Microsoft announced this week that after ten-and-a-half years, they were finally calling it quits on the Xbox 360, at least in terms of manufacturing the console. While the Xbox 360 will continue to be supported — there are still games being released for it, and the system’s Xbox Live features are still fully intact — we’ve now arrived at the symbolic end of the console’s lifespan. Despite being an incredibly unreliable piece of hardware in its early years (the red rings of death still strike fear in the hearts of gamers everywhere), the Xbox 360 managed to establish itself as the console of choice for many players thanks to its incredible library of games and generally uncomplicated design.
We thought we’d celebrate the Xbox 360’s impact on gaming by comparing it to its main competitor, Sony’s PlayStation 3 (yes, Nintendo’s Wii outsold both, but it was geared toward a different audience), and listing off the areas where Microsoft’s console had Sony’s beat. Don’t worry, we’re not claiming that the Xbox 360 is “better” than the PlayStation 3 (in fact, we plan to do another piece focused on the PS3’s advantages) but it’s hard to deny that the Xbox 360 had the edge in the following categories.
10. Xbox Live > PlayStation Network
While PlayStation Network had the advantage of being a free service up until Sony introduced the PlayStation Plus subscription in 2010, this turned out to be a case of “you get what you pay for.” Microsoft’s $50/year asking price for Xbox Live Gold seemed a bit steep (and still does to some degree) but it led to a much stabler online experience on Xbox 360 as compared to PS3. Live has suffered its fair share of outages over the years, but it has much better security and infrastructure than PlayStation Network, as evidenced by the infamous 2011 outage where PSN was taken offline for over a month after a security breach. Sony has made strides since then in improving their network and while the two services are much more on par on PS4 and Xbox One, the Xbox 360 had the clear advantage in the online space over the PS3.
9. Backwards Compatibility
The backwards compatibility battle between the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 was actually pretty fascinating in hindsight, although it was quite frustrating at the time. When the Xbox 360 launched in 2005, it did so without the ability to play original Xbox games natively. Instead, Microsoft used software emulation, an imperfect solution that was criticized for only featuring a selection of Xbox titles and not the entire library. In contrast, the PS3 launched the next year with full support for both PS1 and PS2 games, which was admittedly a pretty awesome feature.
Before long though, Sony realized that their console was too damn expensive and to help cut costs, they removed components that allowed for PS2 playback, which meant that launch PS3s became a pretty hot commodity. While Sony fans seethed that they couldn’t play their PS2 games on the PS3 without tracking down an earlier model, the Xbox 360 reaped the benefits by actually having some form of backwards compatibility, something that Sony could no longer tote as a feature on their console.
8. Faster Download and Install Speeds
A negligible advantage but one all the same, the Xbox 360 was simply able to download and install games and updates much quicker than the PS3 ever could. This seems to be an issue with PlayStation Network itself, as the PS4 still suffers from slower than expected download speeds and install times (to be fair, the Xbox One isn’t all that quick either). In a generation that focused so heavily on networked consoles for the first time, speed was a legitimate concern for Xbox 360 and PS3 owners, and the PS3’s sluggish downloads and installs were a source of frustration for many gamers. This issue was compounded by Sony’s apparent need to release a new firmware update every other week (possible exaggeration), which translated to PS3 owners simply having to wait longer than 360 owners to play their games.
7. Party Chat
By no means a deal breaker, the fact that the PS3 was incapable of offering party chat — or any voice chat session outside of a game — seems unbelievable by today’s standards, especially when the 360 had these features from the beginning. The Xbox 360 was very much the better social system, as it introduced quite a few innovations that hadn’t been seen previously on game consoles, including the ability to chat with friends outside of a game session. This meant that you could make any activity a much more social event, such as watching movies or TV shows online with friends. Of course, the PS4 and Xbox One are pretty much at parity now with these sorts of features, but in the last console generation, the Xbox 360 definitely had the upper hand when it came to interacting with the people on your friends list.
