Irritating Installations: Xbox 360 vs. PS3

by Will Prusik

Since even before the launch of the PS3, Sony fans were touting the system’s incredible processing power as several orders of magnitude beyond that of the Xbox 360. So far we haven’t seen much proof of that in terms of graphical performance (Uncharted 2 looked great - that's it), but much of that is due to the general downturn in exclusive titles- developing two separate versions of a game would be far less cost-effective. Having recently picked up Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 to play with my fiancée on the PS3 (she finds the 360 controllers a bit too bulky) we popped in the disc, excited to once again run around as superheroes and pound various enemies into oblivion. Nothing was available until after it finished the lengthy installed. Well first it had to download an update. Unlike the 360, which simply gives you the choice of updating you’re game or signing out of Xbox Live. Usually when I’m playing a new game I’m far too excited about getting started on it to worry about the patch. If there are serious game-crashing bugs, then I’ll go back and update it. So after waiting ten minutes or so to download the patch, it’s another ten minutes to install the game (average install times on PS3 run 5-15 minutes depending on game size). With such hefty processing power, why doesn’t the PS3 simply run games from the start like the 360? There was a long stretch between the end of the Super Nintendo’s lifespan and when I bought an Xbox that I was a PC gamer. The eternal curse of the PC gamer is install times and in my day you often had a choice between different install sizes, so you had to try and guess whether it was worth waiting longer between load times to get into the game faster. Getting back to console gaming freed me of this hassle. It’s even more annoying to have to install games these days when I’m working a standard forty-hour a week job and every minute of playing time can be precious. It certainly seems like there could be a better way to structure the whole process, for example having the system be installing the assets from later levels in the game while you’re starting off. Surely the much vaunted cell processor could handle that?
There may be a point where due to the massive amount of data crammed onto each Blu-Ray disc an installation will actually become completely necessary, but that’s certainly not the case today, given that the Xbox 360 gets your thumbs twitching as soon as you pop the disc in (you can install discs onto the 360 HD but the average is 5 minutes). Sure I can understand the logic behind forcing patches through, it cuts down on frustrations preemptively, especially in the case of bugs that corrupt save files, but when you give players a choice of buying a product where the only real difference is whether they’re going to be sitting on the couch twiddling their thumbs or diving into the action right away, you can be sure that most people are going to opt for the instant gratification option. Maybe this is one of the reasons why the Xbox 360 continues to dominate the Playstation 3 in worldwide sales, although I’m not sure what the Nintendo Wii is going on; oh well. If I had to choose between an install on PS3 or instant-play on Xbox 360 (as long as the quality is the same) – my choice will be Microsoft’s console each and every time.


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