The PlayStation 3 got off to a slow start when the console first launched in 2006. Since then, it has picked up some serious steam and has come into its own. Is now a good time to take the plunge? [Updated for the holiday season of video games.]
[This post was last updated on November 22, 2010 and will be updated if events, news, games, prices or acts of nature cause our opinion to change.]
Should I Buy A PS3 Now?
Yes, but be advised that the holiday line-up of exclusive games is weak for the PS3. Over the summer we cautioned readers to hold off on buying the PlayStation 3 because improved models of the console that had been offered to Japanese consumers had not yet been confirmed for North American release. Since then, they've both been confirmed and gone on sale.
Our enthusiasm is also tempered by a soft fall release schedule which saw PS3 exclusives LittleBigPlanet 2, SOCOM 4 and MotorStorm Apocalypse pushed back to 2011. The formidable Gran Turismo 5 is the PS3's lone heavyweight exclusive for the holidays.
The PlayStation 3 isn't only about games. It features a Blu-ray player, giving the versatile console an edge as a living room's possible hi-def centerpiece. While the system launched with a Sixaxis controller that was shaped like a traditional game controller but could detect tilt, the PS3 got wand-like motion controls, called the PlayStation Move, earlier this year. On June 10, stereoscopic 3D became available on the PS3, making the console 3D ready for games and TV sets that support that technology.
The PlayStation Network also offers online play for the very nice price of free.
But What If I've Already Got A Xbox 360? Should I Buy One Now?
No. Well, unless you have money to burn, that is. One high-end system is probably enough, and more and more games are released on both the Xbox 360 and the PS3. To decide between the PS3 and the Xbox 360, it's best to decide on the console exclusives. If you feel that you must have titles like God of War III or Metal Gear Solid 4, or the ability to play Blu-ray movies on your game system, then the PS3 is the console for you.
But What If I've Already Got A Wii? Should I Buy One Now?
Yes, you should. The Wii excels at many things, but hi-definition gaming is not one of them. If you own a Wii, and are looking for another gaming console, by all means, pick up a PS3. Not only is the Wii missing DVD playback, it is also missing Blu-ray playback. The PS3 sports both.
Other things the Wii is lacking: a robust online network, high definition support and true surround sound. The PS3 has all those, making it a viable choice for a second console. The PS3 also offers wonderful "casual" titles like ModNation Racers and LittleBigPlanet, but in beautiful HD graphics and sound.
If you have a Wii, you would be impressed with the precision of the Move wand, but Move software is not yet comparable to the best of the Wii motion games. We don't recommend getting a Move if you have a Wii.
What Else Does It Do Besides Gaming?
Tons. As previously mentioned, the PS3 is outfitted with both a DVD and a Blu-ray player, making it an ideal console for cinephiles. It used to do more, however. The original PS3 that launched in 2006 could play PS2 games and Super Audio CDs. The versions of the console currently on the market cannot. Until this year, the console did have Linux support. Sony decided to remove that feature due to security concerns. But PS3s are also still able to store and play music and photos, making it an ideal HD hub. There is also HD support for streaming services such as Netflix.
The PS3 has connectivity with Sony's portable gaming device, the PSP. Players can playback video content (and play some games) from their PS3 on their PSPs. There is also a virtual world called "Home" in which players can interact and mingle with gamers all over the world.
The PlayStation 3 also has a timed console exclusive with Hulu, bringing American customers a range of TV shows on-demand for the price of $7.99 USD a month.
If I'm Going To Buy A PS3, Which One Should I Get?
Honestly, the 2006 launch console is the best. It comes with an array of features — like Super Audio CD playback, built-in flash memory card reader and PS2 backwards compatibility — that were later deemed too costly by Sony. Since those consoles are no longer produced, the 160GB "slim" version is the way to go over the more expensive 320GB version as 160GB should be enough for most players. A 160GB PS3 slim is priced at US$300, while a refurbished 60GB launch PS3 is priced at around $350.
The two currently-sold models are:
1) A 160GB PS3 that sells for $299.99.
2) A 320GB PS3 bundled with the PlayStation Move motion controller, a PlayStation Eye camera (required for the Move) and a copy of Move game Sports Champions for $399.99.
We recommend the 160GB model as we don't yet believe that the PlayStation Move is a must-own and are not swayed by the added storage.
What Are The Best Games On The PS3?
The PS3 has a good mix of multiplatform games and exclusive titles. The best PS3-only games include titles like adventure games Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, which do a fantastic job of taking advantage of the PS3's hardware power. Likewise, games like God of War III and Metal Gear Solid 4 provide players with gaming experiences that they cannot get elsewhere. These are some of the biggest titles in big budget gaming. The console also has sleeper hits like the beautiful-looking Valkyria Chronicles and the notoriously hard Demon's Souls. Plus, the PS3 has many of the same games that are available on the Xbox 360 and PC. Titles include games like BioShock, Resident Evil 5 and the Call of Duty series.
Also keep an eye out for LittleBigPlanet, a delightful side-scrolling game that allows players to radically re-make it into all sorts of wild adventures. A sequel is slated for release early next year, though even the first game is worth checking out if only to check out the thousands of creative user-created levels available for download.
