PlayStation 3

I picked up a PlayStation 3. I wasn't really even considering it a few months ago, but things have happened since then. Prices came down, and the future seems brighter now. I think the PS3 is starting to find its voice.

PlayStation 3

My first reaction to the PS3 was that I wasn't interested in paying $600 for a game system. No matter how good the graphics are, it's just beyond the amount I want to spend for entertainment. I bought a Wii instead, both for price and for the Nintendo games.

The Wii is fantastic. Mario, Zelda, and Metroid are some of the most enjoyable, subtly beautiful games I've ever played. They will not run on PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 for any amount of money. But the opposite is also true — there are games for PlayStation 3 and/or Xbox 360 that aren't published for the Wii.

So far, this hasn't mattered to me much because the biggest-name games for the other systems didn't really interest me. Slowly, though, a new life is breaking through the surface of the PS3.

There's one game in particular I got the PS3 for, but I'll talk about that another time. There are a few titles already out that look interesting, and a few that are just now coming into view.

1. Little Big Planet

This looks like something very different — a lot of emphasis on environment and creativity instead of a rigid set of tasks to complete.

It's not obvious from the YouTube video, but the visuals are gorgeous. An interesting mix of stylized models and photorealistic texture renderings. Also check out this trailer of the level creation engine. Something truly special, and I can't wait to try it out.

2. Rock Band

There's no need to post a video of Rock Band because it's taken over popular culture, at least in North America. It's coming to the Wii at some point, but there's no release date. I may want to play it before then.

3. Gran Turismo 5: Prologue

Gran Turismo is a bit of an unknown. I'm not interested in the simulation aspect of racing, but the production values are so good that I'm hoping I can enjoy the game without having to deal with the minutiae.

Gran Turismo 5: Prologue 1

Gran Turismo 5: Prologue 2

Prologue is not the full Gran Turismo 5, but will feature 60 cars and 5 tracks with up to 16 simultaneous online players. It's clearly more than a demo and will apparently cost about $40.

4. Downloadable Games

For the first time in video game history, high-quality independent games are available on consoles. For the moment, Xbox 360 seems to have a deeper library of these titles and they recently announced the intention to open up development to the general community. So we'll see what happens.

But back to PS3. I'm intensely interested in the concept of Flower:

This game is by the same folks who did the amazing flOw, which was inspiration for the NanoLife sample app (well, maybe that and some Electroplankton). The PS3 version of flOw is fantastic and can be downloaded from the PlayStation Store, but you can also play the Flash version on the website.

5. Ico and Shadow of the Colossus

The PlayStation 2 version of Ico is one of the most outstanding, hauntingly beautiful video games I've ever seen. It's the kind of game that sticks with you forever (this video is from the PS2 game, not the PS3 version):

I remember seeing a write-up which described it as "an impressionist painting in motion," or something to that effect. I was positively glued to Ico for at least a couple of weeks. It's the type of scenario I love — a huge, carefully detailed world with little or no explanations. You only get hints about the current moment. The mystery is deepened by the fact that the girl speaks in an unknown language without subtitles. An Ico game for PS3 is in development, but no details have been released yet.

Shadow of the Colossus was developed by Team ICO as well, and apparently exists in the same universe. I didn't get to play much of this game as I was already well into GameCube at the time, but I hope to see a version for PS3.

6. PlayStation Home

Home is something a bit different than what we've seen on consoles before — sort of a cross between Second Life and The Sims. Although there are other social MMOs, this is the first I've seen which is designed for a family room, and probably the first with PS3-quality graphics.

You can create a character in Mii style, though the tools are far more intricate and the results are photorealistic instead of cartoony. Sony will offer clothes and items for download from the PlayStation Store — some for free, some not free. Each user is also given an apartment to decorate to their liking, though it's not clear to me if each apartment is actually in a spatially different location in the Home world.

Home is partially a social networking environment — text, voice chat, and so on — and partially a front-end to online games and other media. As with all basic PlayStation 3 online services, Home will be free of monthly charges.

So this looks like an interesting experiment. Open-ended social interaction is something Nintendo hasn't shown interest in yet, and Xbox Live appears to skip the "3D world" aspect, so kudos to Sony for going their own way. I'm just curious to see how they've gone about designing all of this, and the only way to do that is to play around with it when it comes out.

