Today marks one month with my Xbox 360, which makes it timely to reflect on my experiences thus far. When I brought it home from Christmas festivities, I found the system easy to hook up: the same A/V cables as my original Xbox worked, requiring less rewiring, and a nearby AirPort Express I'd previously installed provided the wired connectivity that my Wii gets wirelessly. I didn't appreciate the need for this additional hardware and cabling.
But once the connection is made, the Xbox's superior online experience is immediately evident. Though Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) games may not be superior to WiiWare, the availability of free demos for both downloadable and retail games gives any gamer hours of free entertainment. I immediately queued up 57 downloads, playing one while others continued in the background. Eventually I turned the system off and let the remainder continue into the night.
However, the transition from Wii to 360 has not always been easy. With the Wii being the only current-gen console in my household for more than two years, I've grown accustomed to its innovative and intuitive controls. Though I was excited to finally have hands-on experience with all the 360 titles I'd heard so much about, I found their controls both daunting and archaic. I actually have to push buttons to make things happen? How quaint! One look at the complex control scheme for Dead Space, and I quit. It's not that I'm incapable of learning detailed controls, but my gaming preferences have shifted sufficiently that I prefer pick-up-and-play approaches.
It's no wonder, then, that a month later, I've yet to put a single disc in my console. In a recent episode of the Major Nelson podcast, the observation is made that a new Xbox owner who downloads the top XBLA games will be set for awhile. Such has been my case. Not counting freebies like Dash of Destruction and Aegis Wing, I without hesitation bought Bionic Commando: Rearmed, Pac-Man Championship Edition, and Portal: Still Alive. A demo of Braid assured me it, too, was worth purchasing, and I was delighted to discover a remake of the original Apple II game Prince of Persia. It didn't take me long to beat Bionic Commando and Portal, but I still play Pac-Man every day. I knew these games would appeal to me more than Halo, BioShock, or Mass Effect, and so far I was right; for less than $50 USD, I've gotten hours of accessible and replayable entertainment value. But what's surprising is that, after reading reviews or playing demos, the six retail games I originally listed as reasons to buy an Xbox 360 are now ones I have no intention of buying. And, given the use I'm currently getting out of my 360, I don't see that I need to, either
The 360 is more than just games, of course. I've never purchased movies or television shows via iTunes, but upon a friend's recommendation, I did buy an episode of Scrubs from Microsoft's Video Marketplace. I also registered Rivet (upgraded this week to v2.0), a Macintosh program that lets me stream most audio and video from my Mac to my 360 (though I had to upgrade my OS to Leopard before Rivet would run). I like that the New Xbox Experience allows me to peruse the Xbox Marketplace from my computer at work and queue downloads for when I get home; it provides more opportunity and immediacy for acting upon various news and thoughts I come across during the day.
Without many multiplayer games or even a Gold membership, I've not yet engaged in any online competitions, but that's okay. I've always enjoyed sharing the couch with my fellow gamers, and I don't know that I'd enjoy the remoteness of online play.
In the meantime, I am a very happy, if unconventional, Xbox 360 gamer.