Without a doubt, Xbox Live was the best online gaming experience offered on Xbox Original and Xbox 360. Focus in on the keyword, was. The thought of Nintendo having a superior online network is laughable, so that only leaves Sony’s PlayStation Network to hold the crown for offering the best network to PS3 and PS Vita owners. Clearly the presses stopped and jaws dropped when that statement was made. It is one thing to claim that the PS3 is better than Xbox 360, which is a sometimes forgotten fact, but when the one legit advantage the Xbox has is challenged, it’s “mind-bottling”. Fact is: the PlayStation Network is superior to Xbox Live. The first, and most obvious reason is the fact that the service is free to all of its users with an Ethernet or Wi-Fi connection. (Insert Xbox Live Argument) “Yeah, the service was free, but the Network was weak. At least I pay to have a quality connection.” That’s true, Sony lacked the funding for its network that Microsoft’s paid subscription did, but that was before PlayStation Plus. PlayStation Plus, PlayStation Networks paid subscription, helps give Sony funding similar to how Microsoft benefits from Xbox Live Gold, Xbox Lives paid subscription. Both Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus are optional; one is not as optional as implied.
Sony is connecting its video and music services with their video game services, calling it Sony Entertainment Network. The PS3, using PlayStation Network, is a center point for accessing Sony Entertainment Network. It is the only place that can access all three features, Music Unlimited, Video Unlimited, and PlayStation Store. In order to fit the theme of the Sony Entertainment Network, PlayStation Store received a sexy change in appearance. Featuring a layout that host Games, Movies, Apps, PlayStation Plus, and other categories all in one spot rather than two, and a new color scheme and theme that resembles the PlayStation Cross Media Bar (XMB). Xbox was ahead of the curve, offering a growing list of applications that took off before the competition, but PS3 users are gaining access to a number of applications now, too. From Neon Alley, an anime service similar to Netflix, to a state-of-the-art YouTube app, to an actual web browser, which has seen significant improvements since the PS3s launch. Last, but not least anymore, is PlayStation Home. This application has gone from being a ridiculous waste of time, and consequently a good laugh, to a very deep application that allows PS3 owners to interact with each other from Home. Recent updates include a number of free-to-play options. Home Tycoon is a free-to-play game that allows players to build a city in which their avatar is the mayor, and other users can visit the cities by using the Train Station in Home; basically a PS3 rendition of a social Sim City. There are now multiple areas to explore, such as the mall, special events, bowling alley, or arcade, which host more free-to-play games.
PlayStation Network was far from a model of excellence in the beginning, and at times could be described as unacceptable. Xbox 360 offered a more fluid and capable online experience, and over the years gamers have come to naturally think of Xbox Live when speaking of superior online gaming, but now it is the time to accept PlayStation Network as the new leader. Not only is PSN able to offer features comparable to or better than that of Xbox Live, but also Sony is able to offer it at a cheaper price. The benefit to Xbox Live is that more people use Xbox Live than PSN, which allows for a larger network of gamers to play with; however, Sony is making a push to update their services to another level, possibly in preparation for the next generation. Whether the next-generation of PlayStation is coming soon or not, Sony’s guarantee to support the PS3 until at least 2015 should keep users open to these changes, and maybe even grab a PS3 to check it out first-hand.