User Interface

It's striking how different the PS3 environment is from iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, Wii, and Nintendo DS. Sony has released a consumer product that with design decisions that most Apple users most associate with "Pro" products like Xsan, Mac Pro and Aperture.

Black design elements are used liberally in the hardware and user interface, the text and icons are relatively small, the sound cues are very subtle. Selected text often glows white on a dark background. The Wii's UI is much closer to earlier versions of Mac OS X's Aqua — bright colors, bold effects, and much larger controls.

The primary UI model for PlayStation 3 is the "cross media bar" or "XMB". It's sort of like a flat source list, where the items in each category appear vertically as you scroll horizontally:

PlayStation 3 UI

The appearance of the XMB changes with the time of day and months of the year. The Wikipedia XMB article has a description of this along with the complete color palette. Whether this is your thing or not, kudos again to Sony for doing something just because they wanted to do it.

The PS3 gives the impression of wanting to convey a "desktop OS" vibe — more than any other game system I've seen. It happily expose all sorts of bits and pieces that probably aren't immediately necessary for most consumers. There's actually a item in Settings for a printer configuration, as well as an option to install another OS.

The Wii user interface exposes some desktop-like functionality, but only when absolutely necessary. Nintendo has a game device that happens to do some other things. It looks like Sony wants its own computing platform.

I'm sure some part of this is that Sony sees business opportunities in multi-function devices and online services, but it also seems to be the Sony culture to build an ecosystem.


The PS3 currently comes in two models: 40GB for $399 and 80GB for $499. The larger model has four USB ports instead of two, memory card slots, and PS2 compatibility. It also comes with the MotorStorm game versus the Spider-Man 3 Blu-Ray movie. Both models have wireless networking built in.

The main thing to consider here is that PS3 games often want to install before you can run them. In an extreme example, some titles like Devil May Cry 4 and Lost Planet require 5GB of space on the hard drive. A larger hard drive will means you can have more game options at any one time.

The standard input device is a two-handed wireless, rechargeable, motion-sensitive controller which feels very much like the PS2 controller. Games can use the tilt functionality of the controller for scenarios like steering aircraft. Recharging is as simple as plugging the controller into the USB port. I assume you can plug in a standard USB keyboard or mouse, but I haven't tried this yet.

The PS3 is, famously, designed for HDTV. I watch very little broadcast programming, so I still had a standard definition TV. After a few hours on PS3 in this environment, I started to feel like I was somehow missing the point. Text was somewhat hard to read and the on-screen elements just weren't very clear — unlike Wii on the same TV. So I actually got an HDTV.

I didn't just do this for PS3 — I also wanted to get rid of the gigantic tube in the middle of the room — but it definitely moved up the timetable. The PS3 also, of course, supports Blu-Ray as well, which was part of the reason for getting a new display.

Online Services

Sony's online services are still evolving, but there's no monthly fee for online game play. As far as I can tell, there is an ongoing charge for online game play for Xbox 360 (though you can use a prepaid card). PS3 includes a web browser which seems to render standards-compliant content very well. There's no question it's far more awkward to read this sort of thing on a TV, but it accomplishes what it sets out to do.

The PlayStation Store has a similar structure to the iTunes Store. You browse different kinds of content — downloadable games, game demos, movie trailers, game trailers, expansion packs (such as additional songs for Rock Band) — and then either download them for free or pay for them.

Video content can either stream live or download in the background. After the item is downloaded, you can get to it from the cross-media bar.


This is a great system. There's no particular downside to the PS3 other than the price and the recommendation for HDTV. Outside of that, choosing between a PS3, Xbox 360 or Wii basically comes down to games. The PS3, of course, also has a built-in Blu-Ray player, which sweetens the deal considerably. If you don't have an HDTV, though, you'll probably be happier with a Wii for now.
Design Element
PlayStation 3
Posted Mar 11, 2008 — 23 comments below


Robert Marini — Mar 11, 08 5618

I'll probably be making the move to a PS3 myself in the not too distant future, mostly for Blu-Ray though. One thing to be aware of is that the higher end PS3 (80gb) includes support for playing PS2 games (though via emulation which at least seems to be quite speedy) while the 40gb model doesn't. If you can find an older generation 60gb, it includes an actual PS2 board inside the case.

