We may take digital downloads on console for granted nowadays but let's go back to when they became popularised and decide which platform offered the superior service.
Xbox Live Arcade
Many gamers know Xbox Live Arcade best for its wide selection of titles available for Xbox 360 although it actually debuted for the original Xbox 1 year prior with only a couple dozen games. The service was available for Xbox 360 from day one and that's what made it become mainstream as gamers had the ability to download and play all sorts of classic and modern games at a reasonable price. Another innovation that Microsoft introduced at this time was achievements. By playing Xbox Live Arcade games as well as larger titles, you could master challenges that granted you GamerScore. Although this is commonplace now, imagine how baffling it was back in 2005 to learn about this for the first time. Many gamers thought, "What's the point? Can I use this GamerScore for anything?" Sadly, there isn't really any point other than to show off to people who, let's face it, couldn't care less. Well, I guess things certainly haven't changed much in this regard!
With all of that history out of the way, let's discuss some memorable games for Xbox Live Arcade. One that most gamers remember is Aegis Wing as it was and still is completely free. It's definitely a solid shoot 'em up and those who prefer twin-stick action had a blast with Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved; another launch title. A personal favourite collection of mine are all of the PopCap games such as Feeding Frenzy, Bejeweled 2, and Heavy Weapon and who could forget the awesome line-up from Twisted Pixel including The Maw, 'Splosion Man, and Comic Jumper? Also, Pinball FX debuted on Xbox Live Arcade and that's one of the best pinball franchises ever.
There are way too many iconic Xbox Live Arcade games to list so I'll just mention some off the top of my head. Mutant Storm and Assault Heroes are top-notch shooters while Alien Hominid HD and The Dishwasher provide some of the best 2D action in all of gaming. A few other favourites include the enjoyable musical puzzler Chime, Treasure's wonderful Gunstar Heroes, and the fantastic remake Rez HD. Plus, modern classics such as Super Meat Boy, Trials HD, Spelunky, Shadow Complex, Braid, and Fez all launched for Xbox Live Arcade.
Well, how could PS3's PlayStation Store possibly beat that? They definitely had a lot of catching up to do; that's for sure. I personally got a PlayStation 3 a few years before I got an Xbox 360 and most of the games that I enjoyed from the PlayStation Store were actually ports of Xbox Live Arcade games. Many others merely released simultaneously for both consoles. Should I have got an Xbox 360 instead? I'm not sure but one thing I am sure about is how annoying it was that many PS3 games didn't support trophies prior to 2009 and even plenty of top-notch releases never received trophy patches. One good thing I can say is that the PlayStation Store's currency has always been in actual money amounts as opposed to having to buy Microsoft points which could only be purchased in odd amounts; well, at least here in Canada. 20 dollars for 1400 points that I can use on a cool game and have 600 points left over? No thank you.
To be fair, the PlayStation Store had some great exclusives such as Super Stardust HD, LocoRoco Cocoreccho, and the extremely ridiculous and very fun Pain and High Velocity Bowling. I have to mention the outstanding PixelJunk games as well which featured Racers, Monsters, Eden, Shooter, SideScroller, and 4am. They should really release a collection of those games; I'm surprised that they haven't yet! Anyway, other personal favourites include the mind-bending Echochrome, the phenomenal shmup series Söldner-X, the super-fun online multiplayer Crash Commando, and the great Breakout-inspired Magic Orbz. Oh, and one of my favourite puzzle games of all time Critter Crunch was a treat. Also, Trine and Joe Danger made their console debuts on the PlayStation Store and those games are awesome. Finally, Thatgamecompany released Flow, Flower, and Journey and you really can't get much more classic than those.
That being said, you could download plenty of PS1 classics on the PlayStation Store as well as a bunch of PS2 classics which released later on and that's just perfect for long-time gamers like myself. Even though I still own hundreds of physical games for those consoles, being able to fill out my library with a load of rare titles is something that I only dreamed of as a kid.
Reminiscing about the origins of digital gaming on console has been quite fun but I have to pick an overall winner and that is...
Winner Xbox Live Arcade
Although I owned a PlayStation 3 before I took the plunge and got an Xbox 360, I knew I was missing out on a lot. Microsoft's console and their Xbox Live Arcade service simply did everything spot-on right out of the gate by featuring an achievement system and making a vast library of must-have digital games available for reasonable prices. Just thinking about it makes me want to boot up the old Xbox 360 and relive some Xbox Live Arcade memories.
That's just my opinion. Agree? Disagree? Vote now!