Mostly balanced but...XBL avatars are somehow a plus?
A relatively fair and balanced write up, although, I think that the fundamental point of either of these things is the online gaming. And let's face it, with a silver subscription you won't be on XBL, but with PSN, you can play immediately you sign up - for free. Beyond that, everything else are nice to have features, but I do think that too much is made of the apparent worth of some of them, such as cross game chat. If I'm playing NFS HP and some dumb-butt friend firing madly in Call of Duty wants to trash talk in my ear because we're friends, he can sod off.
The usual vague complaints about PSN being too slow - except I can point to dozens of PSN users who say it isn't and dozens more who say XBL is too slow and dozens more who say they're the same. The thing is, that in reality the performance of either network varies rather oddly varies ISP, region, and network configuration. There have been suggestions in the past that some ISPs are intentionally or inadvertently slowing PSN or XBL (or both) through their traffic shaping, this is particularly true of PSN downloads for some reason. But, the truth is that they re as fast as each other, assuming your network is set up right, you're using a wired, not wireless connection and your ISP isn't playing silly buggers with the traffic.
One thing that kind of irked me about the write up was an odd element that apparently hurt the PSN with regard to community. The article suggested that the XBL avatars are somehow superior. I'm not sure in what way that makes community superior. On PSN you have your avatar image and you can voice./text chat as you wish from the XMB. The XBL avatars don't actually have any function beyond the little avatar pictures used by PSN. But to then sideswipe the Home avatars as if the XBL cartoon like avatars are somehow superior was just plain misleading and wrong. If you want to slam PSN about it's lack of cross game voice chat as a thing that detracts from it's community, that's fine. I don't agree, but it's a fair criticism. But the XBL avatars? You're reaching there.
But hey, if you want to mention Home and stack it up as if it's somehow an element of PSN that is included for this comparison, then you really do have to go back and change some scores.
Home really does provide a social/community service for PSN gamers to use - if they wish. You an get a group of friends and chat (up to 8 in voice chat in Home now), you can issue game invites and launch a multi-player game party - if the game supports it. Even if the game doesn't support the multi-player launch, you can still arrange the game, launch the game from within Home and hook up again once you're in the game. The thing is, that Home itself provides some gaming options for a group of friends to indulge in as well as the game launching capability.
The point being that Home has come a hell of a long way in just the last 12 months, It's come light years since it was launched. If you have an open mind, you can see that for yourself, if not, you will confirm your preconceptions. Whatever.
Back to the review, I wouldn't include anything to do with Home in the PSN/XBL comparison because it's a separate environment, and not a core PSN service. But then, I also wouldn't have held out cartoon stick figures as grounds for saying XBL is better than PSN.
Personally, I think that it's a bit of a wash comparing the two. If you exclude actual networking issues and look at the services themselves, the biggest single difference is the cross game voice chat followed by the game invite system. Everything else is either equivalent or down to personal preference. If having cross game voice chat and a slightly superior game invite system is worth $40 to you, that's your business. I don't agree, but to me it doesn't affect the comparison, because it's a paid feature.
PlayStation Plus, the paid portion of what is described as PSN in this review is all about content and pricing of that content. There are precious few 'features' that PlayStation Plus grants - automatic downloads of updates is about it, other than that, Playstation Plus is essentially a paid discount/loyalty program. It's convenient to compare XBL and PSN (including Plus) because their costs are the same, but Gold membership of XBL is a requirement for online play of any kind, that subscription is not a discount plan. Plus is almost purely a paid discount plan, it has no material effect on the operation of PSN or it's features. In that sense I do think that the comparison is a tad skewed. A true comparison of PSN and XBL doesn't include Plus because it doesn't impact the PSN experience.
From that point of view, a more truthful comparison would continue to show PSN as free and not bothered to mention Plus. Personally, I don't believe that you should have to pay to play a game you purchased. If XBL Gold was required for the enhanced features only, and online play was free, then your comparison would - in my opinion - hold more validity.
For me, it's always been a case of PSN is free play, XBL is not. Over the last 4 years PSN has closed the game on XBL in most ways except for the very conspicuous cross game voice chat. apart from that, they are very even with each other.