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May 2004 | Vol. III - No. 5


Game Systems 101

With last year´s release of the Nintendo GameCube, coupled with Microsoft´s Xbox entering a market that Sony´s PlayStation2 has dominated since 2000, it can be a little confusing to sort out the difference between game systems. Each offers innovative features in console engineering, and distinctly different interactive experiences.

Whippersnapper in a Box vs. Gaming Senior

Microsoft had a vision for online gaming that began long before Xbox was released. Microsoft´s sparked the initial conception in multiplayer-online capabilities that would later be harnessed in a console to directly compete against Sony´s PS2. The result is a technologically advanced game system that is faster and arguably more self-contained than PS2. It boasts tighter graphics, has broadband connectivity right out of the box and an internal hard drive with 8GB of storage space.

Until recently, PS2´s 300MHz CPU was considered powerful, but it´s small potatoes compared to Xbox´s mighty 733MHz processor. As if that were not enough, Microsoft teamed up with NVIDIA to custom design a state of the art graphics chip rendering 3D graphics intricate enough to make tiny leaves on trees dance in the wind. PS2´s 3D geometric transformation is a mere 66 million polygons per second versus the 300 million per second pushed by Xbox.

However, PlayStation 2 still holds its industry lead. With established brand awareness and the largest video game library around, gamers will likely not rescind loyalty to Sony anytime soon. Sony offers more than 550 titles compared to 400 plus offered for Xbox. Most PS2 video games are compatible with the original PlayStation, and its exclusive titles are what keep gamers hooked. Xbox has yet to beat PlayStation in this aspect, but its exclusive title HALO 2 is expected to create a buzz when released later this year.

Sony surfs the wave of online gaming but Microsoft´s forethought of a unified online gaming community makes for rock ´n´ roll straight out of the box. The system comes fit standard with an Ethernet port for broadband connectivity - no attachments needed. Xbox Live allows players to create a more personal online gaming experience by building "a posse of friends and opponents" and the ability to communicate with them via a headset along with a subscription providing real time updates on scoreboards and tournaments. And because of its built-in hard drive, playerrs can download extra levels for certain games.

PlayStation 2 is by no means excluded from the online gaming frenzy and has the same network capabilities as the Xbox. Although online gaming may be a little less straightforward with PS2, it is no less accessible. A network adaptor (Ethernet/modem) for PS2 can be purchased separately.

Nintendo GameCube

So where does Nintendo GameCube fare under all this competition? Out of the three consoles, only Nintendo saw an upsurge in sales with the September price drop from $149 to $99, unit Xbox recently dropped its price from $179 to $149. Sales of Xbox since doubled. PS2 still retails at an average of $179.

The GameCube is a slightly different breed of console. Nintendo feels the Cube´s graphics are strong competation for PS2 but it doesn´t bother to compete with Xbox´s graphics. It doesn´t have a CD or DVD player. In fact, GameCube´s games come on 3-inch mini discs. Nintendo has always partially defined itself by the pocket-sized, portable features of its systems. Nintendo Advance SP´s mini laptop design lends itself to easy game play, especially with the new front-lit screen. The Advance also plugs into the console for enhanced game play.

A broadband adaptor is available for GameCube, but Nintendo has chosen to focus its multiplayer efforts elsewhere. Nintendo distinguishes the GameCube by marketing its exclusive game qualities. The Game Boy Advance and Advance SP connect to the GameCube console via a peripheral cable for a multiplayer mode. Like Sony, Nintendo has always maintained software compatibility for all of its systems. Nearly all Advance SP software works with the Game Boy, Game Boy Advance and Game Boy Color.


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