Elliott Harris — Mar 11, 08 5619

I got a PS3 not too long ago. I have an Xbox 360 as well, but enjoy my PS3 much more. I like having both of them, because both have some pretty strong exclusive titles, but ever since getting my PS3, my 360 has seen less and less action. All in all, it seems like a really solid platform, and I think as we move forward over the next year or two, you'll really see it start to dominate. Welcome to the club,

Phil — Mar 11, 08 5620

Nullriver's Medialink is awesome for matching Macs with PS3s. iPhoto events and albums, iTunes music and podcasts (w/cover art!), video sharing all work really well.

The PS3 also picks up my Mythtv server as a uPnp source and plays back my TV recordings too :)

Scott Stevenson — Mar 11, 08 5621 Scotty the Leopard

@Phil: Nullriver's Medialink is awesome for matching Macs with PS3s

Wow. That is indeed awesome. Thanks.

Chuck — Mar 11, 08 5622

If you like creative games, you should check out the Orange Box. Portal is the most creative game I have played in years, personally.

I figure I'll probably get a Playstation 3 someday. I've got a Wii and an Xbox 360 right now, and all the PS3 titles I like are also on the 360, so that saves me a little money. Once Final Fantasy 13 and the new Twisted Metal come out, though...well, I hope the price will have come down a little more by then.

Cathy — Mar 11, 08 5623

Ahhh, you just reminded me that I want a PS3 more than anything in the world.

John — Mar 11, 08 5625

We just picked up a 40GB PS3 this past weekend. We got it mostly as a BR player, since most BR players are >= the cost of the PS3, and if blueray succumbs to download movies, at least we can play games on the darn thing. :-)

We already had a Wii and 360, and comparatively the PS3 setup seemed very unintuitive and perhaps even amateurish. The Wii and XBox settings are pretty simple to get to and figure out. PS3 on the other hand started out in standard definition with a background that made the menus rather hard to read. Changing audio outputs caused the audio to stop working entirely for 20 minutes or so. The setup process of the PS3 compared to both the Wii and 360 was pretty poor.

On the plus side, the thing is quiet. Very quiet. Perhaps because of the bigger case, but the BR drive is significantly quieter than the Wii's drive, and of course doesn't approach the jet-engine-decibel-level of the 360. We picked up Lego Star Wars, and it is a neat game, but haven't watched a BR on the PS3 yet, though we picked up a few for next weekend.

Overall, the UI for the PS3 (IMO) is a fair bit more clumsy than either the Wii or 360 (never thought I'd give the 360 UI points), but as a blueray-player++, it'll probably turn out to be a pretty decent system.

Cayoglu — Mar 11, 08 5627

since you mentioned the PS3. I would recommend two games. First of all is this one Echochrome
it just looks of a funny and mindblowing game with yet a simple system.

The second one is MGS4.
But herefore I would recommend to play the 3 previous games to enjoy it fully.

Both games stand out with there concept and are remarkable.

Stuart Dootson — Mar 11, 08 5628

I'll second two thoughts -

1) Your opinion that the PS3 doesn't make sense without an HDTV. I started with PS3 + SDTV - and I realised I couldn't read text, I couldn't see detail in games. One 32" Sony Bravia later - ah, I see what all the fuss is about :-)

2) Chuck's Orange Box recommendation. I enjoyed Half-Life 2 and the chapters very much, but Portal is just on another level entirely - awesome.

The other thing I love about the PS3? The wireless controllers. I don't have to get down and press a button on the PS3 to turn it on, I just press the relevant button on the controller. Sweet.

Scott Stevenson — Mar 11, 08 5631 Scotty the Leopard

@Chuck: Portal is the most creative game I have played in years, personally
This was one of the games I was planning to add to the list.

@John: On the plus side, the thing is quiet. Very quiet.
Yes, this is actually an important point that I forgot to mention. It is, indeed, very quiet even during gameplay or watching a movie. It makes for a much nicer experience.

@Cayoglu: First of all is this one Echochrome
Another game I was planning to add to the list.

Jeremy Knope — Mar 11, 08 5632

I also recently got a PS3, partly for the Blu-ray ability. I'm also enjoying Ratchet and Clank quite a bit.

I can't wait to see LittleBigPlanet, and some other games.

