Alternative Access

Alternative Access
The War Continues

Tom Endo | 28 Jul 2009 12:29
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The proliferation of Windows in that same space means that Microsoft has the luxury of compartmentalizing Xbox Live as something specifically for videogame players. Also, Microsoft's relatively limited presence in the consumer electronics space means they need not spend as much time focusing on compatibility issues between different devices - not yet, anyway. This ability to focus on a single core audience has paid off in a service that's exceedingly clear about what it delivers: games first and foremost, customization for the experience surrounding those games and some additional multimedia content. Meanwhile, Sony offers games, a secondary user experience in the form of Home that's barely been explored, multiple uses for the PS3, ever changing ways in which the PSP can interface with it and the unexplored territory of the PSP Go as a purely network-based device - a wider array of choices, but one that nevertheless gives the Playstation Network the appearance of being adrift.

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It's easy to see how Microsoft's Xbox Live will define the company's identity. It's less clear how Sony will continue to distinguish the PlayStation Network in gamers' eyes. Sony's user interface speaks to the company's hardware neutrality, and it works well in the sense that navigating the service on a PSP or PS3 are one in the same, but it isn't designed for a specific audience. The Xbox Live experience is decked out with friendly avatars that will soon be very customizable, and content is arranged around pages, not unlike a web portal. All of which smack of being designed explicitly to appeal to a certain type of consumer, whose demands Microsoft seems to fully understand. The PlayStation Network is utilitarian; indistinguishable from - albeit as easy to navigate as - a menu on a digital camera. Perhaps this ubiquity will, in the long run, work to their advantage.

While it would appear Microsoft has the upper hand for the moment in the battle for console dominance, as the war continues and becomes increasingly about how our videogame systems (and our games) interact with the rest of our lives, it remains to be seen if that will last. One thing is for certain, however: With such an astounding array of advancements coming down the pipe - from both companies - gamers themselves will most likely be the ultimate winners.

Tom Endo still thinks Teletext should be the preferred digital distribution network of choice.

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