Is it time to buy a PS3? With the announcement this week that Sony will introduce a $399 model of the PlayStation 3 on Nov. 2, it's finally fair to compare the PS3 with the Xbox 360. So let's compare deals:
Xbox 360 Premium ($349)
• 20-gigabyte hard drive
• Backward compatibility for most Xbox games via downloadable software updates
• Wireless controller
• Wired headset
• DVD drive
• No Wi-Fi adapter ($99 separately)
• 40-gigabyte hard drive
• No backward compatibility with PS2 games
• Wireless controller
• No headset
• Blu-ray drive for games and high-definition movies, as well as regular DVDs
• Built-in wireless adapter
• Includes copy of Spider-Man 3 movie on high-def Blu-ray disc
From a pure hardware standpoint, I think the PS3 is now a better deal than the Xbox 360 Premium. The larger hard drive, the built-in wireless adapter and the Blu-ray movie player are simply a phenomenal deal for a mere 50 bucks extra.
While Sony made a marketing mistake by hyping backwards compatibility when the PS3 first launched, only to kill the feature with the new unit, I suspect most gamers who buy a new console aren't actually using it to play old PS2 games. So I doubt the feature will be missed much.
But if you're deliberating whether to get a 360 or a PS3, the decision isn't that clear cut. Unless you plan to just use your PS3 as a Blu-ray movie player - and honestly, stand-alone Blu-ray players won't be much cheaper this year - the availability of good, new games is just as important as the price of the hardware.
On that front, the Xbox 360 still has the advantage, at least until 2008. Halo 3, of course, is the main draw, but game of the year contenders like BioShock and Mass Effect are also Xbox exclusives, and older masterpieces such as Dead Rising and Lost Planet also have yet to show up on the PS3.
Plus, Xbox Live remains a much better online experience than Sony's service for the PS3, although you do have to pay $50 a year to get the full experience.
But the PS3 price cut does finally make the console attractive, both for the crush of indiscriminate Christmas shoppers in the next few weeks and for the discerning gamers waiting until early next year for blockbusters such as Metal Gear Solid 4 and LittleBigPlanet.
Plus, Microsoft is going to be under a lot of pressure once the Halo 3 effect wears off to slash the 360's price to stay ahead of the PS3. Which is all good news for gamers.