Which Ones Are Worst?
There are bad games on any console, and the PS3 is no exception. However, due to the high development costs of PS3 games, the platform is able to escape many of the cheaply produced titles that plague other consoles.
So I've Bought A PS3...What Should My First Three Games Be?
1) Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, because not only the game itself is great, but so too are the story, the dialogue and the characters.
2) Flower, a download-only game, because it is a truly moving title that takes advantage of the PS3's Sixaxis motion controls.
3) Metal Gear Solid 4, because, yes, this game actually lived up to its hype.
Is the PS3 Backwards Compatible?
It was. The original PS3 that launched in 2006 was able to play PlayStation 2 games. That feature has since been removed. All systems are still backwards-compatible with PSone games.
What About Downloadable Games?
The PS3 features many exciting digital titles on the PS3, such as the PixelJunk series, Super Stardust HD and Flower. Sony has done a solid job of mixing mainstream games with smaller, more unusual titles.
Other standouts include Everyday Shooter, Critter Crunch, WipeOut HD, Echochrome and Bionic Commando Rearmed.
What About The Move? Should I Get That?
We've played all the launch Move games and reviewed most of them, plus previewed many more. Check all of our launch Move coverage, which is full of written impressions and videos.
The bottom line on Move is that it works very well, as well as the Wii Remote with Motion Plus, if not even better, but it lacks any games to brag about to your friends. The Move has show-off potential, but right now it's not worth picking up — not until we see some killer apps.
What's Wrong With The PS3?
Compared to the Xbox 360 (and the PS2, for that matter), the PS3 has largely been a well put together piece of hardware. The console's failure rates are not abnormal, so consumers can purchase one with the same confidence they would most other electronics. The biggest knock on the system had long been its price. It used to be significantly more expensive than the Xbox 360 and the Wii. Price drops have largely removed that problem.
There are some drawbacks when it comes to the ability to talk to people through the console while playing games online. Some players are dissatisfied with the inability for players to chat with each other while playing different games online. PS3s support Bluetooth and USB headsets, but the lack of a packed-in headset with new systems has diminished the likelihood that people with whom you play an online game even have a headset plugged in. That makes the online experience of the PS3 much less chatty than it is on the Xbox 360, for better or worse.
Are There Any Hidden Costs?
Unlike the Xbox 360's online service, the PS3's PlayStation Network is free and works out of the box. The PSN enables players to check out demos and trailers free of charge. Microsoft, on the other hand, now requires players to sign up for its paid services to download many demos.
Users can, however, opt in to Sony's PlayStation Plus service, which, for an annual subscription fee of $50 gives players access to a number of free games and other exclusive content. It's far from necessary, as you can still download demos and play games for free, but those wanting the complete PS3 experience may see this as a hidden cost.
Another hidden cost would be, as it is with most consoles, the purchase of a second controller. The PS3 comes bundled with one, and most players will want a second one. Controllers typically cost around $50. Thankfully, no batteries are needed. The controllers are charged by connecting them to the PS3 console via a USB cable. That means players will not have to constantly replace batteries like with the Xbox 360 controller or the Wii Remote (or buy a rechargeable pack).
But Wait, Won't The PS3 Be Replaced Soon?
Not anytime soon. When the PS3 was released in 2006, Sony said the console will have a ten year lifespan. Meaning? It should be good until 2016. No doubt, Sony will release PS3 redesigns, but according to Sony, the platform itself will be good for around a decade. It is important to note that even when the PS3 was released, Sony continued to support the PS2 with new games. So that doesn't mean the PlayStation 4 won't be released before 2016. It simply means that the console will probably continue to be supported.
Essential Facts About The PS3
Released in 2006
The PlayStation 3 is a home video game console sold by Sony Computer Entertainment. Its key gaming features are high definition graphics, surround sound, and the ability to play with or against other people over the internet. Its key multimedia features are the ability to playback high definition movies, connect to the internet, store and display media like photos and music as well as stream HD content.
Sony has positioned the PS3 at the high end of high-end home consoles. It is targeted at 18-40 year-old males. The upcoming release of the PlayStation Move motion controller Move should widen the console's appeal to more kids and less-experienced gamers.
Currently available models: PS3 Slim 160GB ($300)*, PS3 Slim 320GB ($400, bundled with Move, PlayStation Eye and Sports Champions game)
Older Models: PS3 Slim 250GB ($350), PS3 Fat 80GB Refurbished [4 USB ports] ($300), PS3 Fat 80GB Refurbished [2 USB ports] ($270), PS3 Fat 60GB Refurbished [Backwards Compatible] ($350)*, PS3 Fat 40GB Refurbished ($250), PS3 Fat 20GB Refurbished [Backwards Compatible] ($300)
[recommended models marked with an asterisk]
Price of PlayStation Plus Subscription: $50 for 12 months, $19 for 3 months
Price of new games: $60
Price of PlayStation Move: $50 for controller, $100 for bundle including Move, PlayStation Eye camera (required for Move play) and one game
Discount line of games: PS3 Greatest Hits ($20-$30)
Need more shopping advice? Take a look at Kotaku's other video game hardware buyer's guides.