Sony PlayStation Network vs MS Xbox Live
Major consoles' online offerings rated
Despite closing the gap with text and voice communication, friends' lists and achievements, PSN is still playing catch-up to XBL for community features. Although rumours persist of imminent improvements to both, PSN lacks XBL's unified controls and cross-game communications.
Built into the core XBL platform, Party allows players to invite friends to play games or chat amongst themselves whether they're playing the same or different games, watching movies or idling around the menu system. PSN, conversely, is a disjointed experience which compartmentalises communications by specific games, chat rooms and PlayStation Home. Avatars are also a more ingrained feature in XBL's online experience, whereas PSN avatars exist only in the increasingly deserted PlayStation Home.
It's impossible to make generalisations about each community. You're just as likely in both to come across genteel, erudite strangers as you are ignorant, foul-mouthed brutes, with specific games more of a deciding factor than actual online platform. But with options to black-mark players and report abuse, both platforms have adequate systems to shield sensitive players from even the most profane American teenagers.
Given the disparity in philosophy and offering, it's easy to sit on the fence and let the flame wars erupt on the comments board - where, for those still undecided, I expect you'll find even more information on their respective merits.
But if I had to choose, I'd pick Xbox Live. I'm a gamer, not a content consumer, and my prime consideration is the online gaming experience. And while I hate to pay for the privilege, and while I fully expect the PlayStation Network to have introduced those missing elements by this time next year, thanks to its unified controls and fully-integrated communications, it's just a lot more fun playing games across Xbox Live at the moment. ®