6. Design Aesthetics
While the PS4 may have the Xbox One beat in terms of aesthetics this generation, the Xbox 360 had the edge in this department over the PS3. The Xbox 360’s original console design was a vast improvement over it’s heavy, ugly predecessor, featuring an eye-pleasing curved design while replacing the black and green with a nice striking white. The first PS3 model looked too much like a fax machine and didn’t quite have the appearance of a must-have, cutting edge game machine on the outside (the oft-ridiculed Spider-Man font certainly didn’t help). Each console got a couple redesigned “slim” models and while it’s a toss-up between which of these had the better look, the Xbox 360 at least had the advantage out of the gate.
5. Better UI
The Xbox 360 had the misfortune of having its user interface get progressively worse as it went along (heck, we still think the original blade design is better than the Xbox One’s dashboard in some ways, but even the worst 360 UI was better than the PS3’s xross media bar (XMB). The PS3’s UI was perfectly functional, but it quickly became pretty boring to use and felt stripped down compared to the 360’s different designs, which were both elegant and functional. Even the Xbox Store had a much better layout than the PlayStation Store, which generally suffered from requiring too many steps to get to the content you wanted. Certainly, many users preferred the PS3’s interface, but for us, there was just something about the Xbox 360’s UI — no matter which version it was — that made us prefer it.
4. Name Changes
A relatively minor advantage, but an advantage all the same, the Xbox 360 allowed users to change their Xbox Live Gamertag name (for a fee), a feature that the PS3 did not have. Hilariously, this is something that actually continued into the next generation, as the Xbox One still allows users to change their name while the PS4 does not. According to Sony, the PlayStation Network was designed in such a way that makes it incredibly difficult to add a feature that allows for name changes, which means that if you made a PlayStation Network ID back in 2006 and ended up hating the name, you’re still stuck with it a decade later unless you created a new account. With more and more of our game libraries being tied directly to these accounts, the fact that users still can’t change their names on PlayStation platforms is absurd, and Microsoft has definitely benefited from having the foresight to design Xbox Live in such a way as to allow for name changes.
3. The Controller
Sony’s DualShock is arguably the greatest controller design of all-time … but the PS3’s DualShock 3 kind of sucked. Lacking the haptic feedback features of the DualShock 2 and featuring a pair of triggers that left much to be desired (they could even pinch your fingers!), the DualShock 3 was simply inferior to the Xbox 360 controller, which still stands as one of the best ever made. An improvement in every way over the original Xbox’s lackluster gamepads, the 360 controller handled like a dream, so much so that it’s still used by many PC gamers. Sure, the d-pad was pretty bad and the analog sticks did wear down pretty easily, but in terms of form factor and overall comfort, the 360 controller definitely trounced the PS3’s offering.
2. Better Exclusives (If You Liked Shooters)
The PlayStation 3 arguably had the Xbox 360 beat when it came to higher quality exclusives, as The Last of Us and the Uncharted series are easily some of the best games of the last decade and they could only be found on Sony’s console. That being said, the Xbox 360 was no slouch when it came to exclusives either and when it came to shooters, the 360 definitely had the PS3’s number. First-party series such as Halo and Gears of War ensured that the 360 had an active line-up of competitive shooters. In contrast, the PS3 had its fair share of great shooters in the form of Killzone and Resistance, but they just couldn’t hold a candle to what the 360’s library was offering in terms of online play.
Even the Call of Duty series was marginally better on 360, as a combination of timed DLC exclusives (ironically, something that the PS4 now has over the Xbox One) and a controller that was simply better designed for first and third-person shooters gave that popular series the edge on Microsoft’s console. Again, the answer to the “which console had the better exclusives?” question depends on your own personal genre preferences, but if you were a shooter fan, it was hard to resist what the 360 offered.
1. Better 3rd Party Games
Although the PS3 is technically more powerful than the Xbox 360, in most cases, the 360 received superior versions of multiplatform games. The 360 was simply easier to program for, as the PS3’s complex system architecture was a nightmare for developers. This meant that the 360 version was often the objectively better version of the game, as these ports had better frame rates and overall stability. One need only look at the difference between the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of Bethesda games such as Fallout 3 and Skyrim to see how inferior PS3 ports could get. Of course, the PC version was (and still is) the way to go if you could manage it, but for those who owned both consoles, it was often an easy choice deciding which version of a multiplatform game to purchase.