t playing around, and has thus outshined the PS2 and Gamecube marketing campaigns by far.

As for my thoughts on the whole matter, I’m going to say that if you just have to buy a new console next month and you can only get one, then the Xbox is going to be the one to get.  For almost every must-have PS2 game, there’s going to be an Xbox version that offers more for the same price, and with the list of anxious Xbox developers growing every day, I think we’re going to see all of the really cutting edge games on this system.  Make no mistake, I hate the fact that the success of the Xbox will only make Bill Gates and his evil Microsoft empire even wealthier, but I call ’em as I see ’em, and methinks that so far Microsoft has all of their ducks in a row. The fact that the Xbox is the only American system on the market won’t hurt it either, especially in these uber-patriotic times we live in.

Although it’s still incredibly hard to predict as to who will come out on top, one thing’s for certain: no matter which console you go with, there’s going to be more quality games released for it than you’ll ever be able to afford. For perhaps the first time in gaming history it looks like everybody’s gonna come out a winner.