Plugged In

Console war? What console war?

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A question:
Can you call it a console war if one side refuses to put up a fight?

The latest sales numbers released by the independent market research firm NPD Group were announced recently and the news wasn’t good for Sony. Again. The recently repriced Xbox 360 outsold Sony’s PlayStation 3 by more than a 2-to-1 margin in August. Worse yet, sales of the PS3 — which also recently received a price cut — fell roughly 18 percent from July. Sales for the Xbox 360 jumped 63 percent over that same period, thanks in large part to its aforementioned price cut.

Of course, neither console could keep pace with Nintendo, which sold more than 400,000 Wiis in August. But as Nintendo likes to keep telling everyone, it’s not competing against Microsoft or Sony. Another reason for Microsoft’s sales boost was undoubtedly the arrival of Madden 08 and BioShock, the top two selling next-gen software titles for the month. Only one PS3 title, Madden 08, cracked the NPD’s Top 20 list of software sales.

That’s been Sony’s No. 1 problem with the PS3 — there aren’t any games on that console good enough to justify paying the cost of the system. There just aren’t. And don’t take my word for it. According to Gamerankings.com, a site which compiles game reviews and combines those numbers into an average, only five PS3 titles were scored higher than 85 percent by professional reviewers — no fanboy bias there.

Of those five, two are Xbox 360 ports — The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Rainbow Six: Vegas. And one was a glorified port of a game that was released on the original Xbox — Ninja Gaiden Sigma. Another on that list, Virtua Fighter 5, will soon be making its way to the Xbox 360. That leaves Resistance: Fall of Man as the only PS3 exclusive that one could justifiably call a system seller.

By comparison, 19 Xbox 360 titles averaged at least 85 percent. At least eight of those are exclusive to the Xbox 360, including bona-fide system sellers BioShock, Gears of War and Oblivion (it was on the 360 a full year before it arrived on the PS3). I say bona-fide because I actually know people who purchased an Xbox 360 solely for the purpose of playing those games. I know, I know, I don’t get out much, but I have yet to meet someone who’s bought a PS3 just to play MotorStorm or Warhawk, two other PS3 exclusives.

And the disparity between the quality of the software available on the two consoles continues to grow. The Xbox 360 is about to receive sure-fire hits Mass Effect, Ninja Gaiden 2 and some game called Halo 3. The PlayStation 3? Well, Dark Sector, Metal Gear Solid 4 and LittleBigPlanet look great. But none are coming out anytime soon (read: this year.)

Yes, I understand that the Xbox 360 had a year under its belt before the PS3 launched, but take a look at some of the titles that dropped during that first year — Oblivion, GoW, Dead Rising, Fight Night Round 3 and GRAW each averaged better than 85 percent at Gamerankings.com. The PS3 can’t make that claim with its software library.

I’m not trying to bury Sony here. They’re doing a good enough job of that all by themselves. The fact is if the PlayStation 3 doesn’t receive an influx of AAA software soon, the latest console war will be over before it really gets started.