Xbox Live is without doubt a better service than Playstation Network overall, thus proving the old adage “you get what you pay for”. PSN is still struggling to get up to the functionality that Live had at the launch of the Xbox 360, but there is one major plus point that it has over its posher competitor – its players are much less fickle.
Yes, for some reason those playing on the Xbox 360 tend to migrate en masse to the next online game as soon as it comes out, leaving older titles as bereft of activity as Danny Dyer’s brain. This means that while the really big games retain a good level of online activity (Halo 3 and Modern Warfare 1 are still very popular, for example), other releases – often excellent ones – soon fall silent. As a bit of a nostalgia exercise in preparation for Bizarre Creations’ new game, Blur, I had a quick bash at Project Gotham Racing 4 this evening, and hopped online to see if anything was happening. It wasn’t. There were no ranked matches being played at all, and only two people having a custom race. And they were on the same Xbox. Sum total of online PGR4 players tonight: three, including me. It’s a brilliant game, too. So unfair that it’s died.
By contrast, there are many Playstation 3 games which have retained their online communities long after the Xbox crowd would have ridden off into the sunset. Games like Warhawk and Little Big Planet, like SOCOM: Confrontation and Motorstorm Pacific Rift. Maybe it has something to do with the demographics at work here – the very fact that Xbox Live subscribers have to pay to play online could mean that they are, on average, more hardcore gamers than their PS3 owning equivalents who get to play their friends for free. This would factor into the software attach rates for each console (the 360’s being higher), with Xbox gamers buying new releases as soon as possible and abandoning older games to exclusively focus on the competitive aspect of ranking up quickly in first person shooters.
Maybe Xbox owners are slappers who seek a port in every storm, while the PS3 crowd are monogamous commitment types who start “subtly” leaving wedding magazines on the coffee table after five minutes.
Whatever the reason for the difference, it’s a shame that so many online games on 360 have a short shelf life. They deserve better.