The folks at Ars Technica would like you to believe that now is the time to buy a PS3. My interpretation of their thesis: the PS3 doesn’t really suck that bad, and if you don’t buy it you will lack a full understanding of the current “state of the art” in console gaming. I find the reasoning in the article to be rather shoddy, really: it only applies if you have a bucket of money sitting unused and don’t already have a console. I particularly don’t like the implication that I’m being shallow or ignorant by making the decision *not* to buy a PS3.
If you are currently without a console, then the PS3 is a viable alternative. I’d say your choice between the three current-generation consoles breaks down like this, ignoring any possible religious preferences:
- Wii: buy a Wii if you have kids under the age of 12 who will be primary users, or if most of your game playing consists of “party games” when a bunch of friends pop over for drinks, movies, and video games. Many (most?) of the Wii games fall into the “cutsey-poo” category, featuring simplistic and cartoony graphics with easy to understand rules/controls, and often with rich single console multi-player experiences
- Xbox 360: buy an XBox 360 if you are a “migrating” PC gamer and if you generally prefer more adult games with violence, deeper stories, and more complex game play. The majority of the XBox 360 games are gritty, quasi-realistic, and harder to get in and out of quickly than Wii games. The 360 has the lion’s share of “crossover” games from the PC environment. Most XBox 360 multi-player games are best experienced with multiple XBox 360 consoles, via XBox live or local connections
- PS3: Buy a PS3 if you want a blu-ray player and have a strong preference for Japanese role playing games. The PS3 games generally are more mature like the XBox 360 content, but there are fewer of them, and they are more “quirky” than the titles on the XBox
If you already have an XBox 360, there is really little or no need to buy a PS3 unless it turns out that you really, really like those PS3 exclusive Japanese RPGs. In which case, you probably should have bought a PS3 to begin with. The PS3 really only makes sense as a “second” game console if your first system was a Wii. Although in my case, I probably would rather have a PS3 as my second system than a Wii, but I’m weird.
As for buying a PS3 to maintain a full understanding of the “state of the art”: spending several hundred dollars to play games I don’t particularly like on yet another piece of hardware that takes up space and adds more dangling wires for the cats to play with really doesn’t make a ton of sense. Yes, if I had an excess of money and didn’t have anything better to spend it on, then sure. But there just haven’t been any really compelling game releases on the PS3 yet, and implying I should drop the coin to remain “current” is disingenuous. It ignores the fact that most people play games to have fun, not to gather data for lengthy theoretical discussions on the state of the gaming art.
As of a year ago, I was seriously thinking about buying a PS3 just for Metal Gear Solid. The game really looked interesting… until it was released. Then I read the reviews, and any interest I had evaporated. I like games with a good story behind them, but everything I read indicated that the story in MGS4 was convoluted, confusing, and not terribly interesting: mainly, it was just long. That to me defines the PS3 gaming environment- yes, there are games, and some of them are pretty good, but there is nothing so special or wonderful that it justifies buying second console.
Note that I am *not* saying that the PS3 is a bad system, nor would I consider someone foolish for buying one. Technologically, it is equal but different in relation to the XBox 360, and in some ways (E.G.: blu ray) superior. But the choice of a console for me boils down to the games available for it, and the PS3 really doesn’t have any games that interest me that much. Certainly not enough to buy one when I already have a perfectly enjoyable XBox 360.