I would say the PS3's online portion lacks quite a bit, though thankfully sounds like it's getting improvements with Home and the in-game XMB. Xbox live definitely has a more social feel to it with those types of features. Although I don't understand why not all game developers get a clue and do the party system for games. Call of Duty 4, Halo 2 & 3, and Resistance are the only ones I've seen have this. I'm wishing that Sony or MS would force this system on game developers some how, it's so much more fun and easy to just group up with friends and start joining games together, but somehow very few people support this. Crazy!

Also Planet Earth on blu-ray is amazing

Nat — Mar 11, 08 5633

Sony announced an updated version of the high end PS3 bundled with Metal Gear Solid 4 (and a revised controller) for sometime this summer, at the same $500 price. That'll probably push me off the fence, both for the PS3 and HDTV.

Richard Neal — Mar 11, 08 5634

Make sure you get the component cables for the Wii, on an HDTV, it looks far better than with the standard ones.

Cayoglu — Mar 12, 08 5635

@NatSony announced an updated version of the high end PS3 bundled with Metal Gear Solid 4 (and a revised controller) for sometime this summer

08-06-12 =)

mj — Mar 12, 08 5639

Do you know if Shadow of the Colossus on PS3 will be the same as the one on PS2? Hopefully they won't just be graphics upgrades.

I own and have completed both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus for PS2. They are excellent games, especially Colossus. They are a million times more fun if you don't look up the answers online and play the game the way it was meant to be played.

I am holding out on a PS3 until there are must-have games for it. A potentially bigger/different Ico and/or Shadow of the Colossus would fit that specification. So would God of War 3 and Echochrome.

Scott Stevenson — Mar 12, 08 5644 Scotty the Leopard

@mj: Shadow of the Colossus on PS3 will be the same as the one on PS2?

The game actually hasn't even been announced.

Danny — Mar 15, 08 5649

Nice writeup. There's certainly a lot more respect for the PS3 now than there was a year ago. I'll stick the DS for now :P

That 'Playstation Home' game you linked to was deeply disturbing to me. It seems like that developers are trying to create a utopian virtual world filled with socially 'normal' things like...chatting to people. Wow. Actually walking up to people in the street and talking to them! And furnishing your apartment! Imagine that! It's like someone creating a simulator for eating an orange.

Have we as a society become so socially detached that we need to recreate life inside a computer?! This is one step closer to a world where no-one leaves the house.

Scott Stevenson — Mar 15, 08 5651 Scotty the Leopard

@Danny: It seems like that developers are trying to create a utopian virtual world filled with socially 'normal' things like...chatting to people

I understand this, but I haven't actually tried it yet so I'm willing to give it a chance. I don't think Home revolves exclusively around the "lifestyle" elements. That may just be how Sony is positioning it in demos.

I always try to keep in mind that not everyone can easily interact with the world in the typical way, and something like this may be very helpful for them.

So let's see.

Grover — Mar 21, 08 5675

It's striking how different the PS3 environment is from iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, Wii, and Nintendo DS. Sony has released a consumer product that with design decisions that most Apple users most associate with "Pro" products like Xsan, Mac Pro and Aperture.

I think you've hit the nail on the head, and that this was exactly what they were going for. Sony is definitely trying to position their device as a "pro" gaming rig, where the hardcore want to go as opposed to the Wii's "everyone can play" mentality.

I haven't bit the bullet yet, but I've been thinking a lot about the PS3 lately. I'm coming from exactly the other direction; I bought a HDTV and now want something that really takes advantage of it. Like you, I initially balked at the price, but as it also operates as a blu-ray player, it's starting to look like a more compelling option every day.

When Little Big Planet comes out, I'll probably be powerless to stop myself.

Deecay — Apr 04, 08 5701

Wow, I came here because I am recently starting to code in XCode in order do iPhone app, and saw an article at that talks about your blog. Never realized that I will land on a video game article. I have to say .... AWESOME :->. I play my NDS everytime I have wait for more than 30 seconds, and after months I am still not tired of Super Mario Galaxy. And I am totally agree with your point of view about being interest in all the unique games coming to PS3. Once Little Big Plant release, I owe myself not to grab a PS3. But then Echochrome is coming soon enough :-S

Someday, we will find the similar kind of innovative apps avaialble for iPhone.... someday.... (and hope I am one among crowd to contribute to it :>.

Louis — May 05, 08 5784

Carter — Dec 08, 08 6553

LOL the same consumption as the computer your using to send your email.

eCommerce design — Dec 29, 09 7040

This is great!


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