You ever have one of those weeks that everything about it just sucked? Last week was that week for me. I had to work late several days, had to go in early several days, and I had to do it all while having the flu. I was feeling so bad and tired that gaming didn't even hold an interest for me. Not my PS3, my PSP, or even the couple of games on my cellphone. It was pure torture. I was finally able to get back into the gaming swing last night. I played the demo for Rocketmen: Axis of Evil and -one of my absolute PSN favorites- Super Stardust HD. I thought Rocketmen was pretty entertaining. Interesting story, easy to control (except that your character moves like molasses, and interesting weapons. I just gotta say, PSN is looking pretty damn good right now.

Over the last few months I've purchased, downloaded, and sampled a lot of stuff from PSN. I've bought several PS1 games (Medievil, Wild Arms, Castlevania), a couple of arcade classics (Gauntlet II, Rampage World Tour), a few PSN exclusives (Everyday Shooter, Fl0w, Calling All Cars, Pixel Junk Monsters, Super Stardust HD), downloaded several demos (Rocketmen: Axis of Evil, Lost Planet, Turok), downloaded quite a few movie trailers (Iron Man, Star Trek, Hancock, 21) and even a few game trailers (Haze: Origins trailer, Little Big Planet). What have I learned from all this activity? Sony really wants PSN to succeed. Has it? Not quite, but it's getting there.

Nobody can take the success that Live has had away from Microsoft. Sure, there have been some snags. That's bound to happen with any online enterprise. I think it's commendable what Live has accomplished. It went from being a place for hardcore gamers to play against each other to a fully functioning community. With features like accomplishments, downloadable games, movies, themes, and other content, Live has become the proverbial 800 pound gorilla. Nothing can stand in its way. Let me rephrase that, nothing has been able to stand in its way. I'm not saying that Live is perfect though, nothing is.

Sony definitely wants to take some of Live's thunder, and in order to do that some mighty big changes are in the works. First up will be the addition of in-game XMB. I don't expect to see the whole XMB in there, but having access to my friends list and some of the setting options would be great. Even better would be the ability to customize what parts of the XMB I want to see in-game. There may be an option or two that I want access to that someone else may not. For me, that would be ideal. Second will be the launch (this year or next) of Home. I think it'll be great to be able to invite your friends over to your pad, check out your trophies, maybe watch a video or play a game. Truly innovative stuff. Lastly is a rumored change to the PSN store itself. Personally, I don't care for the layout or controls for the store. One huge thing that needs to happen also is the integration of the store with the transaction options. It should be a no-brainer to want to make the purchase process as simple as possible. Going through 4 or 5 different menus of options is not easy, neither is having to leave the store to do it. For a handy Penny Arcade visual, check this out.

Hopefully Sony can drive up the interest in PSN and online gaming with the PS3 with these changes. The reason why I want to see PSN do well is the fact that competition drives innovation. Microsoft has been sitting on their laurels for a while, they need something to snap at their heels to bring the next great changes to online gaming. Why? Because if they don't, Sony will, and the gamers will win.

What's on Microsoft's mind lately? As I read through the gaming headlines over the last couple of days that was the question on my mind. I can't help but ask when I see that the PS3 outsold the 360 in February. Or when I see the drastic price cut in Europe, with a rumored one for the U.S. Is Microsoft desperate, or just playing a shrewd game to up their market share? I have no idea, and can only guess myself. But, I do know one thing. Microsoft has thrown down the gauntlet. What will they be doing next?

The first thing they need to do, which Microsoft has been addressing, is getting stock back into the stores. I know getting an Arcade or Pro is not that hard, they are both in stock at my local electronics store, it's getting an Elite that's the problem. If I'm going to buy a console, it's going to be the one with the most features and as future-proof as possible. Now I don't know how future-proof the 360 is without an HD player in it, but the Elite is the best we'll see this year. Microsoft hasn't been too concerned about their numbers as of late, well, some numbers at least. Microsoft says that the number of consoles they have sold (less then the PS3 for two months in a row) is a result of a great holiday season. Due to the fact that they sold more then expected in November and December meant a limited stock for post season sales. Now, how accurate is that statement? We'll never know, console manufacturers can be very...creative with the truth. That includes all the console makers, not just Microsoft.

Second, exclusives sell consoles. That has never been in doubt. Mario sells the Wii, Nathan has sold some PS3s, and Halo has sold one or two 360s. I know, it's probably more like 5 or 6. Microsoft has had some great exclusives in the past 2 years, and they have one or two coming this year and the next. With games like Alan Wake and Too Human coming out shortly, Microsoft is going to have a good year. I can't forget to mention the new DLC for Mass Effect. That is a huge title for Microsoft and will continue to be for years to come. The question is though, will it stay an exclusive? The same has been theorized for BioShock. I really don't think these two games will be going multi platform any time soon. Maybe we will see them ported in a couple of years, maybe not.

The last thing Microsoft needs to do to stay competitive is to maximize multi platform games on it's system. Grand Theft Auto IV is going to be a huge game for Microsoft, and they know it. They have spent a ton of money securing exclusive downloadable content for the game. They are betting that the lure of this DLC is going to be enough to ensure that the console of choice for GTA IV will be the 360. Now, the PS2 gave birth to the series (in it's modern form) and that is where a lot of loyalty lies with the game. Now, with the push for extra, exclusive content, we may see that change. Combine that with the fact that -for now- the 360 has more of an installed base, could make Microsoft the big winner with the latest GTA game. I would, honestly, not be surprised to see that happen. Just look at Call of Duty 4. It's still putting up huge numbers for the 360, much less in sales for the PS3. Eventually, the PS3 and 360 may have a closer installed base, but for now, the 360 is king.

What about the Wii you say? It is arguably the best selling console out there (with the DS) and absolutely in a class all it's own. Now, that won't change for a long time, but let's see what the numbers look like for the little white box next year. The one thing that always hurts Nintendo is the span between first party titles and the lack of good third party games. This generation looks to be even worse in that regard. Ninjabread Man is getting a sequel, need I say more? I still want to pick up a Wii of course. Being a gamer I can recognize the fact that there are some great games on that system, as there are on all the systems. Damn, I need a bigger budget.

However this fight turns out, it looks to be a great year for gamers. With plenty of exclusive content coming out this year and next, we will have plenty to keep us busy, I know I will be. I still have a stack of games to get through. I just managed to start Assassins Creed today, and I've owned it for over a month now. I'm not complaining though, I love to have great games sitting off in the wings waiting to be played. Heck, I even have a couple of PS2 games waiting to be cracked open. I need a vacation just to catch up.