Nearly two years after its North American launch, I finally bought a PS3. I lived and taught in Japan when both the PS3 and Wii came out in 2006. I surprised myself by picking up a Wii on launch day, totally enthralled by the new Zelda game. I sold my region-locked Wii prior to returning to the U.S. this summer. Unfortunately, this left me owning zero consoles from the current generation, forced to catch up on PS2 and GameCube games.
At first, I didn’t feel the need to own a current-generation console. I was happy to slowly progress through my backlog of cheap games. However, after getting more involved writing about games and seeing all the excitement over big, new releases, I knew I had to have at least one of them. I felt like I had explored the Wii pretty thoroughly, having played most of the big games to that point, so I really wanted to grab one of the more powerful consoles. I’m still a little wary of Microsoft’s hardware problems, and the more I checked out the PS3, the sexier it looked, despite the high price tag. I tried (and failed) to acquire one with Wal-Mart’s $100 gift card promotion. Frustrated, I returned home and searched online until I stumbled across a deal at Dell.com for 15% off all electronics and accessories. Hooray!
My experience buying a PS3 provides an opportunity to talk about what it means to join the PS3 gaming community this late in the race. Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to owning any of the three current consoles. The PS3 is the most powerful, has a free online service, but also costs the most money. The 360 satisfies shooter fans, arguably has the most solid online gaming service (albeit at a price), but has hardware problems (Red-Ring-of-Death). The Wii is cheap, has Nintendo’s numerous classic franchises, but is the least powerful. No matter which you choose, there are fantastic gaming experiences on each console.
My decision to buy a PS3 was based on the PS3’s history, as well as that of the 360 and Wii. All the systems have a large library of games available and at least two years of history to take into account. In terms of what each system is capable of, there is little in the way of surprises. Buying one of the ‘Big 3’ gaming consoles carries less risk at this point. I’m no longer diving into the great unknown. This is great for me personally, as I like to have a large number of games to choose from and a proven track record before I buy a console. But at the same time, I’m less likely to be wowed by my initial PS3 experience because I’ve been reading about it for ages.
One of the greatest advantages of buying the PS3 two years later is the large number of high-quality games currently available. I always hesitate to buy a console at launch because of a lack of good games. Waiting eliminates this problem. However, so many PS3 games deserve my attention now that it took me over a week just to decide which game to buy first. My “short list” of games included Metal Gear Solid 4, Bioshock, The Orange Box, LittleBigPlanet, Far Cry 2, Fallout 3, and Call of Duty 4. How do you choose from among these great games when you can only afford to buy one? Other late-to-the-party PS3 advantages include access to a treasure trove of downloadable content, free and stable Internet gaming, and a larger hard drive.
At the same time, by waiting so long to pick up a new gaming console, I also missed out on several things. Most importantly, I could not contribute to the conversations about big, critically-acclaimed games as they were released. Yes, everyone raved over Portal, but I haven’t played it. By the time I do, everyone has moved on to the “next big thing,” leaving me behind. By purchasing a PS3 in November, I’m trapped between a dozen or so older games to play through, as well as an onslaught of upcoming new releases. It doubles my list of “Games I Must Play.” (No, really, I keep a written list of games I want to buy.) Acquiring a new system at this point makes it harder than ever to budget my limited gaming time.
Of course, you have many things to look forward to when buying a new console at any time. With the PS3, I can (eventually) see if Sony’s Home lives up to their protracted hype. An abundance of great games are on the way, such as Resident Evil 5 and Final Fantasy XIII. But perhaps most importantly, I finally feel like part of the group. Not only do I know what’s happening in the gaming world, but I can look forward to it and experience it for myself. I no longer have to shut down part of my brain during PS3 news.
The moral of the story is, with three great game consoles to choose from, there’s never been a better time to take the plunge and dive right in. Whichever console you ultimately decide is right for you, rest assured that a wrong choice does not exist. Yes, I felt anxious paying so much for a PS3, much like any purchase I make over $50. But I feel very satisfied with my choice, just as with my Japanese Wii. Meanwhile, I have a mountain of games to play through.