For Whom The Guitar Wails

I was in a bit of a panic last Saturday. You see, about a week ago, I walked into one of the many local Gamestops to pick up Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction (fabulous game by the way), and decided that I might need to plunk a few dollars down on a pre-order for the new Guitar Hero. Pre-ordering is not something that I like to do very often, but availability looked like it might be slim for such a popular game. What can I say? People love their power chords. In retrospect, I’ve seen plenty of copies “around,” but that’s really beside the point.

I don’t know if it was mere brand loyalty or the fact that I had Playstation on the mind that day (once again, Ratchet and Clank and the imminent arrival of Eye of Judgment), but when asked which version I’d like to reserve, I jumped right to “PS3.” After I’d already walked out the store, I got the feeling that maybe what I just did was monumentally stupid. The thought passed for a time, until I was reading up on some threads on NeoGAF and noticed that several version comparisons had been posted. I think this was the first time that I really paid attention to these sorts of things. Beyond the fact that the Playstation 3 version of the game was going to use a wireless dongle, I had assumed up until that point that it was more or less the same as the 360 SKU. Oh, how wrong I was.

That’s not to say that they aren’t the same at the core, because they are. You get the same set of songs, the same note charts, the same gameplay. What makes Guitar Hero “Guitar Hero” is going to be there regardless of what version of the game you’ve bought. So what’s the striking difference, the crux of my decision to dump the Playstation for the Xbox? Infrastructure. Infrastructure. Infrastructure. This is the first game in the series to have a serious online component, and while PSN “does the job,” it still can’t stand up to the reliability of Xbox Live. Here’s what Microsoft’s service does right:

1) Friend invites – Right now, this has to be implemented on a game-by-game basis on the PS3. Eye of Judgment has it, but the integration feels a bit haphazard. It doesn’t tell you what games your friends are actually playing when you want to bug them for a match. Xbox Live, possible by virtue of experience, has got it down pat. We were really supposed to have good XMB integration at this point, which include easy in-game access to your fellow gamers, but firmware 2.0 (which is rumored to add it) is still in limbo.

2) DLC – New developer Neversoft has said that Xbox Live gamers will be the first to receive any downloadable songs or other content that might come along down the road first. Unlike say, GTAIV, this isn’t because of money hats and cash baskets, but because policy is holding up the approval process on Sony’s service. Check this from Chris Remo’s Guitar Hero III Buyer’s Guide over at ShackNews: “Also, Neversoft has stated it’s unsure how timely new in-game tracks will be delivered on the PlayStation Store–a legitimate concern, considering other parties have had trouble putting content up on Sony’s network as well.”

3) Achievements – Love ’em or hate ’em, they keep you playing the game longer and give you a quantifiable asset for comparing your skill to your peers, as well as your rivals. Guitar Hero is a series that has always had a big focus on topping the leaderboard. Look no further than the fact that the largest fansite dedicated to it is called ScoreHero. For the obsessed, achievements are another feather in their cap.

4) Friends – Before you can challenge friends to a match, you’ve got to have them first, and with the majority of players already gravitating towards the 360/PS2 versions of the game, you can forget playing with them if you spring for the PS3. Unfortunately for Sony, this is a problem they can’t fix with a patch. It’s endemic to the perception of the system as a gaming platform right now. More than anything else, this played a key part in my final decision. Few of my acquaintances actually own a Playstation 3 (and some have even gone as far to say that they’ll never purchase one), which means that if I want to co-op with them, it’s 360 or bust.

It’s all the periphery features that make the sale, Sony. Most games these days cannot be confined the experience that comes on the disc and without the support for these sorts of things, you’re rapidly losing your place as the 3rd party wunderkind. Sure, you might say “it’s coming” or “we’re working on it,” but people are already tired of “paying for potential.” It’s time to pony up the goods, or you’re going to continue losing even dedicated Playstation fans like myself. After all, nobody wants the inferior version of a game or console unless it costs lest, and yours most certainly doesn’t.

So, instead of opting for my pre-order (which I tried to switch, but there were no Xbox copies left for reserve), I walked into Best Buy Sunday morning and picked Guitar Hero III up for the 360. Your loss.

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~ by Cavin Smith on October 29, 2007.

One Response to “For Whom The Guitar Wails”

  1. […] You can read the rest of this blog post by going to the original source, here […]

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